Political Musings December 15, 2014: Senate confirms anti-gun Vivek Murthy as surgeon general year after nomination

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate confirms anti-gun Vivek Murthy as surgeon general year after nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman

More than a year President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon general, the Senate just barely confirmed with a vote of 51 to 43 on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014 the controversial nominee. Only one Republican voted in…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Source: WH, 11-24-14 

State Dining Room

11:10 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: About a year ago, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was visiting our troops in the Republic of Korea thanking them for their service and answering their questions, and they asked about the usual topics, about our national security, the future of our military. And then one soldier, a sergeant from Ohio asked him, what was the most pertinent question of the day, which was what was your favorite college football team. To which Chuck replied, born and raised in Nebraska, I don’t have a choice; I am a strong Cornhuskers fan.

Now there was a time when an enlisted soldier might have been reluctant to ask that kind of question of the Secretary of Defense. But Chuck Hagel has been no ordinary Secretary of Defense. As the first enlisted combat veteran to serve in that position, he understands our men and women like few others, because he’s stood where they stood, he’s been in the dirt and he’s been in the mud, and that’s established a special bond. He sees himself in them and they see themselves in him. And their safety, their lives, have always been at the center of Chuck’s service.

When I asked Chuck to serve as Secretary of Defense we were entering a significant period of transition. The draw-down in Afghanistan, the need to prepare our forces for future missions and tough fiscal choices to keep our military strong and ready. Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary Defense Secretary, providing a steady hand as we modernized our strategy and budget to meet long-term threats, while still responding to immediate challenges like ISIL and Ebola. Thanks to Chuck, our military is on a firmer footing, engaged in these missions and looking ahead to the future.

Now last month, Chuck came to me to discuss the final quarter of my presidency and determined that having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service. Let me just say that Chuck is and has been a great friend of mine. I’ve known him, admired him and trusted him for nearly a decade since I was a green-behind-the-ears, freshman senator, and we were both on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, it’s that he does not make this or any decision lightly, this decision does not come easily to him, but I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have had him by my side for two years. And I am grateful that Chuck has agreed to stay on until I nominate a successor and that successor is confirmed by the Senate. Which means that he’ll continue to guide our troops at this challenging time.

I’ll have more opportunity to pay tribute to Chuck’s life of service in the days ahead. For now, let me just say this: Chuck Hagel has devoted himself to our national security and our men and women in uniform across more than six decades. He volunteered for Vietnam and still carries the scars and shrapnel from the battles that he fought. At the VA, he fought to give our veterans, especially his fellow Vietnam veterans, the benefits they had earned. As head of the USO, he made sure America always honors our troops. As a Senator, he helped lead the fight for the post-9/11 GI Bill, which is helping so many of our newest veterans and their families realize their dreams of a college education. As Secretary, Chuck has helped transition our military and bolstered America’s leadership around the world. During his tenure, Afghan forces took the lead for security in Afghanistan. Our forces have drawn down. Our combat mission there ends next month, and we’ll partner with Afghans to preserve the gains we have made.

The NATO Alliance is as strong as it has ever been, and we have reassured our allies with our increased presence in Central and Eastern Europe. We’ve modernized our alliances in the Asia Pacific; updated our defense posture and recently agreed to improve communications between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. Chuck has been critical to all these accomplishments.

Meanwhile, Chuck has ensured that our military is ready for new missions. Today our men and women in uniform are taking the fight against ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, and Chuck helped build the international coalition to ensure that the world is meeting this threat together.

Today our forces are helping to support the civilian effort against Ebola in West Africa, a reminder, as Chuck likes to say, that America’s military is the greatest force for good in the world.

Finally, in a very difficult budgetary environment, Chuck has never lost sight of key priorities. The readiness of our force and the quality of our life of our troops and their families. He’s launched new reforms to ensure that even as our military is leaner, it remains the strongest in the world and so our troops can continue to get the pay, the housing, the healthcare, the childcare that they and their families need — reforms that we need Congress to now support.

At the same time, after the tragedies we’ve seen, Chuck has helped lead the effort to improve security at our military installations and to stamp out the scourge of sexual assault from the ranks.

Chuck, I also want to thank you on a personal level. We come from different parties, but in accepting this position you send a powerful message — especially to folks in this city — that when it comes to our national security and caring for our troops and their families, we are all Americans first. When I nominated you for this position, you said that you’d always give me your honest advice and informed counsel. You have. When it’s mattered most — behind closed doors, in the Oval Office –you’ve always given it to me straight. And for that I will always be grateful.

I recall when I was a nominee in 2008, and I traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq. Chuck Hagel accompanied me on that trip along with Jack Reed. And it’s pretty rare at a time when sometimes this town is so politicized to have a friend who was willing to accompany a nominee from another party because he understood that whoever ended up being President, what was most important was that we were unified when we confronted the challenges that we see overseas. And that’s the kind of class and integrity that Chuck Hagel has always represented.

 

Now, Chuck, you’ve said that a life is only as good as the family you have and the friends you surround yourself with. And in that, you are blessed. I want to thank Lilibet, your son Ziller and your daughter Allyn for the sacrifices that they’ve made as well. I know that as reluctant as we are to see you go, they are equally excited to getting their husband and father back. And I’m sure the Cornhuskers are also happy that a fan will be there to cheer them on more often.

Today, the United States of America can proudly claim the strongest military the world has ever known. That’s the result of investments made over many decades, the blood and treasure and sacrifices of generations. It’s the result of the character and wisdom those who lead them, as well — including a young Army sergeant in Vietnam who our rose to serve as our nation’s 24th Secretary of Defense. So on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you Chuck. (Applause.)

SECRETARY HAGEL: Thank you very much.

Mr. President, thank you -– thank you for your generous words, for your friendship, for your support which I have always valued and will continue to value. And to my not old, but my longtime, dear friend Vice President Biden, who I have always admired and respected, and both the President and I have learned an awful lot from the Vice President over the years -– thank you. And I want to thank the Deputy Secretary of Defense who is here, Bob Work, and the Chairman and Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Marty Dempsey, who also is here. I want to thank them for being here this morning.

I also want to thank you both for your tremendous leadership of the Defense Department and what you mean to our men and women and their families all over the world; and for the honor I’ve had to serve with each of you and the privilege it’s been in every way.

And I want to thank the entire leadership team at the Pentagon. Without their support and wise counsel over the last couple of years our many accomplishments, and the President noted some, I have been part of that -– but it’s a team. It’s all these tremendous men and women, as you know Mr. President, that make this happen and I couldn’t be prouder of them and what we have accomplished over the almost two years that I’ve had the honor of serving in this position.

And as the President noted I have today submitted my resignation as Secretary of Defense. It’s been the greatest privilege of my life; the greatest privilege of my life to lead and most important, to serve — to serve with the men and women of the Defense Department and support their families. I am immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished during this time. We have prepared ourselves, as the President has noted, our allies and Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan. We bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships while successfully responding to crises around the world.

And we’ve launched important reforms that the President noted — reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in decades to come. I believe we have set not only this department –- the Department of Defense -– but the nation on the stronger course toward security, stability and prosperity. If I didn’t believe that, I would not have done this job.

As our country prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving I want to –- you, Mr. President, and you, Vice President Biden, -– acknowledge what you have done and how grateful I am to both of you for your leadership and your friendship and for giving me this opportunity to serve our country once again.

I will continue to support you, Mr. President, and the men and women who defend this country every day so unselfishly; and their families, what they do for our country, so unselfishly. And as I have said –- and as the President noted –- I will stay on this job and work just as hard as I have over the last couple of years, every day, every moment, until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.

I’d also like to express my gratitude to our colleagues on Capitol Hill — my gratitude to them for their support of me, but more importantly their support of our troops and their families and their continued commitment to our National Security.

I also want to thank my international counterparts for their friendship and their partnership and their advice during my time as Secretary of Defense. Their involvement with me and their partnership with me — in so many of these important areas as we build these coalitions of common interests as you have noted, Mr. President –- are so critically important and to them, I am grateful I will be forever grateful.

And finally I’d like to thank my family. My wife Lilibet, who you have mentioned, Mr. President, who was with me this morning as she has been with me throughout so many years, and during so many tremendous experiences. And this experience and opportunity and privilege to serve as Secretary of Defense has been one of those; and to my daughter Allyn and my son Ziller.

Mr. President, again, thank you. To you and to all of our team everywhere, as we know Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, it is a team effort. And that’s part of the fun of it, to help build teams and to work together to make things happen for the good of the country and make a better world. For all of that I am immensely grateful. And to all of you, your families, happy Thanksgiving. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 11:25 A.M. EST

Political Musings November 24, 2014: Obama forces Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to resign over war with ISIS

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama forces Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to resign over war with ISIS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned on Monday morning, Nov. 24, 2014, the New York Times was the first to break the story. President Barack Obama asked Hagel to step-down based on the way the war against ISIS, the Islamic…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 25, 2014: President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder’s Statement on Holder’s Resignation — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President and Attorney General Eric Holder

Source: WH, 9-25-14

State Dining Room

4:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Bobby Kennedy once said, “On this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law.”

As one of the longest-serving Attorney Generals in American history, Eric Holder has borne that burden.  And over the summer, he came to me and he said he thought six years was a pretty good run — I imagine his family agrees.  Like me, Eric married up.  He and his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, a nationally-renowned OBGYN, have been great friends to Michelle and me for years.  And I know Brooke and Maya and Buddy are excited to get their dad back for a while.

So this is bittersweet.  But with his typical dedication, Eric has agreed to stay on as Attorney General until I nominate his successor and that successor is confirmed by the Senate.  Which means he’ll have a chance to add to a proud career of public service — one that began nearly 40 years ago as a young prosecutor in the Department that he now runs.

He was there for 12 years, taking on political corruption until President Reagan named him to the bench as a judge.  Later, President Clinton called him back.  So all told, Eric has served at the Justice Department under six Presidents of both parties — including a several-day stint as acting Attorney General at the start of George W. Bush’s first term.  And through it all, he’s shown a deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people, and that is equal justice under the law.

As younger men, Eric and I both studied law.  And I chose him to serve as Attorney General because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory.  It’s a living and breathing principle.  It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives.  It’s about whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our families; whether we feel safe in our own communities and welcomed in our own country; whether the words that the Founders set to paper 238 years ago apply to every single one of us and not just some.

That’s why I made him America’s lawyer, the people’s lawyer.  That comes with a big portfolio — from counterterrorism to civil rights, public corruption to white-collar crime.  And alongside the incredible men and women of the Justice Department -– men and women that I promise you he is proud of and will deeply miss -– Eric has done a superb job.

He’s worked side by side with our intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safe from terrorist attacks and to counter violent extremism.  On his watch, federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terror cases, proving that the world’s finest justice system is fully capable of delivering justice for the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

He’s rooted out corruption and fought violent crime.  Under his watch, a few years ago, the FBI successfully carried out the largest mafia takedown in American history.  He’s worked closely with state and local law enforcement officers to make sure that they’ve got the resources to get the job done.  And he’s managed funds under the Recovery Act to make sure that when budgets took a hit, thousands of cops were able to stay on the beat nationwide.

He’s helped safeguard our markets from manipulation, and consumers from financial fraud.  Since 2009, the Justice Department has brought more than 60 cases against financial institutions, and won some of the largest settlements in history for practices related to the financial crisis, recovering $85 billion –- much of it returned to ordinary Americans who were badly hurt.

He’s worked passionately to make sure our criminal justice system remains the best in the world.  He knows that too many outdated policies, no matter how well-intentioned, perpetuate a destructive cycle in too many communities.  So Eric addressed unfair sentencing disparities, reworked mandatory minimums, and promoted alternatives to incarceration.  And thanks to his efforts, since I took office, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have gone down by about 10 percent.  That’s the first time that they’ve declined together, at the same tim, in more than 40 years.

Eric’s proudest achievement, though, might be reinvigorating and restoring the core mission to what he calls “the conscience of the building” — and that’s the Civil Rights Division.  He has been relentless against attacks on the Voting Rights Act –- because no citizen, including our servicemembers, should have to jump through hoops to exercise their most fundamental right.  He’s challenged discriminatory state immigration laws that not only risked harassment of citizens and legal immigrants, but actually made it harder for law enforcement to do its job.

Under his watch, the Department has brought a record number of prosecutions for human trafficking, and for hate crimes — because no one in America should be afraid to walk down the street because of the color of their skin, the love in their heart, the faith they practice, or the disabilities that they live with.

He’s dramatically advanced the cause of justice for Native Americans, working closely with their communities.  And several years ago, he recommended that our government stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — a decision that was vindicated by the Supreme Court, and opened the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and federal benefits for same-sex couples.  It’s a pretty good track record.

Eric’s father was an immigrant who served in the Army in World War II only to be refused service at lunch counters in the nation he defended.  But he and his wife raised their son to believe that this country’s promise was real, and that son grew up to become Attorney General of the United States.  And that’s something.  And that’s why Eric has worked so hard — not just in my administration, but for decades — to open up the promise of this country to more striving, dreaming kids like him.  To make sure those words — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are made real for all of us.

Soon, Eric, Sharon, and their kids will be a bit freer to pursue a little more happiness of their own.  And thanks to Eric’s efforts, so will more Americans — regardless of race or religion, gender or creed, sexual orientation or disability, who will receive fair and equal treatment under the law.

So I just want to say thank you, Eric.  Thank you to the men and women of the Justice Department who work day in and out for the American people.  And we could not be more grateful for everything that you’ve done not just for me and the administration, but for our country.  (Applause.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:  I come to this moment with very mixed emotions:  proud of what the men and women of the Department of Justice have accomplished over the last six years, and at the same time, very sad that I will not be a formal part — a formal part — of the great things that this Department and this President will accomplish over the next two.

I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity that you gave me to serve and for giving me the greatest honor of my professional life.  We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that.  In good times and in bad, in things personal and in things professional, you have been there for me.  I’m proud to call you my friend.

I’m also grateful for the support you have given me and the Department as we have made real the visions that you and I have always shared.  I often think of those early talks between us, about our belief that we might help to craft a more perfect union.  Work remains to be done, but our list of accomplishments is real.

Over the last six years, our administration — your administration — has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents and fought to protect the most sacred of American rights, the right to vote.

We have begun to realize the promise of equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters and their families.  We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities that they protect.

We have kept faith with our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly and effectively adjudicate any cases that are brought before it, including those that involve the security of the nation that we both love so dearly.

We have taken steps to protect the environment and make more fair the rules by which our commercial enterprises operate.  And we have held accountable those who would harm the American people — either through violent means or the misuse of economic or political power.

I have loved the Department of Justice ever since as a young boy I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the Department can and must always be a force for that which is right.  I hope that I have done honor to the faith that you have placed in me, Mr. President, and to the legacy of all those who have served before me.

I would also like to thank the Vice President, who I have known for so many years, and in whom I have found great wisdom, unwavering support, and a shared vision of what America can and should be.

I want to recognize my good friend Valerie Jarrett, whom I’ve been fortunate to work with from the beginning of what started as an improbable, idealistic effort by a young senator from Illinois, who we were both right to believe would achieve greatness.

I’ve had the opportunity to serve in your distinguished Cabinet and worked with a White House Chief of Staff — a White House staff ably led by Denis McDonough that has done much to make real the promise of our democracy.  And each of the men and women who I have come to know will be lifelong friends.

Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved without the love, support and guidance of two people who are not here with me today.  My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my accomplished brother, William, and made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation.

My time in public service, which now comes to an end, would not have been possible without the sacrifices too often unfair made by the best three kids a father could ask for.  Thank you, Maya.  Thank you, Brooke.  And thank you, Buddy.

And finally, I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed me to follow my dreams.  She is the foundation of all that our family is, and the basis of all that I have become.  My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero.  And she is my life partner.  Thank you for all that you have done.  I love you.

In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never — I will never — leave the work.  I will continue to serve and try to find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals.

I want to thank the dedicated public servants who form the backbone of the United States Department of Justice for their tireless work over the past six years, for the efforts they will continue, and for the progress that they made and that will outlast us all.

And I want to thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice and aimed at the North Star.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:41 P.M. EDT

Political Musings May 18, 2014: Obama to nominate rising star San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as HUD Secretary

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

According to news reports on Saturday, May 17, 2014 President Barack Obama plans to nominate Democratic Party rising star and three term San Antonio, Texas mayor Julian Castro, 39 to be the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Castro’…READ MORE

Political Headlines November 18, 2013: Senate Republicans block Obama’s third Appeals Court nomination

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Pick for Court Is 3rd in a Row Blocked by Republicans

Source: NYT, 11-18-13

Robert L. Wilkins, left, with President Obama and other nominees in June, was picked to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Robert L. Wilkins, left, with President Obama and other nominees in June, was picked to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In blocking Judge Robert L. Wilkins’s nomination, Senate Republicans on Monday denied President Obama his third pick in recent weeks to fill a vacancy on the nation’s most powerful and prestigious appeals court….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FBI Director James Comey’s Installation Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey

Source: WH, 10-28-13

President Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover BuildingPresident Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, FBI.  (Applause.) Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats.  (Laughter.)
Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI.  You are the best of the best.  Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces.  You serve with courage; you serve with integrity.  You protect Americans at home and abroad.  You lock up criminals.  You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism.  Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity:  That’s your motto.  And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day:  Mr. Jim Comey.
Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today.  We are grateful for your service.  I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security.  And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being.  He’s the grandson of a beat cop.  He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos.  He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists.  It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security.  So he’s got the resume.
But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis.  Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him.  He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”
There’s also a story from the time during his prosecution of the Gambino crime family.  One of the defendants was an alleged hit man named Lorenzo.  And during the trial, Jim won an award from the New York City Bar Association.  When the court convened the next morning, everybody was buzzing about it, and suddenly, a note was passed down from the defendant’s table, across the aisle to the prosecutor’s table.  It was handed to Jim, and it read:  “Dear Jim, congratulations on your award.  No one deserves it more than you.  You’re a true professional.  Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  (Laughter.)
“Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  Now, we don’t know how sincere he was.  (Laughter.)  We don’t know whether this was a veiled threat, or a plea for leniency, or an honest compliment.  But I think it is fair to say that Jim has won the respect of folks across the spectrum — including Lorenzo.  (Laughter.)
He’s the perfect leader for an organization whose walls are graced by the words of a legendary former director:  “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation.”  Jim has worked with many of the more than 35,000 men and women of the FBI over the course of his long and distinguished career.  And it’s his admiration and respect for all of you, individually, his recognition of the hard work that you do every day — sometimes under extraordinarily difficult circumstances — not just the folks out in the field, but also folks working the back rooms, doing the hard work, out of sight — his recognition that your mission is important is what compelled him to answer the call to serve his country again.
The FBI joins forces with our intelligence, our military, and homeland security professionals to break up all manner of threats — from taking down drug rings to stopping those who prey on children, to breaking up al Qaeda cells to disrupting their activities, thwarting their plots.  And your mission keeps expanding because the nature of the threats are always changing.
Unfortunately, the resources allotted to that mission has been reduced by sequestration.  I’ll keep fighting for those resources because our country asks and expects a lot from you, and we should make sure you’ve got the resources you need to do the job.  Especially when many of your colleagues put their lives on the line on a daily basis, all to serve and protect our fellow citizens — the least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town.  (Applause.)
Now the good news is things like courage, leadership, judgment, and compassion — those resources are, potentially, at least, inexhaustible.  That’s why it’s critical that we seek out the best people to serve — folks who have earned the public trust; who have excellent judgment, even in the most difficult circumstances; those who possess not just a keen knowledge of the law, but also a moral compass that they — and we — can always count on.
And that’s who we’ve got in Jim Comey.  I’ll tell you I interviewed a number of extraordinary candidates for this job, all with sterling credentials.  But what gave me confidence that this was the right man for the job wasn’t his degrees and it wasn’t his resume; it was in talking to him and seeing his amazing family, a sense that this somebody who knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and is willing to act on that basis every single day.  And that’s why I’m so grateful that he’s signed up to serve again.
I will spare you yet another joke about how today, no one stands taller.  (Laughter.)  I simply want to thank Jim for accepting this role.  I want to thank Patrice and the five remarkable children that they’ve got — because jobs like this are a team effort, as you well know.
And I want to thank most all the men and women of the FBI.  I’m proud of your work.  I’m grateful for your service.  I’m absolutely confident that this agency will continue to flourish with Jim at the helm.  And if he gets lost in the building, I want you guys to help him out.  (Laughter.)  Because I guarantee you that he’s going to have your back, make sure you’ve got his back as well.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
MR. JOYCE:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — James B. Comey.  (Applause.)
MR. COMEY:  Thank you, Sean.  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence, for honoring us, and for speaking so eloquently about the mission of the FBI and its great people.
Thank you also to my friends and family who are gathered here today.  My entire life is literally represented in this crowd, and it is a pretty picture.  These are the people that I have known and loved literally my entire life and from whom I have learned so much.
I’m especially grateful that my dad and my sister and my brothers could be here today.  I wish so much that Mom could be here to enjoy this amazing day.  I can still hear ringing in my entire teenage years her voice as she snapped open the shades every single morning and said, “Rise and shine and show the world what you’re made of.”  I found it less inspiring at the time — (laughter) — but it made us who we are.  And I’ll never forget that.
And to my five troops and my amazing bride, who talked me into being interviewed for this job — of course, with the caveat that she’d be okay because the President would never pick me.  (Laughter.)  I got to tell you, this is your last chance to talk to him about it.  (Laughter.)
Mr. President, I am so grateful for this honor and this opportunity to serve with the men and women of the FBI.  They are standing all around this great courtyard, and standing on duty all around this country and around this world at this moment.  I know already that this is the best job I have ever had and will ever have.
That’s because I have a front row seat to watch the work of a remarkable group of people who serve this country, folks from all walks of life who joined the FBI for the same reason — they were teachers and soldiers, and police officers and scholars, and software engineers, and people from all walks of life who wanted to do good for a living.  They wanted jobs with moral content, and so they joined this great organization.
I thought about them as I stood in this courtyard just a week ago and showed a visiting foreign leader the statue that overlooks this ceremony.  It’s an artist’s depiction of the words from our shield that the President mentioned:  Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. And as I thought about that statue and those words and this ceremony, I thought I would take just a couple of minutes and tell you what those words mean and why I think they belong on our shield.
First, fidelity.  The dictionary defines fidelity as a strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.  To my mind, that word on our shield reminds us that the FBI must abide two obligations at the same time.  First, the FBI must be independent of all political forces or interests in this country.  In a real sense, it must stand apart from other institutions in American life.  But, second, at the same time, it must be part of the United States Department of Justice, and constrained by the rule of law and the checks and balances built into our brilliant design by our nation’s founders.
There is a tension reflected in those two aspects of fidelity, those two values that I see in that word, and I think that tension is reflected in the 10-year term that I’ve just begun.  The term is 10 years to ensure independence.  But it is a fixed term of years to ensure that power does not become concentrated in one person and unconstrained.  The need for reflection and restraint of power is what led Louis Freeh to order that all new agent classes visit the Holocaust Museum here in Washington so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive almost unimaginable scale.  Bob Mueller continued that practice.  And I will again, when we have agents graduating from Quantico.
The balance reflected in my term is also a product of lessons hard learned from the history of this great institution.  Our first half-century or so was a time of great progress and achievement for this country, and for the Bureau.  But it also saw abuse and overreach — most famously with respect to Martin Luther King and others, who were viewed as internal security threats.
As I think about the unique balance represented by fidelity to independence on the one hand, and the rule of law on the other, I think it also makes sense for me to offer those in training a reminder closer to our own history.  I’m going to direct that all new agents and analysts also visit the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington.  I think it will serve as a different kind of lesson — (applause) — one more personal to the Bureau, of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.
 That word fidelity belongs on our shield.
 Next, bravery.  We have perpetrated a myth in our society that being brave means not being afraid, but that’s wrong.  Mark Twain once said that bravery “is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  If you’ve ever talked to a special agent that you know well and you ask he or she about a dangerous encounter they were involved in, they’ll almost always give you the same answer, “yeah, I did it, but I was scared to heck the whole time.”  But that’s the essence of bravery.
Only a crazy person wouldn’t fear approaching a car with tinted windows during a late-night car stop, or pounding up a flight of stairs to execute a search warrant, or fast-roping from a helicopter down into hostile fire.  Real agents, like real people, feel that fear in the pit of their stomachs.  But you know the difference between them and most folks?  They do it anyway, and they volunteer to do that for a living.
What makes the bravery of the men and women of the FBI so special is that they know exactly what they’re in for.  They spend weeks and weeks in an academy learning just how hard and dangerous this work is.  Then they raise their right hands and take an oath, and do that work anyway.  They have seen the Wall of Honor — that I hope so much my friends and guests and family will get to see inside this building — with pictures and links to the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country as FBI employees.
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said this:  “I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and a mental willingness to endure it.”
I called a special agent a few weeks ago after he had been shot during an arrest.  I knew before I called him that he had already been injured severely twice in his Bureau career, once in a terrorist bombing and once in a helicopter crash.  Yet when I got him on the phone, I got the strong sense he couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.  He was embarrassed by my call.  “Mr. Director, it was a through and through wound.  No big deal.”  He was more worried about his Bureau car, which he had left at the scene of the shooting.  (Laughter.)  He felt okay, though, because his wife — also a special agent — was going to go get the car, so everything was fine.  (Laughter.)
The men and women of this organization understand perfectly the danger they’re in every day and choose to endure it because they believe in this mission.  That’s why bravery belongs on our shield.
And, finally, integrity.  Integrity is derived from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole.  A person of integrity is complete, undivided.  Sincerity, decency, trustworthy are synonyms of integrity.  It’s on our shield because it is the quality that makes possible all the good that we do.  Because everything we do requires that we be believed, whether that’s promising a source that we will protect her, telling a jury what we saw or heard, or telling a congressional oversight committee or the American people what we are doing with our power and our authorities.  We must be believed.
Without integrity, all is lost.  We cannot do the good that all of these amazing people signed up to do.  The FBI’s reputation for integrity is a gift given to every new employee by those who went before.  But it is a gift that must be protected and earned every single day.  We protect that gift by making mistakes and admitting them, by making promises and keeping them, and by realizing that nothing — no case, no source, no fear of embarrassment — is worth jeopardizing the gift of integrity.  Integrity must be on the FBI shield.
So, you see, those three words — Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity — capture the essence of the FBI and its people.  And they also explain why I am here.  I wanted to be here to work alongside those people, to represent them, to help them accomplish their mission, and to just be their colleague.
It is an honor and a challenge beyond description.  I will do my absolute best to be worthy of it.  Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 END
12:55 P.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)

END

2:14 P.M. EDT

Political Musings October 9, 2013: President Obama to nominate Janet Yellen as the first woman to chair Federal Reserve

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to nominate Janet Yellen as the first woman to chair Federal Reserve

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In what has been suspected for the last couple of weeks President Barack Obama will formally nominate Janet Yellen as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 at a 3 p.m. ceremony in…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Nominate Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

ABC/Rick Rowell

President Obama will nominate former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, would be the first woman to serve in the role….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama on Monday nominated longtime economic adviser Jason Furman as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation.”

“When the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job,” the president said as he stood alongside Furman at a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 5, 2013: President Barack Obama Appoints Susan Rice to Replace Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor

HISTORY MUSINGS

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

Susan Rice to Replace Tom Donilon as National Security Advisor

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-5-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Shaking up his foreign policy team, President Obama announced Wednesday that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is resigning and will be replaced by UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

“Susan understands that there’s no substitute for American leadership,” the president said in a Rose Garden ceremony. “She is at once passionate and pragmatic. I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she’s also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 4, 2013: President Barack Obama Names 3 to Washington DC Appeals Court in Challenge to Republicans

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Names 3 to Top Appeals Court in Challenge to Republicans

Source: NYT, 6-4-13

President Barack Obama nominated, from left, Robert L. Wilkins,  Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Patricia Ann Millett, to fill the three open spots on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday. 

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

President Barack Obama nominated, from left, Robert L. Wilkins,  Cornelia T.L. Pillard and Patricia Ann Millett, to fill the three open spots on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday.

President Obama plans to nominate three people to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, setting up a potential legislative collision….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing Three Nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington District of Columbia Circuit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces Three Nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court

Source: WH, 6-4-13

President Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitPresident Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 4, 2013. Nominees from left are: Robert Leon Wilkins, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, and Patricia Ann Millett. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, President Obama announced that he is nominating three candidates for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins.

As the President explained, one of his most important responsibilities is nominating qualified men and women to serve as judges on the federal bench. And the Senate has a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on the Nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Source: WH, 5-4-13 

Rose Garden

10:28 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

So one of the most important responsibilities of a President is to nominate qualified men and women to serve as judges on the federal bench.

And Congress has a responsibility, as well.  The Senate is tasked with providing advice and consent.  They can approve a President’s nominee or they can reject a President’s nominee.  But they have a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation.
Now, throughout my first term as President, the Senate too often failed to do that.  Time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.

As a result, my judicial nominees have waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor.  Let me repeat that:  My nominees have taken three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor.  These individuals that I nominate are qualified.  When they were given an up or down vote in the Senate — when they were finally given an up or down vote in the Senate, every one of them was confirmed.  So this is not about principled opposition.  This is about political obstruction.

I recognize that neither party has a perfect track record here.  Democrats weren’t completely blameless when I was in the Senate.  But what’s happening now is unprecedented.  For the good of the American people, it has to stop.  Too much of the people’s business is at stake.  Our legal framework depends on timely confirmations of judicial nominees.  And nowhere is this more apparent than with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The D.C. Circuit is known as the second highest court in the country, and there’s a good reason for that.  The judges on the D.C. Circuit routinely have the final say on a broad range of cases involving everything from national security to environmental policy; from questions of campaign finance to workers’ rights.  In other words, the court’s decisions impact almost every aspect of our lives.

There are 11 seats on the D.C. Circuit Court.  When I first took office, there were two vacancies.  Since then, two more judges have retired.  That means there are four vacancies that needed to be filled.  And by February of this year, more than one-third of the seats on the nation’s second highest court were empty.  I mean, imagine if a third of the seats on the highest court — the Supreme Court — were empty.  We would rightly consider that a judicial crisis.  If we want to ensure a fair and functioning judiciary, our courts cannot be short-staffed.

In 2010, I put forward a highly qualified nominee for the D.C. Circuit — Caitlin Halligan.  Caitlin’s credentials were beyond question.  She had bipartisan support from the legal and law enforcement communities.  She had the support of a majority of senators.  Nobody suggested she was not qualified to serve on the court.  If Caitlin had gotten a simple up or down vote before the full Senate, I am confident she would have been easily confirmed.  But instead, for two and a half years, Senate Republicans blocked her nominations.  It had nothing to do with Caitlin’s qualifications.  It was all about politics.  And after two and a half years of languishing in limbo, this brilliant and principled lawyer asked me to withdraw her nomination.

Now, the good news is last year I put forward another highly qualified nominee — Sri Srinivasan.  And Sri’s credentials were also beyond question.  And no doubt due to some mounting public pressure, along with the vocal bipartisan support that he received, Sri was unanimously confirmed a few weeks ago, becoming the first South Asian American to serve as a circuit court judge in our nation’s history.

So I’m pleased that the Senate acted.  I’m glad Republicans chose not to play politics and obstruct Sri’s nomination the way they did with Caitlin’s.  And I’m hopeful that we can now build on that progress, because Sri’s confirmation was the first to the D.C. Circuit in seven years.  So out of the four vacancies that existed, one has now been filled.  There are three seats still vacant on the D.C. Circuit Court — one of them, by the way — one of them has been vacant since Chief Justice Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2005.  Anybody who values the role of our courts should find that unacceptable regardless of your party.  Which brings me to today.  That’s why today I’m nominating three outstanding, highly qualified individuals to fill those remaining seats.

Now Patricia Millett is one of our nation’s finest appellate attorneys and, until recently, held the record for the most Supreme Court arguments by a female lawyer.  She served in the Solicitor General’s Office for 11 years, for both Democratic and Republican Presidents.  Since then, in private practice, she’s represented everyone from large businesses to individual pro bono plaintiffs.  And, by the way, as the wife of a retired Navy officer, Patricia has served our nation outside the courtroom as well, as a member of a military family.

Nina Pillard’s career has been defined by an unshakeable commitment to the public good.  She twice served in the Department of Justice and was an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.  Her landmark successes before the Supreme Court include defending the constitutionality of the Family and Medical Leave Act and opening the doors of the Virginia Military Institute to female students.  And, today, Nina is a professor at Georgetown and, if confirmed, would continue the D.C. Circuit’s strong tradition of distinguished scholars going on to serve as judges — from Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And finally, this is the second time I’ve called on Judge Robert Wilkins to serve — because in 2010, I nominated Robert to the D.C. District Court, and the Senate confirmed him without opposition.  Before serving with distinction as a federal judge, Robert spent eight years in private practice and a decade as a public defender here in Washington, D.C., providing legal representation to defendants who could not afford an attorney.  And throughout his career, Robert has distinguished himself as a principled attorney of the utmost integrity.

So these three individuals are highly qualified to serve on the D.C. Circuit.  They have broad bipartisan support from across the legal community.  The non-partisan American Bar Association have given them — each of them — its highest rating.  These are no slouches.  (Laughter.)  These are no hacks.  There are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts.  And there are members of Congress here today who are ready to move forward with these nominations, including the Chairman, Patrick Leahy.  So there’s no reason — aside from politics — for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote.

Despite that, some Republicans recently have suggested that by nominating these three individuals, I’m somehow engaging in — and I’m quoting here — in “court-packing.”  (Laughter.)  No — people laugh, but this is an argument I’ve made.  For those of you who are familiar with the history of court-packing, that involved Franklin Delano Roosevelt trying to add additional seats to the Supreme Court in order to water down and get more support for his political agenda.  We’re not adding seats here.  We’re trying to fill seats that are already existing.  Each of the past five Presidents has seen at least three of their nominees confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.  Since I’ve been President, obstruction has slowed that down to one.

Right now, there are three open seats on a critical court.  I didn’t create these seats.  I didn’t just wake up one day and say, let’s add three seats to the District Court of Appeals.  These are open seats.  And the Constitution demands that I nominate qualified individuals to fill those seats.  What I am doing today is my job.  I need the Senate to do its job.

The fact that Republican senators are now pushing a proposal to reduce the number of judges on this independent federal court also makes no sense.  When a Republican was President, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense.  Now that a Democrat is President, it apparently doesn’t.  Eight is suddenly enough.  (Laughter.)  People are laughing because it’s obviously a blatant political move.

We know that because some of the same Republicans behind this current proposal to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit Court voted in 2007 to keep 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit — same folks.  They say the workload has decreased since then, but in April, the judicial conference of the United States — which, by the way, is led by Chief Justice John Roberts and includes judges from various levels of the federal court system — told the Senate that the current workload before the D.C. Circuit requires 11 judges.  So they should know.  That was just two months ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, and former member of the D.C. Circuit Court says they need 11 judges.  So it’s important we don’t play games here, and it’s important that we cut through the verbiage.

An essential part of our democracy is the separation of powers.  The executive, the legislative, and the judiciary each have a role to play.  And when it comes to judicial nominees, my responsibility is to put forward qualified individuals.  These are three of the most qualified individuals you’ll ever meet.  The Senate’s responsibility, in turn, is to promptly give them an up or down vote.

So today, I’m doing my part.  I hope in the coming months that the Senate does its part, because I assure you, when these three outstanding individuals are on the bench, they will do their part.  That’s what the Constitution demands.  It’s what the American people expect.  And I look forward to years of outstanding service by these outstanding lawyers of incredible integrity.

And I promised that I would mention this before all of you — they also have really good-looking families.  (Laughter.)  Because I just saw their kids, and — (applause).  All right.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
10:43 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Names Danny Werfel New Acting IRS Commissioner

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Names New Acting IRS Commish

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Obama on Thursday appointed Office of Management and Budget official Danny Werfel to serve as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Werfel, 42, replaces Steven Miller, who was asked to resign Wednesday in the wake of revelations that IRS employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines April 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for Transportation Secretary

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Charlotte Mayor for Transportation Secretary

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-30-13

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

President Obama announced his nomination for Transportation Secretary on Monday, calling Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx a “friend” and an “impressive leader.”

“I know Anthony’s experience will make him an outstanding Transportation Secretary.  He’s got the respect of his peers, mayors and governors all across the country.  And as a consequence, I think that he’s going to be extraordinarily effective,” the president said a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the irst Female Director of the US Secret Service

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Julia Pierson Is Sworn In As First-Ever Female Director of the US Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13

President Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, March 27, 2013.President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A highly respected veteran of the Secret Service was sworn in as head of that agency today in a ceremony in the Oval Office. President Obama watched as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to Julia Pierson, and praised her dedication, professionalism and commitment to her work….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the Director of the U.S. Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13 

Oval Office

3:16 P.M. EDT

(The Vice President administers the oath to Ms. Pierson.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.

MS. PIERSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Well, listen, I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the Service is extraordinary.  She’s come up through the ranks.  She’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.

Obviously, she’s breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her.  And we have the greatest confidence in the wonderful task that lies ahead and very confident that she is going to do a great job.  So we just want to say congratulations.

As Joe Biden pointed out, this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else — (laughter) — except for our spouses.  And I couldn’t be placing our lives in better hands than Julia’s.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And my agents are excited that we picked her.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  You’re going to do a great job.

Q    How did you make your decision?

THE PRESIDENT:  She has extraordinary qualifications, and I think a lot of people who have worked with Julia know how dedicated, how professional, how committed she is, and I think are absolutely certain that she’s going to thrive in this job.

Thank you, guys.

Q    How are you feeling about your bracket, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Busted.  (Laughter.)  I think my women’s bracket is doing much better than my men’s bracket.

END
3:18 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines March 27, 2013: Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director

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Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-27-13

Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama on Wednesday praised the qualifications of his pick to lead the U.S. Secret Service, as Julia Pierson was sworn in as the agency’s first female director.

“I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the service is extraordinary,” Obama told reporters. “She’s come up through the ranks, she’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 18, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Cathy Russell as New Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

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Obama Nominates New Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-18-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama has announced that Dr. Jill Biden’s chief of staff, Cathy Russell, will be his nominee for the ambassador at large for global women’s issues. Russell is a longtime Biden staffer and the wife of Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon.

Dr. Biden released a statement following the president’s announcement Monday:

“We are so grateful for all of Cathy’s hard work and can’t imagine a better choice to be our next Ambassador to work on the most pressing issues faced by women and girls around the globe. Through the more than 25 years we have known Cathy, she has made a tremendous difference in the fight to promote gender equality and advance the status of women and girls, helped raise awareness about the issues critical to military families through Joining Forces, and strengthened the role community colleges play in creating the workforce of the future. We will miss Cathy, but know that she will make a real difference in the lives of women and girls throughout the world in her new role.” 

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Political Headlines March 18, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Obama Nominates Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary

Source: ABC  News Radio, 3-18-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday nominated Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to be the next secretary of labor, calling him a “consensus-builder” who “reminds us of this country’s promise.”

Announcing his nomination in the East Room of the White House, Obama said Perez embodies the notion that “if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is — you can make it if you try.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing the Nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Nominates Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor

Source: WH, 3-18-13

President Barack Obama announces Thomas Perez as his nominee for Labor Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013.  Thomas Perez delivers remarks after President Barack Obama announced Perez as his nominee for Labor Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama today announced that he has chosen Thomas Perez, the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, to be the next Secretary of Labor. Speaking in the East Room of the White House, the President introduced Perez, the son of Dominican immigrants and a lawyer who helped pay his way through college by working as a garbage collector, to the American people….READ MORE

Remarks by the President Announcing the Nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor

Source: WH, 3-18-13 

East Room

11:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Everybody have a seat.  Have a seat.  As I’ve said before, my top priority as President is doing everything we need to do to make sure that we’re growing our economy and that we’re strengthening our middle class.  And as I said in my State of the Union address last month, every day we should be asking ourselves three questions.  One — how do we make sure America is a magnet for good jobs?  Number two — how do we equip people with the skills they need to get those jobs?  And number three — how do we make sure that hard work actually pays off in a decent living?

These are the challenges that I’ve instructed my team here at the White House and in my entire Cabinet to focus on.  And a position that’s instrumental to tackling these challenges is having an outstanding Secretary of Labor.

So I want to begin by thanking Hilda Solis and her entire team — (applause) — including Acting Secretary Seth Harris — (applause) — for the outstanding work that they’ve been doing over the past four years.  Their efforts at the Department of Labor have given more young people a chance to earn new skills, more returning vets the chance to find a job.  They’ve looked out for worker safety from construction sites to coal mines.  They’ve stood up for workers’ rights to organize, women’s rights to get paid equally for the work that they do.  They’ve done an extraordinary job fighting on behalf of working families across the board.

And today, I’m proud to nominate a leader to carry on those efforts as America’s next Secretary of Labor — Tom Perez.  (Applause.)

Like so many Americans, Tom knows what it’s like to climb the ladder of opportunity.  He is the son of Dominican immigrants.  He helped pay his way through college as a garbage collector and working at a warehouse.  He went on to become the first lawyer in his family.  So his story reminds us of this country’s promise, that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is — you can make it if you try.

And Tom has made protecting that promise — for everybody  — the cause of his life.  As a civil rights attorney, an aide to Senator Ted Kennedy, a member of the Montgomery, Maryland County Council, Tom fought for a level playing field where hard work and responsibility are rewarded and working families can get ahead.

And this is not the first time that he’s chosen to be a labor secretary, either.  We’ve got here today Governor Martin O’Malley, and Martin appointed Tom as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, where he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.

In his current role as the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Tom has fought to open pathways into the workforce for everyone willing to contribute, including people with disabilities, LGBT Americans, and immigrants.  And he has helped settle some of the largest cases ever on behalf of families targeted by unfair mortgage lending.

Now, while he’s tackled plenty of tough issues, Tom has also spent a career as a consensus-builder.  He’s worked with CEOs, he’s worked with labor leaders.  He’s worked at federal, state, and local government levels.  And throughout, he understands that our economy works best when the middle class and those working to get into the middle class have the security they need on the job, a democratic voice in the workplace, everybody playing by the same set of rules.

So Tom’s knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding Secretary of Labor.  And there’s plenty of work to do.  We’re going to have to work very hard to make sure that folks find jobs with good wages and good benefits.  We’ve got to make sure that our veterans who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have a chance to put their incredible skills and leadership to work at home.  We need to build an immigration system that works for every employee and every family and every business.  I’m confident that Tom is going to be able to work to promote economic growth, but also make sure that that growth is broad-based.  And he’s going to be an integral part of our overall economic team.

So these are just a few of the many challenges working families out there are facing and where they need an advocate, and Tom is the right person for that job.  So I hope that the Senate will act swiftly to confirm Tom so we can work together to address all these concerns.  I want to thank not only Tom but his wonderful family for agreeing to take on this new role.  I just heard that Tom has been coaching basketball and baseball.  He doesn’t claim to be a great coach — (laughter) — but he brings passion to it.  He may end up missing a few of the games over the next several months, but it’s going to be for a good cause.  And I appreciate his family being willing to make these sacrifices as well.

So with that, I would like to introduce my nominee to be our next Secretary of Labor, give him a chance to say a few words.  And, again, I’d urge the Senate to confirm him as quickly as possible.

Mr. Tom Perez.  (Applause.)

MR. PEREZ:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Mr. President, for your confidence in me.  (Speaks in Spanish.)  It is a remarkably humbling and exciting phenomenon to be here today.

My parents taught my four siblings and me to work hard, to give back to our community, and to make sure that the ladder of opportunity was there for those coming after us.  Over my career, I’ve learned that true progress is possible if you keep an open mind, listen to all sides, and focus on results.  I look forward to taking these lessons with me, if confirmed, to my new role as Secretary of the Department of Labor.

As you well know, our nation still faces critical economic challenges, and the Department’s mission is as important as ever.  I am confident that together with our partners in organized labor, the business community, grassroots communities, Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike, we can keep making progress for all working families.

In the coming weeks, as the confirmation process unfolds, I look forward to meeting with senators of both parties to discuss the Labor Department’s key role — protecting and growing the middle class.

I’ll close again, Mr. President, by thanking you once again for this tremendous opportunity.  (Speaks in Spanish.)  I look forward to this opportunity to continue serving our nation.

Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

END
11:55 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Senate Confirms John Brennan as CIA Director with a Vote of 63-34

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Senate Confirms John Brennan as CIA Director

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-7-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Senator Rand Paul’s nearly thirteen hour filibuster may have started a conversation about U.S. drone policy, but it didn’t stop John Brennan from becoming CIA director.

Senators voted to 63 – 34 to elevate President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser at the White House to lead the Central Intelligence Agency after Paul, R-Ky., dropped his opposition to a vote Thursday afternoon….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham rebuke Sen. Rand Paul for filibuster over drones

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McCain, Graham rebuke Sen. Paul for filibuster over drones

Source: Fox News, 3-7-13

Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster over the government’s drone program drew praise from conservatives, libertarians and progressives alike who said the firebrand Kentucky senator focused a spotlight on a critical issue….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Rand Paul’s Filibuster Speech on John Brennan CIA Nomination — Video

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1:22:55 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 11 SenatorRandPaul

59:47 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster Hour 10

1:00:11 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 8

1:05:16 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 7

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59:13 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 5

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1:10:12 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 4

55:53 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster – HOUR 3

59:52 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster – HOUR 2

58:51 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster – HOUR 1

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Rand Paul pulls plug on drones filibuster

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Rand Paul pulls plug on drones filibuster

Source: Politico, 3-6-13

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul staged the longest talking filibuster in recent Senate memory on Wednesday into early Thursday, railing with his colleagues for more than 12 hours against what they called the danger of drone strikes to U.S. citizens on American soil….READ MORE

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