Full Text Political Transcripts December 8, 2016: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Farewell Address

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Farewell Address

Source: Reid.Senate.gov, 12-8-16

“I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do.”

“I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family.”

“What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid gave his farewell address on the Senate floor today. He has served Nevada in the United States Congress for 34 years. Below are his remarks:

The history of Searchlight starts this way –  the first paragraph of that book: “Searchlight is like many Nevada towns and cities. It would never have come to be had gold not been discovered. It is situated on rocky, windy and arid terrain without an artesian well or surface water of any kind, the place we call Searchlight was not a gathering spot for Indian or animal.

Searchlight: It is a long ways from Searchlight to the United States Senate. I grew up during World War II in Searchlight. My dad was a miner, hard rock miner, underground miner. But work wasn’t very good in Searchlight. The mines during World War II were especially gone – all over America, but especially in Nevada.

There were a few things that went on after the war, promotions. He would work and sometimes they would pay him. Sometimes bad checks that would bounce. Sometimes they wouldn’t pay him, they would just leave. My mom worked really hard. We had this old Maytag washer. The lines were outside. She worked really hard.

Searchlight was about 250 people then. It had seen its better days. Searchlight was discovered in 1898 – gold was discovered.  And for 15 or 18 years, it was a booming, booming town. It was one of the most modern cities in all of Nevada. It had electricity, turn of the century electricity. Telegraph. Telephones.

It had a fire station, fire trucks. It had roads with signs on them designating the name of the street. It had a railroad. When I grew up, that was all gone. Searchlight, as I said, was 250 people.

So you may ask how did my mother work so hard in a town where there was 250 people? We had at that time no mines, but 13 brothels at one time in Searchlight. Thirteen. Not over the time, but one time. The biggest was the El Rey Club. So that tells everyone what wash my mom did, from the casinos and from the brothels. And she worked really hard. She ironed. She washed.

As I look back on my growing up in Searchlight, I never felt during the time I was a boy that I was deprived of anything. I never went hungry. Sometimes we didn’t have, I guess, what my mom wanted, but we were fine. But as I look back, it wasn’t that good, I guess. We had no inside toilet. We had a toilet outside. You had to walk about 50 yards to that. My dad didn’t want it close to the house.

And we had a good time, even with that. My poor mother, what a wonderful woman she was. My younger brother and I, sometimes just to be funny, she would go to the toilet, she had tin walls, tin, it was made out of tin, and we would throw rocks at that. “Let me out,” she would say. That doesn’t sound like much fun, but it was fun at the time.

When I started elementary school, there was one teacher for grades 1-4 and then another teacher for grades 5-8, but when I got to fifth grade, there was not enough – weren’t enough students for two teachers, so one teacher taught all eight grades. I learned at that time in that little school that you can really learn.

I have never, ever forgotten a woman by the name of Mrs. Pickard. I can still see her, those glasses, just a stereotype, spinster teacher, but she was a teacher. She taught me that education was good, to learn is good. And when I graduated – we had a large graduating class, six kids – and the presiding officer from Nevada, you should feel good about me. I graduated in the top third of my class.

My parents did the best they could. My dad never graduated from eighth grade. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. In Searchlight, it is probably no surprise to anyone, there was never , ever a church service in searchlight that I can ever remember. There was no church. No preachers, no nothing, nothing regarding religion. That’s how I was raised.

My brother and I were born in our house. There was no hospital. That had long since gone. I didn’t go to a dentist until I was 14 years old.  But I was fortunate. I was born with nice teeth, especially on the top. The bottoms aren’t so good, but rarely, rarely have I had a cavity of any kind. Just fortunate in that regard. We didn’t go to doctors. It was a rare, rare occasion. There was no one to go to. I can remember my father having such a bad tooth ache, I watched him pull a tooth with a pair of pliers.

My mother was hit in the face with a softball when she was a young woman in Searchlight, and it ruined her teeth. As I was growing up, I saw her teeth disappear.  A few, few less and finally no teeth. My mom had no teeth. My brother was riding his bicycle and slid on the dirt, broke his leg. He never went to the doctor. I can remember as if it were ten minutes ago my brother Larry on that bed. Couldn’t touch the bed, it hurt him so much, but it healed. The bottom part of one leg is bent, but it healed.

I can remember a TB wagon came through Searchlight, the only time I remember. People had tuberculosis. We had miners had silicosis, some of them, my dad  included. My mother had one of those tests. She went on the big truck and had her chest x-rayed, I guess that’s what they did. a few weeks later, she got a postcard and said her test was positive, she should go see a doctor. Never went to see a doctor. I worried about that so much. I can’t imagine how my mother must have felt, but obviously it was a false positive, but think about that. Never went to the doctor, but told you have tuberculosis.

As I learned more about my dad, I know how important health care would have been for him. To be able to see somebody, to try to explain more about my dad so he could understand him a little better. I’m sure I haven’t done all the good in life I could do, but I am here to tell everyone, there is one thing I did in my life that I’m so proud of, and I will always be — I hope I’m not boasting. If I am, I’m sorry.

I worked long hours in a service station. There was no high school in Searchlight, so I went to school in Henderson, Nevada. And I worked in a standard station. I worked really hard and long hours. I took all the hours they would give me. I saved up enough money, I had $250. I was going to buy my mother some teeth. and I went to a man, he was a bigshot. They named a school after him. He was on the school board in Las Vegas. He married this beautiful woman from Searchlight. I went to him. I never met him before. I told him who I am. His name was J.D. Smith.

I said I wanted to buy my mother some teeth. He said I don’t do credit here. He insulted me. So I went to Dr. Marshall of Henderson and bought my mother some teeth. It changed my mother’s life. My mother had teeth.

So my parents lived in Searchlight until they both died. I think a number of people saw them. My staff at least knows my dad killed himself. I can remember that day so plainly. I had been out — I spent two hours with Muhammad Ali, him and I, one of his handlers and one of my staff. It was so – for me who has always been – wanted to be an athlete, wannabe, that was great. Some of you know I fought, but that was — he was in a different world than me. But he was nice. He was generous with his time and so much fun. He said let’s go cause some trouble out here. He kicked the walls and yelled and screamed, and I was happy.

I walked to my car, got to my office, and my receptionist Joanie said to me, Mr. Reid, your mom’s on the phone. And I talked to my mother all the time, many, many times a week. She said, your pop shot himself. So she lived in Searchlight. It took me an hour, hour and a half to get out there. I can still remember seeing my dad on that bed, and I was so sad because my dad never had a chance. He was depressed always. He was reclusive. You know, I did things. He never came to anything that I did. I never felt bad that he didn’t because I knew my dad. My mom came to everything that she could. I felt bad about that. I’ll talk a little more about suicide in a little bit. But I think everyone can understand a little bit of why I have been such an avid supporter of Obamacare, health care.

So I was ashamed, embarrassed about Searchlight. When I went to college, was in was in high school, law school, I just didn’t want to talk about Searchlight. I was kind of embarrassed about it. And, you know, it was kind of a crummy place. I didn’t show people pictures of my home.

So, many years later, I was a young man and I was in government, and Alex Haley, the famous writer who wrote the book “Roots” was a speaker at the University of Nevada Foundation dinner in Reno. He gave this speech and it was stunning. It was so good, and basically what he said to everyone there – and he directed, I thought, his remarks to me. Of course he didn’t. But he said be proud of who you are. You can’t escape who you are. And I walked out of that event that night a different person, a new man. From that day forward, I was from Searchlight. When I got out of law school, I bought little pieces of property. So I had contacts there. My parents lived there, so I became Harry Reid, the guy from Searchlight.

So one thing people ask me all the time, you’ve done okay. Tell me what you think are the important aspects – especially young people ask all the time. Young is a relative term. What would you recommend? What do you think was your way to success? And I tell them all the same thing. I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard, and I tell everyone whatever you want to try to do, make sure you’re going to work as hard as you can at trying to do what you want to do. And I believe that’s a lesson for everyone.

The little boy from Searchlight has been able to be part of a changing state of Nevada. I’m grateful I’ve been part of that change.

When I graduated from law school, the population of Nevada was less than 300,000 people. The state of Nevada is now three million people. It grew from one member of Congress from 1864 to ‘82 – one, that’s all we had.  Now we have four. During my 34 years in Congress, I’ve seen the country change. I’ve seen Nevada change. The changes in the country and Nevada have been for the better.

Now I’m going to spend a little bit of time talking about some of the things that I’ve been able to do as a member of the United States Senate. I know it’s long and somewhat tedious, but I’ve been here a long time, so please be patient.

My legislation. Reducing tax burdens. I’m sorry he’s not here – David Pryor of Arkansas. David Pryor, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any of my very, very capable friends but the best legislator I’ve ever served with in state government, federal government, is David Pryor. He was good. Not a big speecher. But he was good at getting things done. The first speech I gave as a member of the Senate was way back there where Cory Booker is right now. And I gave a speech. I tried to do it in the House. It was called a Taxpayers Bill of Rights. I couldn’t get Jake Pickle, the chair of that subcommittee on Ways and Means, even to talk to me in the House. But I came over here and I gave that speech, and David Pryor was presiding. He was the subcommittee chair of the committee dealing with that that, in Finance. Chuck Grassley was also listening to my speech. Pryor sent me a note when I finished and said I want to help you with this. Grassley did the same thing. So my first speech led to the passage of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, with the help of David Pryor and Chuck Grassley. It was landmark legislation. It put the taxpayer on more equal footing with the tax collector. Everybody liked that so much, we’ve done two iterations of it since then to make it even stronger.

Source tax I’m sure is just a boring thing to everybody, but it wasn’t boring to people that came from California and tried to retire someplace else. The State of California was merciless in going after people. They had the law on their side, they thought. If you worked in California, it didn’t matter where you went, they would go after you for your pensions, is what it amounted to. And I tried for 15 years to get that changed, and I got it changed. No longer can California, all due respect to Feinstein and Boxer, can they do that. They can’t do that anymore. If you retire in California and move someplace else, they can’t tax that money.

Mortgage tax relief, we all participated in that. I initiated it, too, when the collapse of Wall Street took place, and that was a big help.

Tax incentives for solar and geothermal, really important. I’ll talk a little more about that. Payment in lieu of taxes, all my Western senators will appreciate that. It was just four years ago, five years ago that we were able to fully fund PILT, payment in lieu of taxes. I worked very hard with Baucus, with Wyden, and we did things to take care of some issues that they had. That’s the first time it had ever been fully funded.

Cancellation indebtedness. That’s a buzzword for people that understand taxes a little better. But what happened is everything collapsed. They would try to get out of a debt they had. They couldn’t because the IRS would tax them at the value of it when they bought it. When things didn’t work, it was unfair. And we got that changed. That was in the stimulus bill. We got that changed.

Let’s talk about the economy a little bit. I know some of my Democrat colleagues say, “Why did you do that?” Here’s what I did. I worked with Republican Senator Don Nickles from Oklahoma. There was a Republican president, okay? The worm turns, but Don and I talked about this. We knew that the administrations would change and it would affect every president, Democrat and Republican. It was called the Congressional Review Act. What that said is the president promulgates a regulation, Congress has a chance to look it over to see if it’s too burdensome, too costly, too unfair. And we’ve done that quite a few times. And that was because of Reid and Nickles. That was legislation that I did, and it was great when we had Republican presidents. Not so great when we had Democratic presidents. But it was fair.

One of the things that’s been so important to the state of Nevada has been a man by the name of Kirk Kerkorian, a non-educated man. He flew over the North Atlantic during World War II, ferrying planes to England at great personal sacrifice to himself. But he had, as I said, no education. His parents were from Armenia. He became one of America’s legendary entrepreneurs. And I many, many years ago as a young, young lawyer met him and for many, many years helped him and especially his brother with their legal issues. He’s the man that helped create Las Vegas the way it is, and he did something unique. He decided he was going to build something on the Las Vegas strip called City Center. And for those of you who go to Nevada, look at that sometime. You could be in the middle of New York City. You would think you were there. This is a magnificent operation.

Well, it started before the recession. They were desperate to get it finished. More than 10,000 people worked on that project. I would drive by there and count the cranes. Twenty-five, thirty cranes at one time there at work. Well, I interceded in that. I did some things that probably a lot of people wouldn’t do, but I did it because I thought it was very important that operation didn’t shut down. Kerkorian had already put billions of dollars of his own money in it. They had an investor from one of the Middle Eastern countries. I did a lot of things that I say a lot of you wouldn’t do, but I did it. I saved that project. I’m not going into detail, but I called people that I would doubt that any of you would call. I called bank presidents. I called leaders of countries. And anyway, it’s completed now. I take some credit for that.

The stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we got that done. Yesterday the presiding officer was the senior senator from Maine. Oh, she was so helpful. I hope it doesn’t get her into trouble to boast about her today. But she and her colleague from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter — we only had 58 votes as Democrats and they were the difference — we were able to get that passed only because of them. It was so good for our country.

Obama, the first two months after having been elected, the country lost 800,000 jobs. Can you imagine that? A month. Because of the stimulus bill, we were able to reverse that. We did a lot of wonderfully good things on that that were important for the country. Travel Promotion Act — Amy Klobuchar is here. She worked so hard in helping get that done. It promoted travel to get foreigners to come here, to come to America. It worked out so well. Seven different clotures I had to file on that to get it done but we got it done finally. It’s been remarkably good for America. Other countries, you’ll see them on TV. They’re always advertising about come visit Australia, come visit the Bahamas, come visit England, come visit every place. Now there’s advertising going on around the world: come visit America. Now everyone knows that Las Vegas gets its, more than its share probably of visitors, but it was good for Nevada but it was also good for the country.

Nevada test site workers. We were the Cold War veterans in Nevada. That was a big project. We had 11,000, 12,000 workers there at one time. We had above-ground tests, I can remember seeing them. We were a long ways away in Searchlight, but you would see that flash. You wouldn’t always feel it – sometimes it would bounce over Searchlight. But it was really a big deal. We didn’t know it was making people sick, but they were good enough to make sure the tests didn’t go off when the wind was blowing toward Las Vegas. It blew up toward Utah, and Utah suffered terribly bad because those were above-ground tests. So we worked to make sure the test site workers, who were part of the reason for winning the Cold War, because it was dangerous what they did. We passed that. A number of different segments to get it done, so we’ve done a lot to protect people.

Nevada transportation. McCarran Airport Field. I’ve tried for years to get the name taken off. He was a Democratic Senator from Nevada who was an awful man. I tried to get his name off of that. It didn’t work. I tried to get J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building, that didn’t work. We had a vote here. I can still remember how mad Orrin Hatch was when I did that. Bunt anyway, everyone had to vote on it. I think made a mistake. I tried to get it named after Bobby Kennedy. That was the mistake I made, I think.

Anyway, McCarran Airport. It’s, I think, the fifth busiest airport in America now. We’ve gotten money for a new air traffic control center, it’s one of the largest structures in the Western United States. We’ve done a good job taking care of McCarran. All kinds of construction funding for runways and rehabilitation of runways. In the stimulus bill, one of the last things we put in that was the bonding capacity that allowed McCarran Field to build a big new terminal. More than $1 billion we got in that legislation, and it was really important during the recession to have all those workers. There are thousands and thousands of them on that new terminal which is now completed.

Reno. I was also able to direct money toward getting a new traffic control center there, a new control tower. We’ve done all the construction funding, a lot of stuff, good stuff for the airport in Reno.

So I feel good about what we’ve done to help Nevada transportation. Not the least of which everybody is, billions of dollars in directed spending for roads and highways in Nevada. And it’s really made a change in Northern Nevada and in Southern Nevada. It’s important for us to be able to deal with people in Las Vegas, so we made deals with the California Department of Transportation and we participated in big construction projects that took place in California – Barstow and San Bernardino. We did that because it would make it easier for people to come to Las Vegas. I wasn’t just giving money to Las Vegas. We also did it of course for California because it helped us.

Health care. The Affordable Care Act, I’ve talked about that a little bit. It would have been wonderful if we had something like that around to help my family when we were growing up. I worked hard to help a number of you on the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Orrin Hatch was certainly involved in that.

Just like I had trouble coming to grips with my home in Searchlight, I had trouble coming to grips with the fact that my dad killed himself. I was like most — we are called victims. We shouldn’t be, but that’s what we’re called. This year about 32,000 people will kill themselves in America.

That doesn’t count the hunting accidents which are really suicides, the car accidents which are really suicides. So i couldn’t get my arms around the suicide.

Republican Senator Cohen from Maine was the chairman of the Aging Committee upon which I served, and we were doing a hearing on senior depression. And Mike Wallace came, the famous journalist, and here’s what he said:  “I have wanted to die for years. I would take the most dangerous assignments I could hoping I couldn’t come back.” He said, “You know, I’m okay now, though. I want to live forever.” He said, “I take a pill once in a while, I see a doctor once in a while and I’m good. I’m okay.” And I said for the first time publicly, “Mr. Chairman, my dad killed himself. That was a long time ago. But I think it would be extremely important for this committee to hold a hearing on senior suicide.” Because we’ve learned; since my focusing on suicide, we’ve done some good things as members of Congress.

We’ve directed spending to study why people kill themselves, because we don’t know for sure. Isn’t it interesting that most of the suicides take place in the western part of the United States. You would think it would be in dark places like Maine and Vermont where it’s so dark and cold, but no it’s in the bright sunshine of the West. So we’re learning a lot more and that has been so good to me as a person and we have now funded projects around America where there are suicide prevention programs that are extremely important.

There are suicide victims’ programs where people get together after someone, a loved one, kills themselves. So that’s something that I’m glad I worked on.

Finally, health care.

Twenty-four years ago, one of my friends from Las Vegas called me, Sandy Jolly, and she said, “I would like you to look at this film I’m going to send you. She said, and, I want you to watch it. And what it showed was a beautiful little girl in Africa in a party dress. It was white. She looked so pretty. You know, it was a party. And suddenly two men grabbed her, spread her legs apart and cut out her genitals – right there with a razor blade. I thought, man, that’s hard to comprehend. And my staff said, now, it’s something you shouldn’t deal with –  it should be for a woman. But I went ahead and I did something about it.

We haven’t done as much as we should do, and I hope that we have people who will pick up this issue. I had a meeting last Friday, the biggest audience I’ve ever had, just people – they were there. There was a conference on female genital mutilation. I say that word because that’s what it is. Millions of little girls have been “cut” –  that’s what it’s called, “cut.” Last year, no one knows for sure, but probably 250,000 little girls were cut. And last Friday, I had 200 people there. I said, this is wonderful. I said, I’ve had 10 people a couple times, but two or three of the people were lost and didn’t really want to be there.

It’s really important that we do something about it. We have some laws now – it’s against the law in the United States. You can’t go away for purposes of being cut. But there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Our government has done almost nothing.

I’ll spend a little bit of time on the environment. You know, I’ve been the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee twice. Not for very long. I gave it up once because I had to because of control of Congress. And one time I gave it way, as some will remember. I gave it away. I gave away my chairmanship and my committee spot to Jim Jeffords. And I loved that committee. I’ve been involved in the environment and energy things since I came here.

The state of Nevada is 87 percent owned by the federal government. Eighty-seven percent of the state of Nevada is federal land. The rest, 13 percent, is private land. Of course I should be concerned about it.

Yucca Mountain, I’m not going to get into a long dissertation about that. But because we we’ve spent about $8 billion there so far, maybe more. It’s gone. Someone asked me the other day, you know, the Republicans are in power now. They’re going to come back to Yucca Mountain. I said, well, they better bring a checkbook with them. Because there’s nothing there now. They’d have to start all over again. They spent more than $1 billion digging that tunnel.

That’s ground up for scrap metal. There’s nothing there. You could probably get it going again now for $10-12 billion. So if you have a way to pay for it, good luck. If you were smart, what you would do is leave it where it is in diecast storage containers, which is proven to be extremely safe and effective. And that is what should be done.

Renewable energy transmission. The stimulus bill said one of the problems we have with energy is that we don’t have a way of transmitting electricity to where it should go. We all talk about all this renewable energy which is produced in places where there aren’t lot of people, but you can’t get any place where there are a lot of people. That’s been changed with the stimulus bill.

For example, in Nevada we have One Nevada Transmission Line, it’s called, and that for the first time in the state of Nevada, we can move power from the north to the south of Nevada. Part of that legislation is under way now. That line will also goes up into the northwest. That was good legislation.

I’ve had clean energy summits for many, many years. We bring in national leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to focus attention on the problems America has with energy. The Clintons have come, Obama has been there, we’ve had Republicans, and here’s one that came and did a great job: Tom Donohue. Everybody knows him. We Democrats know him, for sure. The head of the Chamber of Commerce.

Coal. I have no problem with coal. I’ve helped fund clean coal technology.  One of my spending was Tracy Power Plant outside of Reno that was a clean coal plant. Except it didn’t work, so they had to go to another type of fuel. So I have nothing against coal.

However, I was upset about this: Nevada is very pristine. I have told a couple people this. People don’t understand Nevada. Everybody thinks it is the deserts of Las Vegas, but it is not. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the union with the exception of Alaska. We have 314 separate mountain ranges. We have a mountain 14,000 feet high, we have 32 mountains over 11,000 feet high. It’s a very mountainous state.

So when I learned by reading the papers that we were going to have power companies come to Nevada, one of the most pristine areas, and they were going to build three or four power plants. I said no. My staff said, you can’t do that. You’re up for reelection. They’ll destroy you. Well, they tried. But I won. They lost. There are going to be no coal-fired plants in Nevada. There’s two left. One of them is going out of business in a matter of two weeks. And the other is on its way out, probably within a year.

We’re not going to have coal-fired plants in Nevada, but we do have lots and lots of renewable energy. I’ve worked especially with John Ensign when he was here, on major land bills and we were able to do a lot of good things. Because of him – he was a real conservative guy – I had to make deals to make some of Nevada’s 87 percent of public land private. I was able to do that. And he was able to, with me, to create more wilderness. We worked together to get that done.

I created the first national park in Nevada. It’s wonderful. Everything within the Great Basin is in that park. Hard to believe now, but in Nevada we have a glacier. We have the oldest living things in the world on that mountain. Those old, old pine trees. They’re there. They’re 6,000 or 7,000 years old. They’re there. A beautiful, beautiful park. Basin and

Range National Monument: I worked with President Obama on this, more than 700,000 acres in a remote place of Nevada. It’s a place where John Muir came as a young man, camping there and talking about how beautiful it is in his diary. Now everyone can see that.

Part of that wonderful place is a man who is a world-famous artist. The name is Heiser, Michael Heiser. He worked for 40 years building this monument in the middle of nowhere. It is called “City.” It is the most magnificent thing. We don’t have roads coming there yet, but we will pretty soon. But that’s done.

Tule Springs: Right in the middle of the growth in Las Vegas. People came to me one time and said, we have this place in Nevada where we have the oldest and most abundant source of fossils anyplace in America. To make a long story short, that’s now a national monument.

The state of Nevada didn’t have the resources to take on the oil companies the airlines. So I got Bill Bradley, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, to hold a hearing. It was so important we did that. Because we determined the oil was coming from broken oil lines, fuel lines going to the Reno airport. Had we not done something, it would have been awful. It was declared an emergency Superfund site. Immediately people moved in and took care of that. Now that –  I am giving a quick look at it. That gravel pit is now a beautiful lake. It’s called the Sparks Marina. There’s condos, apartments, businesses all around that. People on boats – it’s wonderful. It all started out as a gravel pit. I appreciate Bill Bradley’s great work on that.

There are people in this chamber that are much better than I on national security, and I know that. But I worked hard. We have been a dumping ground for all things in the military. We have had Nellis Air Force Base. It’s the finest fighter training facility in the world. If you want to fly jet airplanes, you must train in Nevada. We have a great big gun range. The Navy does the same thing with their naval training center. I frankly have gotten tens and tens of millions of dollars for both those operations because they’ve been important.

Also, everyone, we hear a lot about drones. Every drone attack that takes place in the world takes place 30 miles outside Las Vegas at the air force base. It used to be called Indian Springs. That’s where they all take place. We have all these great servicemen, mostly airmen who take care of that. They protect us around the world.

Barbara Mikulski is here. She traveled as we were new senators. She was in a position to help me on appropriations. She said this facility in Reno was awful and I am going to do something about it, and she did. Very quickly. We renovated that place. It was so bad, the old VA hospital that you couldn’t get the new hospital equipment down the halls it was too small. Senator Mikulski, I said before how much I appreciated that. She took care of that.

I have had good fortune that two VA hospitals I asked money for and they were built. We had one that was an experiment, which was a joint venture with the Veterans Administration and the Air Force and it worked great except we had the Middle East war. The veterans were given – go someplace else. So we don’t have that anymore. But we have a huge new one that’s built. The newest and the best. It’s not fully — doesn’t have all the equipment they need but has been functioning now for a couple of years and has been very good. I feel very proud of that.

The Nevada test site is part of the national security. I’ve done everything I can to make sure that facility is taken care of and it is. We have a lot of experiments going on there all the time. If you – we have all these what we call fuel spills, all the testing takes place there.

Finally with the military, here’s one of the best things I ever did. As I heard Barbara Mikulski talk about yesterday, let us know what your constituents say. A group of veterans came a few feet from here to talk to me a few years ago. They said, you know, senator, this is somewhat strange. I’m disabled from the military. I’m also retired from the military. I can’t draw both benefits. What are you talking about?  He said I can’t. If you retire from the Forest Service, you can get your pension from the Forest Service, wherever it is and also get your disability but not if it’s both military. We changed that. Now, if you have a disability and you have a — you retired from the military, you can draw both. That took a long time but we got it done. It’s not perfect but it is 80 percent all done.

Judiciary. You know I talked earlier this morning I’m a lawyer and I’m proud of the fact I was a trial lawyer. I hear senators talk all the time about the judicial selection committees they have, pick who they’re going to have on the federal bench and I’m glad they do that, because I also have a judicial selection committee. You know who’s on that committee? Me. No one else is on it. I’ve selected all my judges. I’m the committee. And I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to do. One of the things I did in the House – I named a federal building in Las Vegas named after this very famous family of lawyers, two federal judges, a district attorney, a state court judge. A wonderful family called the folly family. So I go back for the 10th anniversary and I look up there and nothing but white men.

I thought to myself, gee, I hope someday I can change that.  And as fortune would have it, Lloyd George decided to take senior status and I had a chance to do something about that. And I have done – I have sent names to the President. I have selected far more judges, myself and the entire history of the State of Nevada, other senators.

So what I did with the first one, well, I want to get a woman. We don’t have a black on the court either. Why not get a black and a woman and that’s what I did. Oh was I criticized. Oh, she didn’t have enough experience. You could have found somebody better. She was a dynamo. People loved this woman. She was so good, she was so good, that she’s now on the 9th Circuit, and she quickly went there. Make a long story short, she’s been part of the talk about who could go on the Supreme Court. This is a wonderful woman named Johnnie Rawlinson.

I put Roger Hunt, a great trial lawyer, on there. Kent Dawson, one of my predecessors, city attorney. David Hagen, a wonderful trial lawyer out of Reno, I put him on the bench.

Brian Sandoval I selected as a federal judge, and he was a good federal judge. Things were going great until he ran against my son for governor. And I wish he hadn’t because my son would now be governor. But he’s my friend and we have family accepted that. But he was a Hispanic, first Hispanic on the bench.

I appointed another Hispanic, Gloria Navarro, parents born in Cuba. She’s a woman. She’s now the chief judge. Miranda Du. How about that? A woman born in Vietnam is now on the bench in Nevada. How about that?  Miranda Du.  Born in Vietnam, came when she was 11 years old to Alabama. Jennifer Dorsey, a woman.  Andrew Gordon, Harvard Law graduate. Richard Boulware, African-American. So, I’ve changed that Nevada bench significantly, federal bench. I’ve had the pleasure of voting for and against all eight members of the Supreme Court that now sit there during my career, every one of them I’ve had a chance to vote.

Education.  I’ve worked hard for education in Nevada and I’ve done okay. Desert Research Institute is a unique organization. It’s not helped by the University of Nevada at all. They do it on their own. All Ph.D.’s. They’ve been in existence for 50 years. Some of the most significant research in the world is done there. You know, these super computers, I’ve gotten two of them. You know, and our earthquake center, the best in the world.  They have more shake tables than any place in America and people come from all over the world to study what happens with earthquakes.

Biodiversity study. For many years I directed funding to the biodiversity study. It was the best science going on at the time on the environment, studying the Great Basin.

Native Americans in Nevada, we have 26 different tribal organizations. I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do to help Native Americans. And believe me, they haven’t been treated well in Nevada or anyplace else. I’ve led the legislative efforts to make sure that we have water rights taken care of. Settled long-standing claims against the United States. We’ve done the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, Duck Valley Reservation, all have been able to develop their water rights and their economies. Pyramid Lake, for example, their money is going to be almost $100 million. Fallon was $60 million.  I worked to get two new high schools built and they were so long overdue. Shoshone Claims Distribution Act, it took decades to get it done, we finally got it done. Washoe Tribe.  Thanks to President Clinton, we were able to get the Indians who belong up there, the Washoe Tribe, get them right on the lake.

It’s been a dream job of mine to work with the Obama Administration for the last eight years. Being his point man here in the Senate, I gave an extended speech on him yesterday. I want to make it part of the Record and I ask consent to do that, Mr. President, so we don’t have to listen to the same stuff again, but I did do it yesterday. And I also want to ask unanimous consent, I have lots and lots of stuff that I’ve done that I didn’t feel I’d take the time to do. I want to make that part of the record.

Okay, winding down, everybody. I know you’re glad, but it’s been 34 years. I’ve served with 281 different senators during the time I’ve been here. I have such fond memories of so, so many, so, so many. The hilarious Fritz Hollings, the confident Fritz Hollings. I’ve never known a better joke teller — and I hope Al is not mad — than Frank Lautenberg. He could tell stories and I’ve asked him to tell the same stories so many times. I couldn’t tell it but he had one about two wrestlers. I’m not going to repeat it, but he was very, very funny. I’m not going to go through the whole Ted Kennedy list and all that but I’ve had wonderful experiences with my senator friends.

When I came as Democratic senator, there was one woman, Barbara Mikulski. That was it, one woman. I’m very happy now that we have 17 Democratic women and we have four Republican women. And I want to just say, make the record very clear, the Senate is a better place because of women being here. There is no question for many different reasons, but they’ve added so much to the Senate. The only problem we have now, there aren’t enough of them. But we did our best this go around. We got four new Democratic senators.

Leaders. I’ve already talked about Senator McConnell. It’s been my good fortune to have been able to serve with such good leaders like Robert Byrd. I don’t know if it’s true. I accept it because that’s what I want to believe. A number of people told me I was his pet. As I said, I don’t know if I was or not but he sure was good to me. George Mitchell, what a wonderful extemporaneous speaker. He was the best. This federal judge, this U.S. attorney, this good man from Maine. Bob Dole. I was a junior Senator and didn’t have a lot of interchange with him when he was a leader, but I have had a lot lately. He calls me in some of the issues he’s working on now.

I can recall one of the most moving times in my life Daniel Inouye was lying in state in the Rotunda. He called me and asked me if I would go over there with him. Of course I would. He was in a wheelchair. Somebody pushes him over there and he says stop. There’s a little alcove there. And Bob Dole as hard as it was for him walked over to the crypt where Danny was. He climbed up on the bearer and said, “Danny, I love you.” If that won’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will. I’ll always remember that and Bob Dole.

Trent Lott, he was really a good leader, extremely conservative but extremely pragmatic. We got lots of stuff done. I was Senator Daschle’s point person to get legislation out of this body and we did some really good things. Tom Daschle, he always gave me lots of room to do things. I can remember once I was the whip and he was — I thought he’d been too generous with one of the other senators and I complained. He said look, you’re going to make this whip job whatever you want it to be and I took him at his word and I did. I never left the floor. The Senate opened, I was here. When it closed, I was here.

Bill Frist, a fine human being. I really cared about him a lot. He wasn’t an experienced legislator but that’s okay. He was an experienced human being. I liked him a lot. I already talked about Mitch.

Diversity, we don’t have enough diversity in the Senate but I do take credit for creating a diversity office with Democrats. Senator Schumer has indicated he’s going to continue that and I’m very happy he’s going to do that. We don’t have enough diversity, I repeat.

I want to tell everyone here, I’m grateful to all my Democratic senators. They’ve been so good to me during my time as leader. But I have to mention Durbin. He and I came here together 34 years ago. He has been so supportive of me. He’s been my cousin Jeff. You care if I tell the story?

My brother lives in Searchlight still. He’s an interesting man. He had a girlfriend there that was married. And he brought her home one night and her husband or boyfriend – or whatever it was – jumped out of the tree on my brother’s back. They had a fight and my brother won. So, a couple of weeks later he’s at a 49’er club, a bar, a little place in Searchlight, and he’s having a beer, whatever he drinks. He looks around and he sees a guy that he beat up. But the guy’s got a couple of people with him. He knew why they were there. They were there to work him over. He said, “Well, what am i going to do?” And just about then a miracle happened – our cousin Jeff walked in. He hadn’t been in Searchlight in a couple of years, but cousin Jeff was known as being a really tough guy. So, Larry said, “Here’s the deal.” Cousin Jeff looked him over, went to the biggest one, grabbed his nose, twisted it as hard as he could and he said, “Do you guys want any part of me or my cousin Larry?” They said no and they left. .

The reason I say that – Durbin is my cousin Jeff. I was in my office watching the floor. McConnell was up there. I was so damned mad. He was talking about stuff. I was mad. I called my office. “Why don’t we have somebody out there saying something.” He said, “Senator, that was transcribed, that was recorded earlier today. We’re out of session.” So Durbin has been my man, my cousin Jeff. Whenever I have a problem, everybody, I call Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin can talk about anything that sounds good.

Chuck Schumer. My kids said make sure you tell everybody about how smart you think he is. Okay. I’m going to do it. One day I said to Schumer –  we hadn’t known each other a long time, but I said, “How the hell did you ever get in Harvard?” He said, “It helped I had a perfect SAT. and a perfect LSAT. That’s true – it’s not just talk. He did. He is a brilliant man. He’s got a big heart and he works extremely hard, and he has been so good to me. We worked together. He took a job he didn’t want, chair of the DSCC twice, but it worked out great. We were able to get the majority. So I will always have great affection for him, and I wish him well in being my replacement. I’m confident he will do a good job. He won’t be me, but he’ll do a good job.

My staff, we checked yesterday, my staff did. It’s hard to comprehend how many people I’ve had work for me over 34 years. Almost 3,000, everybody. And I feel so strongly about my staff. They are my family. I really, really do believe that. I feel they’re my family. Chiefs of staff, I haven’t had that many, surprisingly, over 34 years. Claude Zobell, Rey Martinez, Susan McCue, Gary Myrick, David Krone, Drew Willison and of course David McCallum, who has done so much to make sure I didn’t overspend things. And my utility man, Bill Dauster. He can catch, pitch, play any position on the field. He’s been great for me. I appreciate Bill’s work very much.

Thank you, Adelle, because I would be so embarrassed if I didn’t say something about Patty Murray. She has been part of this leadership team I have had. You know, we have never had anything like this before in the Senate. Leaders prior to me, they did it all on their own. But I have had these three wonderful human beings helping me for all these years.

We meet every Monday night, get set up for the caucus on Tuesday, for the leadership meeting on Tuesday. So Patty, you and Rob, I just care so much about, and I want you to know how I appreciate your loyalty, your hard work. You’ve taken some jobs that you didn’t want to take. That budget job, oh that super – whatever the hell it was called. It was awful. I don’t know how long she’s going to live, but that took a few years off her life. But you and Rob have been great. Loretta is my friend. Iris I love. So thank you very much, you guys.

I’ve told everyone on my staff, with rare exception, you represent me. If you’re on the phone, when you answer that phone, you’re representing me. You are as if you are Harry Reid on that phone. I say the same to those who speak, write and advocate for me. They represent me, and they have done so well. They have helped me in good times and bad times.

What is the future of the Senate? I would hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution. As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves. I love the Senate. I don’t need to dwell on that. I love the Senate. I care about it so very, very much. I’ve enjoyed Congress for 34 years. I have, as the leader here in the Senate, I have had such joy and times of oh, wow, what are we going to do now. That’s what these jobs are like. They are so exhilarating until oh, man, something happens and I think all of you have done like I have just said, wow, what are we going to do now? The Senate has changed, some for the good, some for the bad.

I want to say this, though. It isn’t the same as when I first came here. There’s change in everything. The biggest change has been the use of the filibuster. I do hope my colleagues are able to temper the use of the filibuster. Otherwise it will be gone. It will be gone first on nominations and then it will be gone on legislation. This is something you have to work on together. Because if you continue to use it the way it’s been used recently, it’s going to really affect this institution a lot.

Something has to be done about the outrageous amount of money from sources that are dark, unknown, now involved in our federal elections. The Citizens United case in January, 2010 – if this doesn’t change, if we don’t do something about this vast money coming into our elections, in a couple more election cycles, we’re going to be just like Russia. We’re going to have a plutocracy, a few rich guys telling our leader what to do.

Leonard Cohen, who recently died, one of America’s great music geniuses, recently died, as I said. In one of his songs is called “Anthem.” he says it all: “There’s a crack, a crack in everything, there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” That’s what he said. And I believe there are cracks in what’s happening with the huge amount of money currently in federal elections and excessive partisanship.

The cracks are the American people don’t like it. They don’t like this money, they don’t like the partisanship. So there are cracks. There are cracks, I repeat, because the American people are complaining big time about the excessive use of money and objecting to the partisanship. That’s the crack and that’s how the light’s going to get in. That’s how America has the opportunity to become a better place where money will not control our political system, nor will partisanship.

So just a little bit of advice to my colleagues, it’s worked okay for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Elko , a really conservative place in Nevada 400 miles from Las Vegas. If a question is asked in Elko of me, I give the same answer there as i give in Las Vegas. We should all do that.

The people in Nevada have never had to worry how I stand on an issue. I tell them how I feel, and that’s why I have never had any big bang elections. But people at least know how I stand. People who don’t necessarily like how I vote and what I talk about, at least they know how I feel. I think that’s good advice for everybody. At least that’s worked well for me, I hope. ‘But what’s your formula for success? What do you recommend?’ And I tell them the same thing about working hard. Of course that’s important. Of course it’s important, but also stay true to who you are, your roots.

Now, my social life, my time in Washington has been different than many. I’m not saying it is better, but it’s been different. Every year there are galas: The White House Correspondents Dinner, The Gridiron Club Dinner, Radio and Correspondents Dinner, Alfalfa Club. So, during my 34 years in Congress, there have been 135 or 136 of these. I attended one of them. For me, that was enough. I have attended one Congressional Picnic in 34 years. That was because my son Key had a girlfriend and he wanted to impress her, and I guess he did because they’re married. But one was enough for me. I’ve attended one state dinner. That’s because I had a son who spent two years in Argentina and wanted to meet the president of Argentina. I did that for my son Rory. But one was enough. I have never been to another one. I have never been to a White House Congressional Ball like the one that’s going to be held tonight. I guess I’m inquisitive of how it would be, but I don’t want to go. I’ve seen one World Series. That was enough. I’ve been to one Super Bowl. That was plenty. I’ve flown once in an F-18 and that was, that was enough. So I’ve gone over the years to hundreds of fundraisers for my friends and colleagues, but everyone has to acknowledge I can get in and out of those pretty quick.

So let me talk about the press a little bit and their responsibility as I see it. We’re entering a new gilded age. It has never been more important to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what is fake. We have lawmakers pushing for tax cuts for billionaires and calling it populism. We have media outlets pushing conspiracy theories disguised as news. Separating real from fake has never been more important. And I wish, I have met him, but I wish I could sit down and talk to him sometime because I so admire Pope Francis. Here’s what  he said yesterday: “The media that focuses on scandals and spread fake news to smear politicians risk becoming like people who have a morbid fascination with  excrement.” That’s what Pope Francis said. He added that using communication for this rather than educating the public amounted to a sin. Well, he can categorize sin, I can’t, but I agree with him on what he just said. I acknowledge the importance of the press. I admire what you do and understand the challenges ahead of you. But be vigilant because you have as much to do with our democracy as any branch of government. This is best understood by listening to what George Orwell had to say a long time ago, and I quote: “Freedom of the press if it means anything at all means the freedom to criticize and oppose.” So press, criticize and oppose, please do that.

This really is the end of my speech. I have five children, Lana, Rory, Leif, Josh and Key. They have been role models for me and for Landra. They were role models. We learned from them when they were young and we are still learn from them. We appreciate the exemplary lives they have lived. I am confident, hopeful and determined to make sure that they understand how much affection, love and admiration I have for each of them, for their wonderful spouses and our 19 grandchildren.

Okay. Here goes. Whatever success I had in my educational life, my life as a lawyer, my life as a politician, including my time in Congress, is directly attributable to Landra, my wife. We met when Landra was a sophomore in high school and I was a junior. That was more than six decades ago. We married at age 19. As I’ve said, we have five children. We have wonderful 19 grandchildren. She has been the being of my existence, in my personal life and my public life. Disraeli, the great prime minister said in 1837: “The magic of first love is that it never ends.”  I believe that. She’s my first love. It will never end. Landra and I have talked and we understand we will have a different life. We have said and we believe that we’re not going to dwell on the past. We’ll be involved in the past any way we need to be, but we’re going to look to the future.

I wish everyone the best. I’m sorry I talked so long. I usually don’t do that. I thank everyone for listening to my speech. I appreciate my wonderful family being here, my friends, my staff and each of you. Thank you for your friendship and support over the years.

 

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Politics August 17, 2016: FBI hands Congress over Clinton interview notes investigation report

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FBI hands Congress over Clinton interview notes investigation report

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The FBI handed over its report on their decision not to recommend criminal charges for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her private email server to Congress. The FBI sent the classified report originally for the Department of Justice and interview memos, called 302s to the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, following through on their request. The House is also is also request the DOJ file charges because Clinton perjured herself in her sworn testimony to the House’s Benghazi committee.

FBI Acting Assistant Director Jason V. Herring included a letter to “House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz” and “ranking Democratic member, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings” re-explaining the bureau’s decision not to charge Clinton. Herring wrote, “The FBI conducted this investigation, as it does all investigations, in a competent, honest and independent way. As the director stated, the FBI did find evidence that Secretary Clinton and her colleagues were extremely careless in their handling of certain, very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Continuing Herring clarified, “The term ‘extremely careless’ was intended to be a common sense way of describing the actions of Secretary Clinton and her colleagues. The director did not equate ‘extreme carelessness’ with the legal standard of ‘gross negligence’ that is required by the statute. In this case, the FBI assessed that the facts did not support a recommendation to prosecute her or others within the scope of the investigation for gross negligence.” Herring also suggested that usually what Clinton would be subject to is “severe administrative consequences.”

Among the documents, the FBI handed over was the summary of Clinton’s three and a half hour interview with the bureau that took place last month. FBI Director James Comey promised the reports and memos when he testified on July 7 before the House Oversight panel, saying he would do “everything I can possibly give you under the law and to doing it as quickly as possible.”

The documents are considered classified and will never be made public. Republicans are trying to keep Clinton’s email scandal in the limelight the election, hoping it can damage her bid for the presidency despite leading Republican Donald Trump in the polls. The FBI issued a statement warning that the information should not be made public, writing, “The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) issued a statement, however, arguing the documents should be made available to the public. Grassley wrote, “On initial review, it seems that much of the material given to the Senate today, other than copies of the large number of emails on Secretary Clinton’s server containing classified information, is marked ‘unclassified/for official use.’ The FBI should make as much of the material available as possible. The public’s business ought to be public, with few exceptions. The people’s interest would be served in seeing the documents that are unclassified. The FBI has made public statements in describing its handling of the case, so sharing documents in support of those statements wherever appropriate would make sense.”
Clinton campaign responded with a statement, “This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI. We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.”

The spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee confirmed receipt in a statement, “The FBI has turned over a ‘number of documents’ related to their investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email server. Committee staff is currently reviewing the information that is classified SECRET. There are no further details at this time.”

Congressional Republican are looking to make sure Clinton pays as CNN pointed out a “political price” for her actions during her tenure at the State Department since the FBI did not recommend criminal charges. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking the DOJ to charge Clinton with perjury claiming she perjured herself during her testimony to the House’s Benghazi committee.

Republicans are accusing Clinton of lying four times in her testimony to the committee saying what she said countered what she told the FBI. In the letter, Chaffetz and Goodlatte wrote, “The evidence collected by the (FBI) during its investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as secretary of state appears to directly contradict several aspects of her sworn testimony.”

On Monday, Aug. 15, 35 Republicans led by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) called on Comey to release Clinton’s interview notes because they believe she perjured herself. Tuesday morning before the documents were handed over Marino appeared on Fox News where he said about Clinton, “That she lied under oath to Congress when she came into testify. And if she lied, she perjured herself. She lied to Congress, therefore she can be prosecuted and spend as long as 10 years in prison for doing that. The director of the FBI, the Justice Department, in my opinion, they’re taking direction from the White House saying, ‘Do nothing about this.'”

Politics August 12, 2016: Senate Republicans take on possible corruption over State Dept and Clinton Foundation

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Senate Republicans take on possible corruption over State Dept and Clinton Foundation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Republican are taking the news that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might have abused her power as Secretary of State seriously. Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, questioning why the State Department and Department of Justice refused to investigate a potential conflict of interest between Clinton’s high-ranking aides working at the department and her husband former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

In the past couple of days, two troubling incidents have shown a possible conflict of interest or at worst abuse of power during Clinton’s tenure. First, was when Conservative Watchdog group Judicial Watch published previously unreleased emails from Clinton’s aide with emails to and from Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, two trusted aides to Clinton.

The emails consisted of a request from to find a position for someone close to the foundation by a close aide to Bill Clinton, and to help a donor meet the Lebanese ambassador. Next came the CNN investigation report which uncovered that Mills interviewed candidates to head the Clinton Foundation, while she was Chief of Staff at the State Department.

Although Clinton’s campaign and the State Department defended Mill’s actions, Republicans are not accepting those responses. Cornyn in his letter said the State Dept and DOJ “favors Secretary Clinton.” The Majority Whip wrote, “This contrast does little to instill faith in the Department, part of why I called for an appointment of the Special Counsel in the email matter. But greater clarity for the public on the basis for your decision may.”

The Texas Senator called the recent discoveries “unacceptable” behavior. Sen. Cronyn continued, “It violates the commitment Secretary Clinton made to Congress and the Executive Branch following her nomination to be Secretary of State. That and her proven record of extreme carelessness with national security warrant a careful examination of Secretary Clinton’s other conduct and that of her staff.”

Additionally, Cronyn asked about CNN’s report, and why the FBI asked the DOJ to “open a case and pursue criminal charges,” however, the DOJ decided against an investigation. The DOJ claims they did not investigate because of lack of “evidence.” Cronyn wanted to know if DOJ employee, who decided against pursuing the case were questioned. The Majority Whip was concerned that at Lynch’s meeting with former President Clinton at a tarmac in Phoenix earlier this summer they discussed the conflict of interest.

Politics July 7, 2016: McConnell wants the FBI to release Clinton’s interview

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McConnell wants the FBI to release Clinton’s interview

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A day after FBI Director James B. Comey announced that the FBI would not be prosecuting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for the FBI to release Clinton’s interview. On Wednesday, July 7, 2016, McConnell joined Republican leaders’ chorus criticizing the FBI for deciding not to prosecute Clinton for using a private email server during her tenure and risking national security.

McConnell requested the FBI release Clinton’s interview transcript during his weekly press briefing. The majority leader said, “It’s pretty clear … that the American people would like to see what Hillary Clinton said to the FBI.” McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) believe Clinton might have perjured herself. The FBI conducted the three-hour interview with Clinton on Saturday, July 2.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 27, 2016: Democrats Issue Benghazi Report and Release Interview Transcripts

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Democrats Issue Benghazi Report and Release Interview Transcripts

Source: Democrats-Benghazi.House.gov

Jun 27, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Today, the Democratic Members of the Select Committee on Benghazi issued a 339-page report entitled, Honoring Courage, Improving Security, and Fighting the Political Exploitation of a Tragedy.  Democrats also released all of the unclassified interview transcripts in their possession so the American people can read them for themselves.

“Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation,” the Members wrote.  “They will showcase the proliferation of Republican abuses as a chief example of what happens when politicians are allowed to use unlimited taxpayer dollars—and the formidable power of Congress—to attack their political foes.”

The Democratic report’s overarching conclusion is that the evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirms the core findings already issued by many previous investigations into the attacks in Benghazi.  Although the Select Committee obtained additional details that provide context and granularity, these details do not fundamentally alter the previous conclusions.

The report finds:

  • U.S. personnel in Benghazi and Tripoli conducted themselves with extraordinary courage and heroism and at grave personal risk to defend and rescue their fellow Americans.
  • The Defense Department could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi, and although the military’s global posture prevented it from responding more quickly that night, improvements were made years ago.
  • The State Department’s security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi.
  • The Intelligence Community’s assessments evolved after the attacks as more information became available, but they were not influenced by political considerations.
  • Administration officials did not make intentionally misleading statements about the attacks, but instead relied on information they were provided at the time under fast-moving circumstances.

The Democratic report also documents the grave abuses Republicans engaged in during this investigation—from A to Z.  Republicans excluded Democrats from interviews, concealed exculpatory evidence, withheld interview transcripts, leaked inaccurate information, issued unilateral subpoenas, sent armed Marshals to the home of a cooperative witness, and even conducted political fundraising by exploiting the deaths of four Americans.

“In our opinion,” the Members wrote, “Chairman Gowdy has been conducting this investigation like an overzealous prosecutor desperately trying to land a front-page conviction rather than a neutral judge of facts seeking to improve the security of our diplomatic corps.”

“We are issuing our own report today because, after spending more than two years and $7 million in taxpayer funds in one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history, it is long past time for the Select Committee to conclude its work,” they wrote.  “Despite our repeated requests over the last several months, Republicans have refused to provide us with a draft of their report—or even a basic outline—making it impossible for us to provide input and obvious that we are being shut out of the process until the last possible moment.”

The Democratic report makes 12 recommendations.  Because the fundamental goal of the Democratic Members has always been to improve the security of our diplomatic corps and Americans serving our country overseas, the report makes nine recommendations to improve security measures, security training, risk management processes, and support for survivors and their families.  The report also makes three recommendations for Congress to consider before establishing any future select committees.

Click below to read each section:

The Democratic Members of the Select Committee are Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Linda Sánchez, and Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

114th Congress

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 27, 2016: Republican Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Report

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report

Source: House.gov, 6-27-16

81 New Witnesses, 75,000 New Pages of Documents Reveal Significant New Information,

Fundamentally Changes the Public’s Understanding of the 2012 Terrorist Attacks that Killed Four Americans

Washington, D.C. – Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC-04) released the following statement after the committee’s Majority released a mark of its investigative report:

“Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were heroes who gave their lives in service to our country. Their bravery and the courageous actions of so many others on the ground that night should be honored.

“When the Select Committee was formed, I promised to conduct this investigation in a manner worthy of the American people’s respect, and worthy of the memory of those who died. That is exactly what my colleagues and I have done.

“Now, I simply ask the American people to read this report for themselves, look at the evidence we have collected, and reach their own conclusions. You can read this report in less time than our fellow citizens were taking fire and fighting for their lives on the rooftops and in the streets of Benghazi.”

The committee’s proposed report is just over 800 pages long and is comprised of five primary sections and 12 appendices. It details relevant events in 2011 and 2012.

The following facts are among the many new revelations in Part I:

  • Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]
  • With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.” [pg. 115]
  • The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries. [pg. 107]
  • A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times. [pg. 154]
  • None of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines. [pg. 150]
  • The Libyan forces that evacuated Americans from the CIA Annex to the Benghazi airport was not affiliated with any of the militias the CIA or State Department had developed a relationship with during the prior 18 months. Instead, it was comprised of former Qadhafi loyalists who the U.S. had helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution. [pg. 144]

Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS-04) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm’s way. That did not happen in Benghazi. Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try.”

Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“Our committee’s insistence on additional information about the military’s response to the Benghazi attacks was met with strong opposition from the Defense Department, and now we know why. Instead of attempting to hide deficiencies in our posture and performance, it’s my hope our report will help ensure we fix what went wrong so that a tragedy like this never happens again.”

The following facts are among the many new revelations in Part II:

  • Five of the 10 action items from the 7:30 PM White House meeting referenced the video, but no direct link or solid evidence existed connecting the attacks in Benghazi and the video at the time the meeting took place. The State Department senior officials at the meeting had access to eyewitness accounts to the attack in real time. The Diplomatic Security Command Center was in direct contact with the Diplomatic Security Agents on the ground in Benghazi and sent out multiple updates about the situation, including a “Terrorism Event Notification.” The State Department Watch Center had also notified Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills that it had set up a direct telephone line to Tripoli. There was no mention of the video from the agents on the ground. Greg Hicks—one of the last people to talk to Chris Stevens before he died—said there was virtually no discussion about the video in Libya leading up to the attacks. [pg. 28]
  • The morning after the attacks, the National Security Council’s Deputy Spokesperson sent an email to nearly two dozen people from the White House, Defense Department, State Department, and intelligence community, stating: “Both the President and Secretary Clinton released statements this morning. … Please refer to those for any comments for the time being. To ensure we are all in sync on messaging for the rest of the day, Ben Rhodes will host a conference call for USG communicators on this chain at 9:15 ET today.” [pg. 39]
  • Minutes before the President delivered his speech in the Rose Garden, Jake Sullivan wrote in an email to Ben Rhodes and others: “There was not really much violence in Egypt. And we are not saying that the violence in Libya erupted ‘over inflammatory videos.’” [pg. 44]
  • According to Susan Rice, both Ben Rhodes and David Plouffe prepared her for her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows following the attacks. Nobody from the FBI, Department of Defense, or CIA participated in her prep call. While Rhodes testified Plouffe would “normally” appear on the Sunday show prep calls, Rice testified she did not recall Plouffe being on prior calls and did not understand why he was on the call in this instance. [pg.98]
  • On the Sunday shows, Susan Rice stated the FBI had “already begun looking at all sorts of evidence” and “FBI has a lead in this investigation.” But on Monday, the Deputy Director, Office of Maghreb Affairs sent an email stating: “McDonough apparently told the SVTS [Secure Video Teleconference] group today that everyone was required to ‘shut their pieholes’ about the Benghazi attack in light of the FBI investigation, due to start tomorrow.” [pg. 135]
  • After Susan Rice’s Sunday show appearances, Jake Sullivan assured the Secretary of the State that Rice “wasn’t asked about whether we had any intel. But she did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved.” [pg. 128]
  • Susan Rice’s comments on the Sunday talk shows were met with shock and disbelief by State Department employees in Washington. The Senior Libya Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, wrote: “I think Rice was off the reservation on this one.” The Deputy Director, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, responded: “Off the reservation on five networks!” The Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, Bureau of Near East Affairs, State Department, wrote: “WH [White House] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing.” [pg. 132]
  • The CIA’s September 13, 2012, intelligence assessment was rife with errors. On the first page, there is a single mention of “the early stages of the protest” buried in one of the bullet points. The article cited to support the mention of a protest in this instance was actually from September 4. In other words, the analysts used an article from a full week before the attacks to support the premise that a protest had occurred just prior to the attack on September 11. [pg. 47]
  • A headline on the following page of the CIA’s September 13 intelligence assessment stated “Extremists Capitalized on Benghazi Protests,” but nothing in the actual text box supports that title. As it turns out, the title of the text box was supposed to be “Extremists Capitalized on Cairo Protests.” That small but vital difference—from Cairo to Benghazi—had major implications in how people in the administration were able to message the attacks. [pg. 52]

Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-04) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“Obama Administration officials, including the Secretary of State, learned almost in real time that the attack in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Rather than tell the American people the truth, the administration told one story privately and a different story publicly.”

Rep. Peter Roskam (IL-06) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“In the days and weeks after the attacks, the White House worked to pin all of the blame for their misleading and incorrect statements on officials within the intelligence community, but in reality, political operatives like Ben Rhodes and David Plouffe were spinning the false narrative and prepping Susan Rice for her interviews.”

The following facts are among the many new revelations in Part III:

  • During deliberations within the State Department about whether and how to intervene in Libya in March 2011, Jake Sullivan listed the first goal as “avoid[ing] a failed state, particularly one in which al-Qaeda and other extremists might take safe haven.” [pg. 9]
  • The administration’s policy of no boots on the ground shaped the type of military assistance provided to State Department personnel in Libya. The Executive Secretariats for both the Defense Department and State Department exchanged communications outlining the diplomatic capacity in which the Defense Department SST security team members would serve, which included wearing civilian clothes so as not to offend the Libyans. [pg. 60]
  • When the State Department’s presence in Benghazi was extended in December 2012, senior officials from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security were excluded from the discussion. [pg. 74]
  • In February 2012, the lead Diplomatic Security Agent at Embassy Tripoli informed his counterpart in Benghazi that more DS agents would not be provided by decision makers, because “substantive reporting” was not Benghazi’s purpose. [pg. 77]
  • Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin were preparing for a trip by the Secretary of State to Libya in October 2012. According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a “deliverable” for the Secretary for her trip to Libya, and that “deliverable” would be making the Mission in Benghazi a permanent Consulate. [pg. 96]
  • In August 2012—roughly a month before the Benghazi attacks—security on the ground worsened significantly. Ambassador Stevens initially planned to travel to Benghazi in early August, but cancelled the trip “primarily for Ramadan/security reasons.” [pg. 99]
  • Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta bluntly told the committee “an intelligence failure” occurred with respect to Benghazi. Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell also acknowledged multiple times an intelligence failure did in fact occur prior to the Benghazi attacks. [pg. 129]

Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“President Obama has said his worst mistake was ‘failing to plan for the day after … intervening in Libya.’ As a result of this ‘lead from behind’ foreign policy, the Libyan people were forced to make the dismal trade of the tyranny of Qadhafi for the terror of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others. Although the State Department considered Libya a grave risk to American diplomats in 2011 and 2012, our people remained in a largely unprotected, unofficial facility that one diplomatic security agent the committee interviewed characterized as ‘a suicide mission.’”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03) released the following statement regarding these findings:

“One of the most concerning parts of the State Department’s policy in Libya was its reliance upon the militias of an unstable nation to protect our men and women in Benghazi. These were by no means forces that could adequately protect Americans on the ground, and the State Department knew it. But the appearance of no boots on the ground was more important to the administration.”

Part IV of the report reveals new information about the Select Committee’s requests and subpoenas seeking documents and witnesses regarding Benghazi and Libya, and details what the Obama administration provided to Congress, what it is still withholding, and how its serial delays hindered the committee’s efforts to uncover the truth.

Part V proposes 25 recommendations for the Pentagon, State Department, Intelligence Community and Congress aimed at strengthening security for American personnel serving abroad and doing everything possible to ensure something like Benghazi never happens again, and if it does, that we are better prepared to respond, the majority make a series of recommendations.

The Select Committee intends to convene a bipartisan markup to discuss and vote on the proposed report on July 8, 2016. All members of the committee will have the opportunity to offer changes in a manner consistent with the rules of the House.

Below is the full report with links to PDF files of each section.

Report of the Select Committee on
the Events Surrounding the 2012
Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

 

Letter from Chairman Trey Gowdy to Speaker Paul Ryan

 

The Benghazi Committee’s Investigation – By The Numbers

 

Illustrations

 

  1. Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi

 

  1. Internal and Public Government Communications about the Terrorist

Attacks in Benghazi

 

III. Events Leading to the Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi

 

  1. Compliance with Congressional Investigations

 

  1. Recommendations

 

Appendix A: Resolution Establishing the Select Committee on the

Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

 

Appendix B: Significant Persons and Organizations

 

Appendix C: Questions for the President

 

Appendix D: Significant Events in Libya Prior to the Attacks

 

Appendix E: Security Incidents in Libya

 

Appendix F: Deterioration of Benghazi Mission Compound Security

 

Appendix G: Timelines of the Attacks

 

Appendix H: The September 12 Situation Report and the President’s

Daily Brief

 

Appendix I: Witness Interview Summaries

 

Appendix J: Requests and Subpoenas for Documents

 

Appendix K: Analysis of Accountability Review Board, House Armed

Services Committee and House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee

Reports

 

Appendix L: Glen A. Doherty, Sean P. Smith, J. Christopher Stevens,

and Tyrone S. Woods

 

Additional Views by Rep. Jordan and Rep. Pompeo

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 April 30, 2016: President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

The complete transcript of President Obama’s 2016 White House correspondents’ dinner speech

Source: Washington Post, 4-30-16

[“Cups” playing as Obama walks up. Audience can hear “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone…”]

You can’t say it, but you know it is true.

Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last, and perhaps the last White House correspondents’ dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.

I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. That’s a tip for you, Jeff.

Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right. That’s right.

My brilliant and beautiful wife Michelle is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. It’s called practice. It’s like learning to do three-minute planks. She makes it look easy now. But…

[For Obama’s final correspondents’ dinner, the obvious targets: Trump, Cruz and himself]

Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and it’s anyone guess who she will be. But standing here I can’t help but be reflective and a little sentimental.

Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific. Eight years ago, I was a young man full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now, I am gray, grizzled and just counting down the days to my death panel.

Hillary once questioned whether I would be up ready for a 3 a.m .phone call. Now, I’m awake anyway because I have to go to the bathroom. I’m up.

In fact somebody recently said to me, ‘Mr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He is so handsome and he’s so charming. He’s the future.’ And I said ‘Justin, just give it a rest.’ I resented that.

Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. [Show photos over the years] Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one is from two weeks ago. [skelton photo from Canada dinner] So time passes.

In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck, which means Congress now will flat out reject my authority, and Republican leaders won’t take my phone calls. And this is going to take some getting use to. It’s really gonna… It’s a curve ball. I don’t know what to do with it. Of course, in fact, for four months now congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.

But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardner. They are in the house, which reminds me … security bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland come on out. We are going to do this right here. Right now.

It’s like the red wedding.

But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they’ve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.

Although, while in England I did have lunch with her Majesty the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anyone was debating whether I am black enough, I think that settles the debate.

I won’t lie, look, this is a tough transition. It’s hard. Key staff are now starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she has left the White House press corps to host the “Today” show. Norah O’Donnell left the briefing room to host ‘CBS This Morning.’ Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.

But the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week, but I have to give the Secret Service credit. They found Michelle and brought her back. She’s safe back at home now. It’s only nine more months, baby. Settle down.

And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.

And here’s the thing, I haven’t really done anything differently. So it’s odd. Even my age can’t explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed nobody can figure it out. [Image of Cruz and Trump]. Puzzling.

Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me on this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. I love that guy. I love Joe Biden. I really do. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.

Also, I would be remiss. Let’s give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as one of the two black guys who’s not Jon Stewart. You’re the South African guy, right? I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award winning reporters that we have with us here tonight. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber. Thank you all for everything you have done. I’m just joking. As you know, “Spotlight” is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since “Star Wars.”

Look. That was maybe a cheap shot. I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year The Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard. Kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.

GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you have earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the republican party, the nomination process. It’s all going great. Keep it up.

Kendall Jenner is also here. And we had a chance to meet her backstage. She seems like a very nice, young woman. I’m not exactly sure what she does, but I’m told that my twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.

Helen Mirren is here tonight. I don’t even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. She’s awesome.

Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although it’s not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And he’s actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.

What an election season. For example, we’ve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms you’ll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.

A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me. I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us.

I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself little from me. I mean that’s just not something that you do to your comrade.

Bernie’s slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. ‘Feel the Bern.’ ‘Feel the Bern.’ That’s a good slogan. Hillary’s slogan has not had the same effect. Let’s see this. [image of a boulder on a hill with the slogan “Trudge up the Hill”]

Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. ‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’ It’s not entirely persuasive.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more, how shall we say this, a little more loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish. But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.

Meanwhile, some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. [image of Kasich eating]. The rules were well established ahead of time.

And then there’s Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. He went to Indiana. Hoosier country. Stood on a basketball court and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon. Baseball sticks. Football hats. But sure, I’m the foreign one.

Well let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want thank the Washington press corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. The free press is central to our democracy and, nah, I’m just kidding! You know I’m going to talk about Trump. Come on. We weren’t just going to stop there. Come on.

Although I am a little hurt that he’s not here tonight. We had so much fun that last time, And it is surprising. You’ve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras. And he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? What’s he doin’?

The republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous. Shocking. They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.

And there is one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable and that’s closing Guantanamo because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground. Alright, that is probably enough. I mean I’ve got more material. No, no, no.

I don’t want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that from the start he’s gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. Ha. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July. Mmm mmm mmn. Hmmm.

As for me and Michelle, we’ve decided to stay in D.C. for a couple more years. Thank you. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. She’s already making plans to see them every day. Take a look [image of Michelle].

But our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents don’t stick around after they’re done. And it’s something that I’ve been brooding about a little bit. Take a look…

There you go. I am still waiting for all of you to respond to my invitation to connect to LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do which is what really brings us here tonight.

I know that there are times that we’ve had differences and that’s inherent in our institutional roles. That is true of every president and his press corps. But we’ve always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just.

And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice for thousands of victims around the world. They are here with us tonight: Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Caroll and Ben Bradlee Jr. Please give them a big round of applause.

A free press is why, once again, we honor Jason Rezaian, as Carol noted. Last time this year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and it’s a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas.

And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will. And we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.

 

At home and abroad journalists like all of you engage in the dogged pursuit of informing citizens and holding leaders accountable, and making our government of the people possible. And it’s an enormous responsibility. And I realize it’s an enormous challenge at a time when the economics of the business sometimes incentivizes speed over depth, and when controversy and conflict are what most immediately attract readers and viewers. The good news is there are so many of you that are pushing against those trends and as a citizen of this great democracy, I am grateful for that.

For this is also a time around the world when some of the fundamental ideals of liberal democracies are under attack and when notions of objectively and of a free press and of facts and of evidence are trying to be undermined or in some cases ignored entirely. And in such a climate it’s not enough just to give people a megaphone. And that’s why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever.

Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you shedding your objectivity. In fact, it is the essence of good journalism. It affirms the idea that the only way we can build consensus, the only way that we can move forward as a country, the only way we can help the world mend itself is by agreeing on a baseline of facts when it comes to the challenges that confront us all. So this night is a testament to all of you who have devoted your lives to that idea, who push to shine a light on the truth every single day. So, I want to close my final White House correspondents’ dinner by just saying thank you. I’m very proud of what you’ve done. It has been an honor and a privilege to work side by side with you to strengthen our democracy. With that I just have two more words to say: Obama out. [Drops mic].
OBAMAOUT

Full Text Political Transcripts April 5, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks at Press Briefing on Economy, Tax Inversion, Mocks Trump and Cruz Immigration Plans

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Economy

Source: WH, 4-5-16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I’m horning in on Josh’s time just for a hot second.  As we learned last week, America’s economy added 215,000 jobs in March.  That means that our businesses extended the longest streak of private sector job creation on record — 73 straight months, 14.4 million new jobs,  unemployment about half of what it was six years ago.

This progress is due directly to the grit and determination and hard work and the fundamental optimism of the American people.  As I travel around the country, what always stands out is the fact that the overwhelming majority of folks work hard and they play by the rules, and they deserve to see their hard work rewarded.  They also deserve to know that big corporations aren’t playing by a different set of rules; that the wealthiest among us aren’t able to game the system.

That’s why I’ve been pushing for years to eliminate some of the injustices in our tax system.  So I am very pleased that the Treasury Department has taken new action to prevent more corporations from taking advantage of one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there, and fleeing the country just to get out of paying their taxes.  This got some attention in the business press yesterday, but I wanted to make sure that we highlighted the importance of Treasury’s action and why it did what it did.

This directly goes at what’s called corporate inversions.  They are not new.  Simply put, in layman’s terms, it’s when big corporations acquire small companies, and then change their address to another country on paper in order to get out of paying their fair share of taxes here at home.  As a practical matter, they keep most of their actual business here in the United States because they benefit from American infrastructure and technology and rule of law.  They benefit from our research and our development and our patents.  They benefit from American workers, who are the best in the world.  But they effectively renounce their citizenship.  They declare that they’re based somewhere else, thereby getting all the rewards of being an American company without fulfilling the responsibilities to pay their taxes the way everybody else is supposed to pay them.

When companies exploit loopholes like this, it makes it harder to invest in the things that are going to keep America’s economy going strong for future generations.  It sticks the rest of us with the tab.  And it makes hardworking Americans feel like the deck is stacked against them.

So this is something that I’ve been pushing for a long time.  Since I became President, we’ve made our tax code fairer, and we’ve taken steps to make sure our tax laws are actually enforced, including leading efforts to crack down on offshore evasion.  I will say that it gets tougher sometimes when the IRS is starved for resources and squeezed by the congressional appropriation process so that there are not enough people to actually pay attention to what all the lawyers and accountants are doing all the time.  But we have continued to emphasize the importance of basic tax enforcement.

In the news over the last couple of days, we’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem.  It’s not unique to other countries because, frankly, there are folks here in America who are taking advantage of the same stuff.  A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem.  It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they’ve got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by.

Here in the United States, there are loopholes that only wealthy individuals and powerful corporations have access to.  They have access to offshore accounts, and they are gaming the system.  Middle-class families are not in the same position to do this.  In fact, a lot of these loopholes come at the expense of middle-class families, because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.  Alternatively, it means that we’re not investing as much as we should in schools, in making college more affordable, in putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, creating more opportunities for our children.

So this is important stuff.  And these new actions by the Treasury Department build on steps that we’ve already taken to make the system fairer.  But I want to be clear:  While the Treasury Department actions will make it more difficult and less lucrative for companies to exploit this particular corporate inversions loophole, only Congress can close it for good, and only Congress can make sure that all the other loopholes that are being taken advantage of are closed.

I’ve often said the best way to end this kind of irresponsible behavior is with tax reform that lowers the corporate tax rate, closes wasteful loopholes, simplifies the tax code for everybody.  And in recent years, I’ve put forward plans — repeatedly — that would make our tax system more competitive for all businesses, including small businesses.  So far, Republicans in Congress have yet to act.

My hope is that they start getting serious about it.  When politicians perpetuate a system that favors the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, it’s not surprising that people feel like they can’t get ahead.  It’s not surprising that oftentimes it may produce a politics that is directed at that frustration.  Rather than doubling down on policies that let a few big corporations or the wealthiest among us play by their own rules, we should keep building an economy where everybody has a fair shot and everybody plays by the same rules.

Rather than protect wasteful tax loopholes for the few at the top, we should be investing more in things like education and job creation and job training that we know grow the economy for everybody.  And rather than lock in tax breaks for millionaires, or make it harder to actually enforce existing laws, let’s give tax breaks to help working families pay for child care or for college.  And let’s stop rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas and profit overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here at home and are good corporate citizens.

That’s how we’re going to build America together.  That’s how we battled back from this Great Recession.  That’s the story of these past seven years.  That can be the story for the next several decades if we make the right decisions right now.  And so I hope this topic ends up being introduced into the broader political debate that we’re going to be having leading up to election season.

And with that, I turn it over to Mr. Josh Earnest.

Q    A question about the Panama Papers, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    Given the release of these millions of pages of financial information, are you concerned that that reflects on the ability of the Treasury Department to sort of be able to see all the financial transactions across the globe — they clearly didn’t see these — and whether that suggests that the sanctions regime that you’ve put in place in a bunch of places around the world might not be as strong as you think it is?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we know the sanctions regime is strong because Iran wouldn’t have, for example, cut a deal to end their nuclear program in the absence of strong sanctions enforcement.

But there is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance, generally, is a huge problem.  It’s been brought up in G7 meetings.  It’s been brought up in G20 meetings.  There has been some progress made in coordinating between tax authorities of different countries so that we can make sure that we’re catching some of the most egregious examples.

But as I said before, one of the big problems that we have, Michael, is that a lot of this stuff is legal — not illegal.  And unless the United States and other countries lead by example in closing some of these loopholes and provisions, then in many cases you can trace what’s taking place, but you can’t stop it.  And there is always going to be some illicit movement of funds around the world.  But we shouldn’t make it easy.  We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes.

And that’s why I think it is important that the Treasury acted on something that’s different from what happened in Panama.  The corporate inversions issue is a financial transaction that is brokered among major Fortune 500 companies to avoid paying taxes.  But the basic principle of us making sure that everybody is paying their fair share, and that we don’t just have a few people who are able to take advantage of tax provisions, that’s something that we really have to pay attention to.

Because as I said, this is all net outflows of money that could be spent on the pressing needs here in the United States.  And the volume that you start seeing when you combine legal tax avoidance with illicit tax avoidance, or some of the activities that we’re seeing, this is not just billions of dollars.  It’s not even just hundreds of billions of dollars.  Estimates are this may be trillions of dollars worldwide, and it could make a big difference in terms of what we can do here.

I’m going to take one more question and then I’m going to turn it over to Josh.  One last one, go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, the Republican frontrunner today outlined his plan to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no.  (Laughter.)

Q    — pay for a wall along the border —

Q    Climate change?

Q    — barring undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from sending money back home.  What would be the real implication of this plan?  And are his foreign policy proposals already doing damage to U.S. relations abroad?

THE PRESIDENT:  The answer to the latter question is yes.  I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.  I do have to emphasize that it’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals.  You’re also hearing concerns about Mr. Cruz’s proposals, which in some ways are just as draconian when it comes to immigration, for example.

The implications with respect to ending remittances — many of which, by the way, are from legal immigrants and from individuals who are sending money back to their families — are enormous.  First of all, they’re impractical.  We just talked about the difficulties of trying to enforce huge outflows of capital.  The notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s being sent to Mexico, good luck with that.

Then we’ve got the issue of the implications for the Mexican economy, which in turn, if it’s collapsing, actually sends more immigrants north because they can’t find jobs back in Mexico.  But this is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption.

And as I’ve tried to emphasize throughout, we’ve got serious problems here.  We’ve got big issues around the world.  People expect the President of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously, to put forward policies that have been examined, analyzed, are effective, where unintended consequences are taken into account.  They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House.  We can’t afford that.

All right?  I’m turning it over to Josh.  Thank you, guys.

END
12:29 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts March 23, 2016: Speaker Paul Ryan’s Speech on the State of American Politics

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

FULL TEXT: Speaker Ryan on the State of American Politics

“I want to thank you all for coming. I want to thank Chairman Brady and the Ways and Means Committee for hosting us here. I had the privilege of joining this committee my second term in Congress. It’s the perfect setting for what I want to talk with you about today. Because it is here, in this committee, that we debate some of the biggest, most consequential issues. Our tax code, health care, trade, entitlement programs, welfare reform. t’s a big deal to be on this committee. And understanding the privilege and the responsibility that came along with it, we took our job seriously.

“And we always held ourselves to a higher standard of decorum. We treated each other with respect. We disagreed—often fiercely so—but we disagreed without being disagreeable. I speak of this in the past tense only because I no longer serve here. But it almost sounds like I’m speaking of another time, doesn’t it? It sounds like a scene unfamiliar to your generation.

“Looking around at what’s taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened. How many of you find yourself just shaking your head at what you see from both sides? You know, I see myself in each of you. I came here as a curious college intern. Trying to get a sense of everything. Trying to figure out where to take my life. I would always ask older, more experienced people: what do you know that you wished you knew when you were my age?

“This is my answer to that. Here is what I know now that I want you to know—that you cannot see yourself today. And that is not just a lesson for young minds, but a message for all Americans. Our political discourse—both the kind we see on TV and the kind we experience among each other—did not use to be this bad and it does not have to be this way. Now, a little skepticism is healthy. But when people distrust politics, they come to distrust institutions. They lose faith in their government, and the future too. We can acknowledge this. But we don’t have to accept it. And we cannot enable it either.

“My dad used to say, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. So I have made it a mission of my Speakership to raise our gaze and aim for a brighter horizon. Instead of talking about what politics is today, I want to talk about what politics can be. I want to talk about what our country can be…about what our Founders envisioned it to be. America is the only nation founded an idea—not an identity. That idea is the notion that the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life. Our rights are natural. They come from God, not government.

“While it was a beautiful idea, it had never been tried before. Early on, as our founders struggled to establish a suitable order, they decided that we would not maintain this idea by force. In the first Federalist paper, Alexander Hamilton wrote that “in politics,” it is “absurd to aim at making” converts “by fire and sword.” Instead, we would govern ourselves, with the people’s consent. Again, there was no manual for how to do this. That’s why they call it the American experiment.

“So they made each other—and those who came after—take an oath to uphold the Constitution. And every generation since has inherited this responsibility. Leaders with different visions and ideas have come and gone; parties have risen and fallen; majorities and White Houses won and lost. But the way we govern endures: through debate, not disorder. This is one thing about our country that makes it the greatest on earth.

“I must admit, I didn’t always find this idea so exciting…As I said, I came to Washington unsure of what I was going to do with my life. And then I ended up working for a guy named Jack Kemp. Jack once played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. He went on to represent the people of Western New York in the House in the 1970s and 80s. He served in the Cabinet under President George H.W. Bush. And, like me, he was once our party’s nominee for vice president.

“But I first met Jack exactly where you’d expect…at Tortilla Coast. It’s true…I was waiting on his table. I didn’t bother him that day, but I told a friend I’d love to have the chance to work for him. And, as luck would have it, such an opening soon arose. The thing about Jack was, he was an optimist all the way. He refused to accept that any part of America–or the American Idea–could be written off. Here was a conservative willing—no, eager—to go to America’s bleakest communities and talk about how free enterprise could lift people out of poverty. These were areas that hadn’t seen a Republican leader come through in years, if ever.

“I had the chance to accompany Jack on some of these visits. I saw how people took to him. I saw how he listened, and took new lessons from each experience. He found common cause with poverty fighters on the ground. Instead of a sense of drift, I began to feel a sense of purpose. Jack inspired me to devote my professional life to public policy. It became a vocation.

“Ideas, passionately promoted and put to the test—that’s what politics can be.That’s what our country can be. It can be a confident America, where we have a basic faith in politics and leaders. It can be a place where we’ve earned that faith. All of us as leaders can hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and decency. Instead of playing to your anxieties, we can appeal to your aspirations. Instead of playing the identity politics of “our base” and “their base,” we unite people around ideas and principles. And instead of being timid, we go bold.

“We don’t resort to scaring you, we dare to inspire you. We don’t just oppose someone or something. We propose a clear and compelling alternative. And when we do that, we don’t just win the argument. We don’t just win your support. We win your enthusiasm. We win hearts and minds. We win a mandate to do what needs to be done to protect the American Idea.

“In a confident America, we also have a basic faith in one another. We question each other’s ideas—vigorously—but we don’t question each other’s motives. If someone has a bad idea, we don’t think they’re a bad person. We just think they have a bad idea. People with different ideas are not traitors. They are not our enemies. They are our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow citizens. Sometimes they’re our friends. Sometimes they’re even our own flesh and blood, right? We all know someone we love who disagrees with us politically, or votes differently.

“But in a confident America, we aren’t afraid to disagree with each other. We don’t lock ourselves in an echo chamber, where we take comfort in the dogmas and opinions we already hold. We don’t shut down on people—and we don’t shut people down. If someone has a bad idea, we tell them why our idea is better. We don’t insult them into agreeing with us. We try to persuade them. We test their assumptions. And while we’re at it, we test our own assumptions too.

“I’m certainly not going to stand here and tell you I have always met this standard. There was a time when I would talk about a difference between “makers” and “takers” in our country, referring to people who accepted government benefits. But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong. “Takers” wasn’t how to refer to a single mom stuck in a poverty trap, just trying to take care of her family. Most people don’t want to be dependent. And to label a whole group of Americans that way was wrong. I shouldn’t castigate a large group of Americans to make a point.

“So I stopped thinking about it that way—and talking about it that way. But I didn’t come out and say all this to be politically correct. I was just wrong. And of course, there are still going to be times when I say things I wish I hadn’t. There are still going to be times when I follow the wrong impulse.

“Governing ourselves was never meant to be easy. This has always been a tough business. And when passions flair, ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm. We should demand better from ourselves and from one another. We should think about the great leaders that have bestowed upon us the opportunity to live the American Idea. We should honor their legacy. We should build that more confident America.

“This, as much as anything, is what makes me an optimist. It is knowing that ideas can inspire a country and help people. Long before I worked for him, Jack Kemp had a tax plan that he was incredibly passionate about. He wasn’t even on the Ways and Means Committee and Republicans were deep in the minority back then. So the odds of it going anywhere seemed awfully low. But he was like a dog with a bone. He took that plan to any audience he could get in front of. He pushed it so hard that he eventually inspired our party’s nominee for president—Ronald Reagan—to adopt it as his own. And in 1981 the Kemp-Roth bill was signed into law, lowering tax rates, spurring growth, and putting millions of Americans back to work.

“All it took was someone willing to put policy on paper and promote it passionately. This is the basic concept behind the policy agenda that House Republicans are building right now. As leaders, we have an obligation to put our best ideas forward—no matter the consequences. With so much at stake, the American people deserve a clear picture of what we believe. Personalities come and go, but principles endure. Ideas endure, ready to inspire generations yet to be born.

“That’s the thing about politics. We think of it in terms of this vote or that election. But it can be so much more than that. Politics can be a battle of ideas, not insults. It can be about solutions. It can be about making a difference. It can be about always striving to do better. That’s what it can be and what it should be. This is the system our Founders envisioned. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s infuriating at times. And it’s a beautiful thing too. Thank you all for being here today.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/full-text-speaker-ryan-state-american-politics#sthash.g3GUP1yX.dpuf

 

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Speaker Ryan’s Remarks to the House of Representatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone comes from somewhere and is on some mission.

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

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

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

It’s just the Cincinnati way.

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

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

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

How did we do?

Well, here are some facts….

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

We have protected 99 percent of Americans from tax increases.

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

We have banned earmarks altogether.

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

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

I am proud of these things. 

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

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

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

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

Yes, freedom makes all things possible. 

But patience is what makes all things real.

So believe in the long, slow struggle. 

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

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

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

I’m grateful to my family…

I’m grateful to my colleagues…

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

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

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

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

His name was Paul Ryan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because hope always springs eternal.

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

And this, too, can really happen to you… 

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

 

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WaPo, 10-22-15

The full letter:

Dear Colleague:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 10-22-15

Oval Office

3:52 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
3:57 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts October 20, 2015: Paul Ryan’s Press Conference on Speaker of the House Candidacy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Ryan Statement on GOP Conference – Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Source: Paul Ryan,  10-20-15

“Tonight, I shared with my colleagues what I think it will take to have a unified conference and for the next speaker to be successful. 

“Basically I made a few requests for what I think is necessary, and I asked to hear back by the end of the week.

“First, we need to move from being an opposition party to a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker needs to be a visionary one.

“Second, we need to update our House rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative. This is, after all, the people’s house. But we need to do it as a team. And it needs to include fixes that ensure we don’t experience constant leadership challenges and crisis.  

“Third, we, as a conference, should unify now, and not after a divisive speaker election.  

“The last one is personal. I cannot and will not give up my family time. I may not be able to be on the road as much as previous speakers, but I pledged to make up for it with more time communicating our message.

“What I told the members is, if you can agree to these requests, and I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve. And, if I am not unifying, that is fine as well. I will be happy to stay where am, at the Ways and Means Committee.

“Here is how I see it. . . .

“It is our duty to serve the people the way they deserve to be served. It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get back on track.

“The challenges we face today are too difficult and demanding for us to turn our backs and walk away.  

“Global terror . . . wars on multiple fronts . . . a government grown unaccountable, unconstitutional, and out-of-touch . . . persistent poverty, a sluggish economy, flat wages, and a sky-rocketing debt.

“But we cannot take them on alone. Now, more than ever, we must work together.

“All of us are representatives of the people—all the people. We have been entrusted by them to lead.

“And yet the people we serve do not feel that we are delivering on the job they hired us to do. We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be speaker, I want us to become the solution.

“One thing I’ve learned from my upbringing in Janesville is that nothing is ever solved by blaming people. We can blame the president. We can blame the media. We can point fingers across the aisle. We can blame each other. We can dismiss our critics and criticism as unfair.

“People don’t care about blame. They don’t care about effort. They care about results. Results that are meaningful. Results that are measurable. Results that make a difference in their daily lives.

“I want to be clear about this. I still think we are an exceptional country with exceptional people and a republic clearly worth fighting for. It’s not too late to save the American idea, but we are running out of time.

“Make no mistake: I believe that the ideas and principles of results-driven, common-sense conservatism are the keys to a better tomorrow—a tomorrow in which all of God’s children will be better off than they are today.

“The idea that the role of the federal government is not to facilitate dependency, but to create an environment of opportunity . . . for everyone.

“The idea that the government should do less. . . . And do it better.

“The idea that those who serve should say what they mean and mean what they say.

“The principle that we should determine the course of our own lives . . . instead of ceding that right to those who think they are better than the rest of us.

“Yes, we will stand and fight when we must. And this presidency will surely require that.

“A commitment to our natural rights. A commitment to common sense . . . to compassion . . . to co-operation—when rooted in genuine conviction and principle—is a commitment to conservatism.

“Let me close by saying: I consider whether to do this with reluctance. And I mean that in the most personal of ways.

“Like many of you, Janna and I have children who are in the formative, foundational years of their lives.

“I genuinely worry about the consequences that my agreeing to serve will have on them.

“Will they experience the viciousness and incivility that we all face on a daily basis?

“But my greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up. Of some day having my own kids ask me, when the stakes were so high, ‘Why didn’t you do all you could? Why didn’t you stand and fight for my future when you had the chance?’

“None of us wants to hear that question.

“And none of us should ever have to.

“I have shown my colleagues what I think success looks like, what it takes to unify and lead, and how my family commitments come first. I have left this decision in their hands, and should they agree with these requests, then I am happy and willing to get to work. Thank you.”

– See more at: http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398406#sthash.UGqAJnG1.dpuf

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 10-2-15

State Dining Room

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to take a couple of questions from the press.  But first, a few additional pieces of business.

First of all, we learned today that our businesses created another 118,000 new jobs in September, which means that we now have had 67 straight months of job creation; 13.2 million new jobs in all — and an unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 10 percent down to 5.1 percent.  These long-term trends are obviously good news, particularly for every American waking up each morning and heading off to a new job.

But we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months. And this is especially important right now, because although the American economy has been chugging along at a steady pace, much of the global economy is softening.  We’ve seen an impact on our exports, which was a major driver of growth for us particularly at the beginning of the recovery.  And so our own growth could slow if Congress does not do away with some of the counterproductive austerity measures that they have put in place, and if Congress does not avoid the kind of manufactured crises that shatter consumer confidence and could disrupt an already skittish global economy.

On Wednesday, more than half of Republicans voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years.  The good news is that there were enough votes in both parties to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open and operating for another 10 weeks before we can get a more long-term solution.  But keep in mind that gimmick only sets up another potential manufactured crisis just two weeks before Christmas.

And I’ve said this before, I want to repeat it — this is not the way the United States should be operating.

Oftentimes I hear from folks up on Capitol Hill, “the need for American leadership,” “the need for America to be number one.”  Well, you know what, around the globe, part of what makes us a leader is when we govern effectively and we keep our own house in order, and we pass budgets, and we can engage in long-term planning, and we can invest in the things that are important for the future.  That’s U.S. leadership.

When we fail to do that, we diminish U.S. leadership.  It’s not how we are supposed to operate.  And we can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future.  That’s true for our military; that’s true for our domestic programs.  The American people, American families deserve better.  And we can grow faster and the economy can improve if Congress acts with dispatch.  It will get worse if they don’t.

That’s why I want to be very clear:  I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves 10 additional weeks; we need to use them effectively.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, both parties put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.  We can revisit the history of how that happened — I have some rather grim memories of it.  But the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need.  That didn’t happen.  And so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster.  It’s time to undo them.  If we don’t, then we will have to fund our economic and national security priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006.

Now, understand, during that decade, between 2006 and 2016, our economy has grown by 12 percent.  Our population has grown by 8 percent.  New threats have emerged; new opportunities have appeared.  We can’t fund our country the way we did 10 years ago because we have greater demands — with an aging population, with kids who need schools, with roads that need to be fixed, with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands.

And we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Other countries have tried it and it has not worked.  We’ve grown faster than they have because we did not pursue these blind, unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth.  And by the way, because we’ve grown faster than them, we’ve brought our deficits down faster than they have.

I want to repeat this because the public apparently never believes it.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  The deficit has not been going up; it has been coming down — precipitously.  We’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  They’re below the average deficits over the past 40 years.

So the bottom line is, Congress has to do its job.  It can’t flirt with another shutdown.  It should pass a serious budget.  And if they do, and get rid of some of these mindless cuts, even as we’re still prudent about maintaining the spending that we need but not spending we don’t need and is not working, their own non-partisan budget office estimates we’re going to add an extra half-million jobs to our economy next year alone.  We can immediately put half a million more people back to work if we just have a more sensible budget.

And in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want.  We have to work together, though, even if we disagree, in order to do the people’s business.  At some point we have to want to govern, and not just play politics or play to various political bases.  At some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads, and keep our kids learning, and our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters.  That is Congress’s most basic job.  That’s what our government is supposed to do — serve the American people.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’ll start with Julie Pace of AP.

Hang in there, kids.  (Laughter.)

Q    It will be over soon.  Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been several developments in Syria that I wanted to ask you about, starting with Russia’s involvement.  You met with President Putin earlier this week, and I wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in Syria.  If Russia is targeting groups beyond the Islamic State, including U.S.-aligned groups, does the U.S. military have an obligation to protect them?  And on the situation in Syria more broadly, there have obviously been failures in the U.S. train-and-equip program.  Do you believe that that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other options?  Would you, in particular, be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which several presidential candidates, including your former Secretary of State, are now calling for?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here.  What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality.  And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.

Point number two is that the reason Assad is still in power is because Russia and Iran have supported him throughout this process.  And in that sense, what Russia is doing now is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past — they’re just more overt about it.  They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately, and has been more concerned about clinging to power than the state of his country.

So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.  This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.

And I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition — we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution — but that a military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.  And it won’t work.  And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.

I also said to him that it is true that the United States and Russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying ISIL.  But what was very clear — and regardless of what Mr. Putin said — was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.  From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.  And that’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s one that I reject.

So where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about de-confliction so that we’re not seeing U.S. and American firefights in the air.  But beyond that, we’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop.  And in order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned.  But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.

Keep in mind also, from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in Syria is one that if we’re ever going to have to have a political transition, we need.  And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are de-capacitated, and it’s only strengthening ISIL.  And that’s not good for anybody.

In terms of our support of opposition groups inside of Syria, I made very clear early on that the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria either, but that it was in our interest to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of Syria because eventually Syria will fall, the Assad regime will fall, and we have to have somebody who we’re working with that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country.  And so we will continue to support them.

The training-and-equip program was a specific initiative by the Defense Department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on ISIL in the eastern portion of the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, Julie.  And I think that the Department of Defense would say the same thing.  And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL, the response we’d get back is, how can we focus on ISIL when every single day we’re having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime?  And so it’s been hard to get them to reprioritize, looking east, when they’ve got bombs coming at them from the west.

So what we’re doing with the train-and-equip is looking at where we have had success — for example, working with some of the Kurdish community in the east that pushed ISIL out — seeing if we can build on that.  But what we’re also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that, rightly, believes that in the absence of some change of government inside of Syria we’re going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbocharge ISIL recruitment and jihadist recruitment, and we’re going to continue to have problems.

Now, last point I just want to make about this — because sometimes the conversation here in the Beltway differs from the conversation internationally.  Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling.  And it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.  And the notion that he put forward a plan and that somehow the international community sees that as viable because there is a vacuum there — I didn’t see, after he made that speech in the United Nations, suddenly the 60-nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him.

Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.  So I don’t think people are fooled by the current strategy.  It does not mean that we could not see Mr. Putin begin to recognize that it is in their interest to broker a political settlement.  And as I said in New York, we’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition to come up with that political transition.  And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.  And so we will maintain lines of communication.

But we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there is not a recognition that there’s got to be a change in government.  We’re not going to go back to the status quo ante.  And the kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive.  It’s going to move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we’re all — that we all should be looking for.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, throughout this process, I think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer — whether it’s we should have sent more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay; or if I had taken that shot even after Assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded, or the Assad regime would have folded, and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful Syria.

This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem.  And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy.  But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan.  That’s not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment.  We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan.  We’re still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.

So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we’re prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well.  And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact — understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan.  And so I push — and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.

I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we’re seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region.  But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.  And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can’t sustain.

And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation — what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it?  And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

So these are hard challenges.  They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue.  The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL.  We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.  We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist.  We think that is self-defeating.  It will get them into a quagmire.  It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.

We will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure.  On refugees, we are working with the Turks and others to see what we can do along the border to make things safer for people.  But ultimately, we’re going to have to find a way for a political transition if we’re going to solve Syria.

Jon Karl.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    Back in July you said that the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency, and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    So in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get Congress to act or to do something about this gun violence problem?

And I have to get you to respond to something that Jeb Bush just said, and to be fair to Governor Bush I want to read it directly.  Asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens.  There’s always a crisis.  And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”  How would you react to Governor Bush?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t even think I have to react to that one.  (Laughter.)  I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments, based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting, and in terms of — and they can decide whether they consider that “stuff happening”.

In terms of what I can do, I’ve asked my team — as I have in the past — to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?  But as I said last night, this will not change until the politics change and the behavior of elected officials changes.

And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it.  I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate.  Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.  Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote.  And why is that?  It’s because of politics.  It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party — although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws.  And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness.  Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world — tens of millions of angry young men.  Most of them don’t shoot.  It doesn’t help us just to identify — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters.  So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this.  The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change.  The politics has to change.  And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic — or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there — some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this.  And that requires people to feel — not just feel deeply — because I get a lot of letters after this happens — “do something!”  Well, okay, here’s what you need to do.  You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue.  And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them.  And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time.  I mean, the NRA has had a good start.  They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do.  You’ve got to give them credit — they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns.  And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

Which isn’t to say stopping all violence.  We’re not going to stop all violence.  Violence exists around the world, sadly.  Part of original sin.  But our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places — that, by the way, have the same levels of violence.  It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.

And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday.  But Arne is going back to Chicago — let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.  Every single day.  Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school.  Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times.  They were barely 20.

So we got to make a decision.  If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it.  I don’t think it’s normal.  I think it’s abnormal.  I think we should change it.  But I can’t do it by myself.

So the main thing I’m going to do, Jon, is talk about it.  And hope that over time I’m changing enough minds — along with other leaders around the country — that we start finally seeing some action.  I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

Cheryl Bolen.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  To go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won’t sign another short-term CR.  But as you know, yesterday Secretary Lew announced that the government’s borrowing authority would run out around November 5th.  Would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps?  And also does the Speaker’s race complicate these negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure the Speaker’s race complicates these negotiations.  (Laughter.)  That was a rhetorical question. (Laughter.)  It will complicate the negotiations.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, we’re not going back there.

Maybe it’s been a while, so let me just refresh everybody’s memory.  Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred.  It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating — the full faith and credit of the United States.

Historically, we do not mess with it.  If it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy and could put our financial system in the kind of tailspin that we saw back in 2007-2008.  It’s just a bad thing to do.  So we’re not going to negotiate on that.  It has to get done in the next five weeks.  So even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for 10 weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five.  You’ve got a shorter timetable to get that done.

But here’s the bottom line:  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, myself, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid — we’ve all spoken and talked about trying to negotiate a budget agreement.  And, yes, Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down complicates it.  But I do think that there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and nondefense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits, and that we can do that in short order.  It’s not that complicated.  The math is the math.

And what I’ve encouraged is that we get started on that work immediately, and we push through over the next several weeks — and try to leave out extraneous issues that may prevent us from getting a budget agreement.

I know, for example, that there are many Republicans who are exercised about Planned Parenthood.  And I deeply disagree with them on that issue, and I think that it’s mischaracterized what Planned Parenthood does.  But I understand that they feel strongly about it, and I respect that.  But you can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy — any more than I should hold the entire budget hostage to my desire to do something about gun violence.  I feel just as strongly about that and I think I’ve got better evidence for it.  But the notion that I would threaten the Republicans that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me.  And the American people, rightly, would reject that.

Well, same is true for them.  There are some fights that we fight individually.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s a way to do it.  Pass a law, override my veto.  That’s true across a whole bunch of issues that they disagree with me on, and that’s how democracy works.  I got no problem with that.

But you have to govern.  And I’m hoping that the next Speaker understands that the problem Speaker Boehner had or Mitch McConnell had in not dismantling Obamacare, or not eliminating the Department of Education, or not deporting every immigrant in this country was not because Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell didn’t care about conservative principles.  It had to do with the fact that they can’t do it in our system of government, which requires compromise.  Just like I can’t do everything I want in passing an immigration bill, or passing a gun safety bill.  And that doesn’t mean, then, I throw a tantrum and try to wreck the economy, and put hardworking Americans who are just now able to dig themselves out of a massive recession, put them in harm’s way.  Wrong thing to do.

Peter Alexander.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You addressed — I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the issue that’s obviously deeply personal and moving to you — that is the gun issue.  Apart from Congress’s inaction, apart from the desire for new laws and, beyond that, apart from the gun lobby, as you noted, the pattern is that these perpetrators are angry, aggrieved, oftentimes mentally ill young men.  Is there something that you can do with the bully pulpit, with your moral authority, with your remaining time in office to help reach these individuals who believe that gun violence is the way out?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think I can continue to speak to the American people as a whole and hopefully model for them basic social norms about rejecting violence, and cooperation and caring for other people.  But there are a lot of young men out there.  And having been one myself once, I can tell you that us being able to identify or pinpoint who might have problems is extraordinarily difficult.

So I think we, as a culture, should continuously think about how we can nurture our kids, protect our kids, talk to them about conflict resolution, discourage violence.  And I think there are poor communities where, rather than mass shootings, you’re seeing just normal interactions that used to be settled by a fistfight settled with guns where maybe intervention programs and mentorship and things like that can work.  That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage through My Brother’s Keeper.

But when it comes to reaching every disaffected young man, 99 percent of — or 99.9 percent of whom will hopefully grow out of it — I don’t think that there’s a silver bullet there.  The way we are going to solve this problem is that when they act out, when they are disturbed, when that particular individual has a problem, that they can’t easily access weapons that can perpetrate mass violence on a lot of people.

Because that’s what other countries do.  Again, I want to emphasize this.  There’s no showing that somehow we are inherently more violent than any other advanced nation, or that young men are inherently more violent in our nation than they are in other nations.  I will say young men inherently are more violent than the rest of the population, but there’s no sense that somehow this is — it’s something in the American character that is creating this.  Levels of violence are on par between the United States and other advanced countries.  What is different is homicide rates and gun violence rates and mass shooting rates.  So it’s not that the behavior or the impulses are necessarily different as much as it is that they have access to more powerful weapons.

Julia Edwards.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said that you reject President Putin’s approach to Syria and his attacks on moderate opposition forces.  You said it was a recipe for disaster.  But what are you willing to do to stop President Putin and protect moderate opposition fighters?  Would you consider imposing sanctions against Russia?  Would you go so far as to equip moderate rebels with anti-aircraft weapons to protect them from Russian air attacks?  And how do you respond to critics who say Putin is outsmarting you, that he took a measure of you in Ukraine and he felt he could get away with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’ve heard it all before.  (Laughter.) I’ve got to say I’m always struck by the degree to which not just critics but I think people buy this narrative.

Let’s think about this.  So when I came into office seven and a half years ago, America had precipitated the worst financial crisis in history, dragged the entire world into a massive recession.  We were involved in two wars with almost no coalition support.  U.S. — world opinion about the United States was at a nadir — we were just barely above Russia at that time, and I think potentially slightly below China’s.  And we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and so on and so forth.

And today, we’re the strongest large advanced economy in the world — probably one of the few bright spots in the world economy.  Our approval ratings have gone up.  We are more active on more international issues and forge international responses to everything from Ebola to countering ISIL.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin comes into office at a time when the economy had been growing and they were trying to pivot to a more diversified economy, and as a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year.  They are isolated in the world community, subject to sanctions that are not just applied by us but by what used to be some of their closest trading partners.  Their main allies in the Middle East were Libya and Syria — Mr. Gaddafi and Mr. Assad — and those countries are falling apart.  And he’s now just had to send in troops and aircraft in order to prop up this regime, at the risk of alienating the entire Sunni world.

So what was the question again?  (Laughter.)

No, but I think it’s really interesting to understand.  Russia is not stronger as a consequence of what they’ve been doing.  They get attention.  The sanctions against Ukraine are still in place.  And what I’ve consistently offered — from a position of strength, because the United States is not subject to sanctions and we’re not contracting 4 percent a year — what I’ve offered is a pathway whereby they can get back onto a path of growth and do right by their people.

So Mr. Putin’s actions have been successful only insofar as it’s boosted his poll ratings inside of Russia — which may be why the beltway is so impressed, because that tends to be the measure of success.  Of course, it’s easier to do when you’ve got a state-controlled media.

But this is not a smart, strategic move on Russia’s part.  And what Russia has now done is not only committed its own troops into a situation in which the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population sees it now as an enemy, but the Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see it as a supporter, an endorser, of those barrel bombs landing on kids — at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside of its own borders that it needs to worry about.

So I want Russia to be successful.  This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.  It is in our interest for Russia to be a responsible, effective actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us, along with China, along with Europe, along with Japan, along with other countries — because the problems we have are big.  So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement.

Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the basic principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.  But until that time, we’re going to continue to have tensions and we’re going to continue to have differences.

But we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.  That would be bad strategy on our part.  This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people.  Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is with the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school.  That’s the side we’re on.

This is not some superpower chessboard contest.  And anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard.

All right, last question.  Major Garrett.

Q    Mr. President, good to see you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you.

Q    And for the children there, I promise I won’t take too long.  So you’ve been very patient.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been boring them to death, I guarantee it.  (Laughter.)  But there have been times where I’ve snagged rebounds for Ryan when he is shooting three-pointers so he has got to put up with this.  (Laughter.)

Q    Understood.  Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell the country to what degree you were changed or moved by what you discussed in private with Pope Francis?  What do you think his visit might have meant for the country long term?  And for Democrats who might already be wondering, is it too late for Joe Biden to decide whether or not to run for President?  And lastly, just to clarify, to what degree did Hillary Clinton’s endorsement just yesterday of a no-fly zone put her in a category of embracing a half-baked answer on Syria that borders on mumbo jumbo?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the latter issue, on the last question that you asked, Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my Secretary of State.  But I also think that there’s a difference between running for President and being President, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment.  And that’s what I’ll continue to apply as long as I’m here.  And if and when she’s President, then she’ll make those judgments.  And she’s been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls but that —

Q    — that she should know better?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, that’s not what I said.  That’s perhaps what you said.  What I’m saying is, is that we all want to try to relieve the suffering in Syria, but my job is to make sure that whatever we do we are doing in a way that serves the national security interests of the American people; that doesn’t lead to us getting into things that we can’t get out of or that we cannot do effectively; and as much as possible, that we’re working with international partners.

And we’re going to continue to explore things that we can do to protect people and to deal with the humanitarian situation there, and to provide a space in which we can bring about the kind of political transition that’s going to be required to solve the problem.  And I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different — because she’s been right there next to me.

I love Joe Biden, and he’s got his own decisions to make, and I’ll leave it at that.  And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as Vice President and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.

Pope Francis I love.  He is a good man with a warm heart and a big moral imagination.  And I think he had such an impact in his visit here — as he has had around the world — because he cares so deeply about the least of these, and in that sensea expresses what I consider to be, as a Christian, the essence of Christianity.  And he’s got a good sense of humor.  (Laughter.)  Well, I can’t share all his jokes.  They were all clean.  (Laughter.)

And as I said in the introduction in the South Lawn when he appeared here at the White House, I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way; that he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve.  And in that sense, I don’t think he’s somebody where we should be applying the typical American political measures — liberal and conservative, and left and right — I think he is speaking to all of our consciences, and we all have to then search ourselves to see if there are ways that we can do better.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  I think that when I spend time with somebody like the Pontiff — and there are other individuals, some of whom are famous, some of whom are not, but who are good people and deeply moral — then it makes me want to be better, makes me want to do better.  And those people are great gifts to the world.  And sometimes they’re just a teacher in a classroom. And sometimes they’re your neighbor.  And sometimes they’re your mom, or your wife.  Sometimes they’re your kids.  But they can encourage you to be better.  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

And that’s part of the wonderful thing about Pope Francis, is the humility that he brings to do this.  His rejection of the absolutism that says I’m 100 percent right and you’re 100 percent wrong; but rather, we are all sinners and we are all children of God.  That’s a pretty good starting point for being better.

All right.  Thank you, guys, for your patience.  You can now go home.  (Laughter.)

Thanks.

END

4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation

Source: WH, 9-25-15

On John Boehner, I just heard the news as I was coming out of the meeting here, so it took me by surprise.  And I took the time prior to this press conference to call John directly and talk to him.

John Boehner is a good man.  He is a patriot.  He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he served for a long time.  He cares about his constituents, and he cares about America.  We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically we’re at different ends of the spectrum.  But I will tell you, he has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me.  He has kept his word when he made a commitment.  He is somebody who has been gracious.

And I think maybe most importantly, he’s somebody who understands that in government, in governance, you don’t get 100 percent of what you want, but you have to work with people who you disagree with — sometimes strongly — in order to do the people’s business.

I’m not going to prejudge who the next Speaker will be.  That’s something that will have to be worked through in the House.  And I will certainly reach out immediately to whoever is the new Speaker to see what his or her ideas are, and how we can make progress in the important issues that America faces.

The one thing I will say is that my hope is there’s a recognition on the part of the next Speaker — something I think John understood, even though at times it was challenging to bring his caucus along — that we can have significant differences on issues, but that doesn’t mean you shut down the government.  That doesn’t mean you risk the full faith and credit of the United States.  You don’t invite potential financial crises.  You build roads and pass transportation bills.  And you do the basic work of governance that ensures that our military is operating and that our national parks are open and that our kids are learning.

And there’s no weakness in that.  That’s what government is in our democracy.  You don’t get what you want 100 percent of the time.  And so sometimes you take half a loaf; sometimes you take a quarter loaf.  And that’s certainly something that I’ve learned here in this office.

So I’m looking forward to working with the next Speaker.  In the meantime, John is not going to leave for another 30 days, so hopefully he feels like getting as much stuff done as he possibly can.  And I’ll certainly be looking forward to working with him on that.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Press Conference Announcing Resignation Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Speaker Boehner: “It’s Been An Honor To Serve”

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today held a news conference to discuss his decision to resign from the Speakership and his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  You can watch the entire news conference here.  Following are Boehner’s opening remarks:

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.  Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children.  We’re now on track to cut government spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.    We’ve made the first real entitlement reform in nearly two decades.   And we’ve protected 99 percent of Americans from permanent tax increases.

“We’ve done all this with a Democrat in the White House.  So I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.

“But more than anything, my first job as Speaker is to protect the institution.  A lot of you now know that my plan was to step down at the end of last year.  I decided in November of 2010 when I was elected Speaker that serving two terms would have been plenty.  But in June of last year, when it became clear that the majority leader lost his election, I frankly didn’t believe it was right to leave at the end of last year.  So my goal was to leave at the end of this year.  So I planned, actually on my birthday, November 17th, to announce that I was leaving at the end of the year. 

“But it’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.   So this morning, I informed my colleagues that I would resign from the Speakership and resign from Congress at the end of October. 

“Now, as you’ve often heard me say, this isn’t about me.   It’s about the people, it’s about the institution.  Just yesterday, we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world.  And I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule.  But last night, I had started to think about all this. Then this morning, I woke up, said my prayers, as I always do.  And I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this, as simple as that.

“That’s the code I’ve always lived by: if you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen.  And I know good things lie ahead for this House and this country.  I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m especially proud of my team.  This is my 25th year here, and I’ve succeeded in putting a staff together and a team together, many of which have been  with me for a long time.  Without a great staff, you can’t be a great member, and you certainly can’t be a great Speaker.

“I want to thank my family for putting up with this all these years. My poor girls, who are now 37 and 35. Their first campaign photo was in July of 1981, and so, they’ve had to endure all this.  It’s one thing for me to have to endure it. I’ve got thick skin. But, you know, the girls and my wife, they had to put up with a lot over the years.

“Let me express my gratitude to my constituents, who’ve sent me here 13 times over the last 25 years. You can’t get here without getting votes. But — I say this often. People ask me, what’s the greatest thing about being speaker, or about being an elected official? And I said, well, it’s the people you get to meet.  You know, I have met tens of thousands of people in my own congressional district that I would have not met, other than the fact I decided to ran for Congress.  Over the years, as I traveled on behalf of my colleagues and the party, I’ve met tens of thousands of additional people all over the country. And you meet rich people, you meet poor people, you meet interesting people. Probably a few boring ones along the way.

“But I can tell you that 99.9 percent of the people I meet on the road, anywhere, could not be — could not be nicer than they’ve been. It’s been — really, it’s been wonderful.

“It’s been an honor to serve in this institution.”

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-it-s-been-honor-serve#sthash.ylte48wm.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: House Speaker John Boehner’s Statement Announcing Resignation Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by House Speaker John Boehner

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement:

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished.

“The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.

“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District. God bless this great country that has given me – the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati – the chance to serve.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/statement-house-speaker-john-boehner#sthash.RpczjQCa.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Pope Francis’ Address to Congress Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS:

Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress

Source: WaPo, 9-24-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s address to a joint meeting of Congress, delivered Thursday in Washington. (Follow our liveblog for the latest)

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful

source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems

are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement upon meeting Pope Francis before his address to Congress

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS:

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Pope Francis to the United States Capitol, where he became the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress.  After the Pope’s visit, Boehner issued the following statement:

“What a day.  What a moment for our country.  I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.  The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us.  With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility.  Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.  Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”
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