Full Text Obama Presidency December 3, 2012: President Obama Answers #My2k Questions on Twitter — Fiscal Cliff Twitter Interview Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Answers #My2k Questions on Twitter

Source: WH, 12-3-12

President Obama participates in a live Twitter #My2k chat, Dec. 3, 2012. President Barack Obama participates in a Twitter #My2k live question and answer session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

[ READ THE FULL TWITTER Q&A HERE ]

[View the story “President Obama Answers #My2k Questions on Twitter” on Storify]

If Congress doesn’t act, a typical middle-class family will see their taxes go up by about $2,000. Last week, President Obama began calling on Americans to make their voices heard and share what $2,000 means to families across the country.

And today, the President connected directly with the Americans who are speaking out about these tax cuts. During a live Twitter Q&A from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama explained why Congress must act and encouraged people around the country to continue to add their voices to the debate.

Those from whom we heard today are just a few of the people speaking out. Since last week, we’ve heard from over 300,000 people on this issue (with more than 200,000 #My2k tweets and over 100,000 stories submitted on whitehouse.gov). Make sure your voice is heard. Tell us what $2,000 means to you on WhiteHouse.gov/my2k and on Twitter with #My2k.

We know this kind of action has real power. A year ago, during another big fight to protect middle class families, tens of thousands of working Americans called and tweeted and emailed to make their voices heard. The same thing happened earlier this year when college students across the country stood up and demanded that Congress keep rates low on student loans. When the American people speak out they help get things done in Washington — and the President is once again asking the American people to add their voices to this effort.

Political Headlines October 18, 2012: President Barack Obama Defends Libya Response on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” — Interview Full Video

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

October 18, 2012 – Barack Obama

Samantha Bee explains why women voters are turned off by the debates, and President Obama weighs in on the election, Libya and Joe Biden’s swimwear.

Obama Defends Libya Response on “The Daily Show”

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-18-12

ABC/Donna Svennevik

President Obama Thursday defended his handling of the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, rejecting the notion that his administration was “confused” in the wake of the assault.

“We weren’t confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed, I wasn’t confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened, I wasn’t confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed and I wasn’t confused about the fact that we were going to hunt down whoever did it and bring them to justice,” Obama told Jon Stewart in a taped appearance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines October 11, 2012: President Barack Obama’s ABC News Interview — Debate Performance: ‘I Had a Bad Night’

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama on Debate Performance: ‘I Had a Bad Night’

Source: ABC News Radio, 10-11-12

ABC News

President Obama on Wednesday said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that he plans to more aggressively confront Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in their second debate next week, trying to allay concerns among supporters that a lackluster first debate performance may have cost him the race.

“Governor Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It’s not the first time,” Obama said in his first televised interview since the Denver debate on Oct. 3. Despite Romney’s post-debate momentum and surge in the polls, the “fundamentals of what this race is about haven’t changed,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 23, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Interview on ’60 Minutes’ — Transcript

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Transcript of Romney on ’60 Minutes’

The following is a transcript of Mitt Romney on CBS’ “60 Minutes”

SCOTT PELLEY:  We asked Mr. Romney how his vision differs from the President’s because recently Mr. Obama said this election is
the clearest choice in a generation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMNEY:  I think the President’s right. I think this is a very clear choice for the American people as to what America’s future will look like. The President’s vision is one of a larger and larger government with trillion-dollar deficits that promises everything to everyone. That’s the course that he has laid out. His policy for the — the economy is more stimulus, more government spending. My course is very different than that. Mine says make government smaller. Don’t build these massive deficits that pass debt on to our kids, rebuild the foundation of America’s strength with great homes, great schools, with entrepreneurship and innovation. Keep government as a — if you will, facilitator of freedom in America. But don’t have government take away the rights and the freedoms of the American
people.

PELLEY (on camera):  Ten years ago, when you were running for governor of Massachusetts, you were solidly pro-choice on abortion. Now you’re against abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother. When you were running for governor, you ridiculed the idea of signing a “no new taxes” pledge, and yet now you’ve signed one. Some people, Governor, have an uneasy feeling that you’re not constant, that you say whatever you have to say in a particular moment.

ROMNEY:  Well, they can look at my record. I — I understand that my opposition will do its very best to try and — and change anyway they can, the narrative to fit their — their objectives. The President has certainly changed his view on a whole host of things. He was going to close Guantanamo. It’s open. Military tribunals were going to be ended. Now military tri — tribunals continue. The President was opposed to same sex marriage, now he’s in favor of same sex marriage. So I…

PELLEY:  But what about you?

ROMNEY:  Oh, so I…

PELLEY:  People wonder, does Romney believe the things that
he says?  You say what to those people?

ROMNEY:  The principles I have are the principles I’ve had from the beginning of my — of my political life. But have I learned?  Have I found that some things I thought would be effective turned out not to be effective?  Absolutely. If you don’t learn from experience, you don’t learn from your mistakes. Why, you know, you ought to be fired.

PELLEY (voiceover):  We spoke with the former governor of Massachusetts as he pitched a plan for a different nation; a government smaller than most Americans have ever seen, reform of Medicare and Social Security, a balanced budget and cuts in tax rates.

(on camera):  What would the individual federal income tax rates be?

ROMNEY:  Well, they would be the current rates less twenty percent. So the top rate, for instance, would go from thirty-five to twenty-eight. Middle rates would come down by twenty percent as well. All the rates come down. But unless people think there’s going to be a huge reduction in the taxes they owe, that’s really not the case because we’re also going to limit deductions and exemptions, particularly for people at the high end. Because I want to keep the current progressivity in the code. There should be no tax reduction for high income people. What I would like to do is to get a tax reduction for middle-income families by eliminating the tax for middle-income families on interest, dividends, and capital gains.

PELLEY:  The tax rate for everyone in your plan would go
down.

ROMNEY:  That’s right.

PELLEY:  But because you’re going to limit exemptions and deductions, everybody’s going to essentially be paying the same taxes.

ROMNEY:  That’s right. Middle-income people will probably see a little break, because there’ll be no tax on their savings.

PELLEY:  Now, you made on your investments, personally, about twenty million dollars last year. And you paid fourteen percent in federal taxes. That’s the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes fifty thousand dollars and paid a higher rate than you did?

ROMNEY:  It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as thirty-five percent.

PELLEY:  So you think it is fair?

ROMNEY:  Yeah, I — I think it’s — it’s the right way to encourage economic growth, to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.

PELLEY:  And corporate tax rates?

ROMNEY:  Corporate tax rates, also, I’d bring down and with the same idea let’s get rid of some of the loopholes, deductions, special deals, such that we’re able to pay for the reduction. I don’t want a reduction in revenue coming into the government.

PELLEY (voiceover):  We followed the governor last week on his relentless schedule — campaigning, raising money, practicing for the debates. And in Boston we asked him exactly which tax deductions and exemptions he intended to eliminate.

ROMNEY:  Well, that’s something Congress and I will have to work out together. My — my experience as a governor…

PELLEY (on camera):  You’re asking the American people to hire you as President of the United States. They’d — they’d like to hear some specifics.

ROMNEY:  Well, I can tell them specifically what my policy looks like. I will not raise taxes on middle-income folks. I will not lower the share of taxes paid by high-income individuals. And I will make sure that we bring down rates, we limit deductions and exemptions so we can keep the progressivity in the code, and we encourage growth in jobs.

PELLEY:  And the devil’s in the details, though. I mean, what are we talking about, the mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction?

ROMNEY:  The devil’s in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.

PELLEY:  You have heard the criticism, I’m sure, that your campaign can be vague about some things. And I wonder if this isn’t precisely one of those things?

ROMNEY:  It’s very much consistent with my experience as a governor which is, if you want to work together with people across the aisle, you lay out your principles and your policy, you work together with them, but you don’t hand them a complete document and say, “Here, take this or leave it.”  Look, leadership is not a take it or leave it thing. We’ve seen too much of that in Washington.

PELLEY:  You talk about balancing the budget without raising taxes. But to do that you would have to have trillions of dollars in budget cuts. So let’s be specific in this interview — what would you cut?

ROMNEY:  The first big one is I am not going to go forward with Obamacare. I will repeal Obamacare. It costs about a hundred billion dollars a year. Second big area is taking major government programs at the federal level, turning them back to the states, where they’ll grow at the rate of inflation, not at a multiple of that rate. And that saves about a hundred billion dollars a year. And finally, I’ll cut back on the size of government itself, as well as go after the fraud and abuse and inefficiency that’s always part of a large institution like our — like our government.

PELLEY:  You would move some government programs to the
states. What would they be?

ROMNEY:  Well, for instance, Medicaid is a program that’s designed to help the poor. Likewise, we have housing vouchers and food stamps, and these help the poor. I’d take the dollars for those programs, send them back to the states, and say, “You craft your programs at your state level and the way you think best to deal with those that need that kind of help in your state.”

PELLEY:  So how does moving those programs to the states bring relief to the taxpayer?

ROMNEY:  Because I grow them only at the rate of inflation or in the case of Medicaid, at inflation plus one percent, that’s a lower rate of growth than we’ve seen over the past several years, a lower rate of growth than has been forecast under federal management. And I believe on that basis you’re going to see us save about a hundred billion dollars a year.

PELLEY:  So you’re going to cap the growth on those social welfare programs?

ROMNEY:  Exactly right.

PELLEY:  Why would shrinking the federal government on the large scale that you have in mind not throw the country back into recession?

ROMNEY:  Well, the — the plan I have to — to go after the deficit and to shrink federal spending is metered out in a very careful way, such that we don’t have a huge drop off with an austerity program that puts people out of work in government. But instead, through attrition, over time, we scale back the number of federal workers so I’m — I’m very careful in the way I do this.

PELLEY (voiceover):  But lasting budget reform isn’t likely without doing something about Social Security and Medicare. They are exactly one third of the entire federal budget. That’s one reason Romney chose as a running mate Paul Ryan, the chairman of
the House Budget Committee.

(on camera):  There is a lot of rhetoric about Medicare.

What do you intend to do?

ROMNEY:  Well, I don’t want any change to Medicare for current seniors or for those that are nearing retirement. So the plan stays exactly the same. The President’s cutting seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars from current Medicare. I disagree with that. I’d put those dollars back into Medicare.

PELLEY:  Mr. Ryan has proposed something similar, almost precisely the same number of seven hundred and sixteen.

ROMNEY:  Yeah. He — he was going to use that money to reduce the — the budget deficit. I’m putting it back into Medicare and I’m the guy running for president, not him. So what I do in my Medicare plan for younger people coming along to say this, “We’re going to have higher benefits for low-income people and lower benefits for high- income people.”  We’re going to make it more means tested. I think if we do that, we’ll make sure to preserve Medicare into the indefinite future.

PELLEY:  The idea under your plan for future seniors would be that the federal government would write that senior a check, essentially, and say, “Now, you can go buy a private insurance plan or you can buy Medicare from the federal government.”  Is that essentially it?

ROMNEY:  Yeah. That’s — that’s essentially it. People would have a choice of either traditional, government-run, fee-for-service Medicare; or a private plan, which has to offer the same benefits.

PELLEY:  Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the fifty million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY:  Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and — and die. We — we pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY:  That’s the most expensive way to do it.

ROMNEY:  Well the…

PELLEY:  In the emergency room.

ROMNEY:  Diff — different, again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some — some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, “You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.”

PELLEY:  How would you change Social Security?

ROMNEY:  Well, again, no change in Social Security for — for those that are in retirement or near retirement. What I’d do with Social Security is say this:  that again, people with higher incomes won’t get the same high growth rate in their benefits as people of lower incomes. People who rely on Social Security should see the same kind of growth rate they’ve had in the past. But higher income folks would receive a little less.

PELLEY:  So that in the Romney administration, in the Romney plan, there would be means testing for Social Security and for Medicare?

ROMNEY:  That’s correct. Higher-income people won’t get as much as lower-income people. And by virtue of doing that — and again, that’s for future retirees. For — by virtue of doing that, you are able to save these programs on a permanent basis.

PELLEY:  Balancing the budget will require sacrifice. What is it, specifically, that you’re asking the American people to sacrifice?

ROMNEY:  I’m going to look at every federal program and I’ll ask this question, “Is this so — program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?”  And if it doesn’t pass that test, I’m going to eliminate the program because we just can’t afford to keep spending more money than we take in that this is — this is something which is not just bad economics. I think it’s immoral.

PELLEY:  So many people at home look at Washington and think that it is completely broken. You are going to have to reach out to Democrats in order to get anything done. How do you heal that breach, especially after a fairly acrimonious campaign?

ROMNEY:  There’s no question but that Washington is broken and I happen to think that flows from the President. I think ultimately the buck stops at the President’s desk. He’d probably say the same thing. I think you have to have a President…

PELLEY:  The President would probably blame it on the Republican Congress, Governor.

ROMNEY:  His challenge with blaming it on the Republican Congress is, of course, that for his first two years right now the majority of his term, he had a Democrat Congress, a super majority in the Democrat Congress. And he had a whole series of things he said he was going to do, he didn’t do. Leadership is not just working with your own party, but working with both parties and I learned that. I was governor of a state with a legislature eighty-seven percent Democrat. Just as you — just as you said, Scott, I — I realized I was going to get nothing done unless I had a relationship — a respect, and trust with — with the members of the — of the opposition party.

PELLEY:  Governor, what do you have to do in these last six weeks?

ROMNEY:  Well, I have to go across the country, particularly, in the states that are closest, and describe how it is I’m going to get the economy going and how we’re going to restore the economic freedom that built this economy in the first place.

PELLEY:  Can you win this thing?

ROMNEY:  I’m going to win this thing.

PELLEY (voiceover):  In Florida a state with high foreclosure rates and unemployment over the national average, Romney hammered away with his economic message. That’s where he believes the campaign will be won. He does not spend much time at his rallies talking about foreign policy — a subject in which he has limited experience and no military background.

(on camera):  Governor, the President has the United States on track to get most of our combat forces out of Afghanistan by 2014. Is there anything that you would do differently?

ROMNEY:  Well, I also agree that 2014 is the timeline we should aim for. I thought that the surge troops should have been brought back in November of this year, not September. I don’t think you try and bring back troops during the fighting season. I think that was a mistake. I think it was also a mistake to announce the precise date of our withdrawal.

PELLEY:  How would you ease the anti-American sentiment that we see in the Middle East?

ROMNEY:  Communicate to nations like Egypt, and Egypt is — if you will, the major player, eighty million people, the center of the Arab world. Egypt needs to understand what the — the rules are. That to remain an ally of the United States, to receive foreign aid from the United States, to receive foreign investment from ourselves and from our friends, I believe, around the world, that they must honor their peace agreement with Israel. That they must also show respect and — and provide civil rights for minorities in their country. And they also have to protect our — our embassies. I think we also have to communicate that Israel is our ally., our close ally. The President’s decision not to meet with Bibi Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, when the prime minister is here for the United Nations session, I think, is a mistake and it sends a message throughout the — the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what’s necessary.

PELLEY:  There are a lot of unknowns in being President. I wonder how you would make a decision on whether to send U.S. forces into combat.

ROMNEY:  Well, it would be a very high hurdle. Number one, a very substantial American interest at stake. Number two, a clear definition of our mission. Number three, a clear definition of how we’ll know when our mission is complete. Number four, providing the resources to make sure that we can carry out that mission effectively, overwhelming resources. And finally, a clear understanding of what will be left after we leave. All of those would have to be in place before I were to decide to deploy American military might in any foreign place.

PELLEY (voiceover):  Governor Romney has been criticized lately for comments during a private fund raiser when he said that his job is not to worry about the forty-seven percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes and are dependent on government.

(on camera):  You’re the CEO of this campaign. A lot of Republicans would like to know, a lot of your donors would like to know, how do you turn this thing around?

ROMNEY:  Well, it doesn’t need a turnaround. We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent President to the United States.

PELLEY:  As you know, a lot of people were concerned about the video of the fund raiser in which you talked about the forty-seven percent of the American people who don’t pay taxes. Peggy Noonan, a very well-known conservative columnist, said that it was an example of this campaign being incompetent. And I wonder if any of that criticism gets through to you and — and whether you’re concerned about it at all, whether…

ROMNEY:  Well, that’s not…

PELLEY:  … the concerns of Republicans…

ROMNEY:  That’s not the camp — that’s not the campaign. That was me, right?  I — that’s not a campaign.

PELLEY:  You are the campaigner.

ROMNEY:  I got — I’ve got a very effective campaign. It’s doing a very good job. But not everything I say is elegant. And — and I want to make it very clear. I want to help a hundred percent of the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PELLEY:  As we continue our conversation with the candidates, we asked them about the qualities of leadership and the lessons of history. We begin again with Governor Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PELLEY (on camera):  What are the essential qualities of a leader?

ROMNEY:  Well, a leader has to have the capacity to build trust in the people he or she works with. People have to look at that person and say, “I may disagree with them. But I know where they stand. And I can — I can trust them.”  A leader has the capacity of vision, the ability to see where things are headed before people in general see those things. That vision is typically a product, in part not just of their skill and brilliance, but even more of their experience, their life experience. And so if you’re looking for a leader to guide an economy, you hope that you have someone who didn’t just study it in school, but someone who’s actually lived in the economy.

PELLEY:  The historian, David McCullough, says that great presidents learn from the history of the office. And I wonder what you’ve learned from the history of Presidents in the White House.

ROMNEY:  You know I enjoy reading David McCullough’s writings. My favorite book is perhaps of a biographical nature, was his book on John Adams, a person who had extraordinary character, a relationship with his spouse who may have been even brighter than he. We don’t know as much about her as we do about him. But a man who had a very clear sense of direction, who helped guide the — the process of writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He wrote the Constitution of my state of Massachusetts. And — and we saw in him an individual who was less concerned about public opinion than he was about doing what he thought was right for the country. And even though he was defeated in his run for reelection, he did what he thought was right for America. And I respect that kind of character.

PELLEY:  Presidents and presidential candidates are booked down to the minute. And I wonder if you ever have a moment to be alone with your own thoughts. If so, when?  And what does that mean to you?

ROMNEY:  Well, at the end of the day, usually at about ten o’clock, things have finally wound down. And I’m able to spend a little time. I talk to Ann. She is on her own schedule. And we — we spend fifteen or twenty minutes on the phone. And then I read. And I think. I think about the coming day and think about what I want to accomplish. I pray. Prayer is a time to connect with — with the divine, but also time, I’m sure, to concentrate one’s thoughts, to meditate, and — and to imagine what might be.

PELLEY:  You pray every night before you go to bed?

ROMNEY:  I do pray every night, yeah.

PELLEY:  What do you ask for?

ROMNEY:  That’s between me and God. But mostly wisdom and — and understanding. I — I seek to understand things that I don’t understand.

PELLEY:  Presidencies are remembered for big ideas, emancipation, Social Security, man on the moon. What’s your big idea?

ROMNEY:  Freedom. I want to restore the kind of freedom that has always driven America’s economy. And that’s allowed us to be the shining city on the hill. The kind of freedom that has brought people here from all over the world. I want people to come here, legally to want to be here. I want the best and brightest to say America’s the place of opportunity because of the freedom there to pursue your dreams. So my message is restore the kind of freedom that allows America to lead the world.

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Interview on ’60 Minutes’ — Transcript

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Source: FoxNews.com, 9-24-12

The following is a transcript of President Obama on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

STEVE KROFT:  Four years ago, as a young senator, Barack Obama offered the country more inspiration than experience. Today, the graying president runs with all the advantages of incumbency, and all the encumbrances of a record dogged by a sluggish recovery and chronically high unemployment. For nearly two years now a Republican House has blocked almost every initiative he’s offered. His signature domestic achievements, rescuing the auto industry and reforming health care remain controversial. Yet six weeks before the election, President Obama maintains a small lead in the polls.

We spoke on September 12th in the White House Blue Room.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KROFT (on camera):  Mr. President, you were elected four years ago, promising hope and change for the better. Your opponent argues that you have achieved neither. Country has rarely been so divided politically. And people are afraid for their jobs. I — I know you know that. People are fearful about the future for the families. How do you respond to that?

OBAMA:  I think it’s important to know where we’ve been and how far we have traveled. The month I was sworn into office, we were losing eight hundred thousand jobs a month. We ultimately would lose nine million jobs during the height of that Great Recession. We came in, made some tough decisions, everything from stabilizing the financial system to making sure that the auto industry survived, to making sure that we cut taxes for middle- class families so they had more money in their pockets, to helping states avoid massive layoffs of teachers and firefighters and police officers. And because of that we’ve now had thirty months of job growth, four and a half million new jobs, half a million jobs in manufacturing alone. And the question now for the American people is, “Do we keep moving forward and continue to make progress or do we go backwards to the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place?”  We probably have not seen a clearer choice in an election in my lifetime.

KROFT:  On the campaign trail, Governor Romney has been portraying you as a — a nice guy who doesn’t have a clue…

OBAMA:  Mm-hm.

KROFT:  … about the economy…

OBAMA:  Right.

KROFT:  … or how the country works. That private enterprises — the engine of growth in this — in this country. And that’s what create jobs, not big government.

OBAMA:  Yeah.

KROFT:  And that you’re crushing economic freedom with taxes, regulations, and high-cost health care.

OBAMA:  Yeah. Well, it’s a lot of rhetoric, but there aren’t a lot of facts supporting it. Taxes are lower on families than they’ve been probably in the last fifty years. So I haven’t raised taxes. I’ve cut taxes for middle-class families by an average of thirty-six hundred dollars for a typical family. When it comes to regulations, I’ve issued fewer regulations than my predecessor, George Bush, did during that same period in office. So it’s kind of hard to argue that we’ve overregulated. Now, I don’t make any apologies for putting in place regulations to make sure banks don’t make reckless bets and then expect taxpayers to bail them out. I don’t make any apologies for regulating insurance companies, so that they can’t drop a family’s coverage, just when somebody in their family needs it most. And, you know, the problem that Governor Romney has is that he seems to only have one note:  tax cuts for the wealthy and rolling back regulations as a recipe for success. Well, we tried that vigorously between 2001 and 2008 and it didn’t work out so well.

KROFT:  Your opponent, Governor Romney, has another note.

OBAMA:  Mm-hm.

KROFT:  That’s unemployment. Forty-three months above eight percent. Huge profits on Wall Street. You’ve got the stock market that’s doing incredibly well. And yet you’ve still got this unemployment.

OBAMA:  Oh, absolutely. Well, look, nobody’s more con — nobody’s more concerned about the employment situation than I am. The problem we have was the hole was so deep when we got in that we lost nine million jobs, we’ve created four point six. We’ve still got a long way to go. Now I’ve put forward very specific plans that we know would create jobs. And that’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of independent economists. My JOBS Act that I presented to Congress over a year ago, we said, “Let’s help put folks back to work. Let’s make sure that we are getting construction workers on the job, rebuilding our infrastructure.”  It’s estimated that would create an additional million jobs right now. But we haven’t seen full implementation of that plan.

KROFT:  You’ve tried things that — that haven’t worked. I mean the jobs plan, the jobs bill — you haven’t been able to get it through Congress.

OBAMA:  Well, Steve…

KROFT:  I mean, isn’t that some of your responsibility?

OBAMA:  I take full responsibility for everything that we do, Steve, but you’re asking two different questions. You’re asking a question, number one, have I been able to get every plan that would work through a Republican Congress…

KROFT:  Right.

OBAMA:  … that said its number one priority was beating me as opposed to helping the American people?  And there is no doubt that I’ve been disappointed in trying to get more cooperation from those folks. And that’s something that we’re going to have to continue to do. The second question you’re asking, though, is has what we’ve done worked?  And the fact of the matter is is that what we’ve done has been effective in improving the situation in — in every area that we’re talking about. You know when I made a decision to save the auto industry that saved a million jobs. One in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the auto industry. So we’ve actually seen success.

KROFT:  How are you going to get the Republicans to agree to a tax increase for the top two percent?  You’ve been trying for a year. You haven’t been able to do it. And you’ve got a majority of — of — of Republicans in Congress, including Governor Romney, who has signed a pledge never to increase taxes under any circumstances.

OBAMA:  Yeah, well, we…

KROFT:  How are you going to get them to change their minds and make this deal?

OBAMA:  I — I won’t get them to make them change their minds. The American people will. I mean, ultimately, the American people agree with me that the only way we bring down our deficit is to do it in a balanced way. So, keep in mind, I’ve agreed with the Republicans. And we’ve already cut a trillion dollars of spending. And I’ve told them I’m prepared to do additional spending cuts and do some entitlement reform. But what I’ve said is, “You can’t ask me to make student loans higher for kids who need it or ask seniors to pay more for their Medicare or throw people off of health care and not ask somebody like me or Mr. Romney to do anything, not ask us to do a single dime’s worth of sacrifice.”

KROFT:  How are you going to make a deal?

OBAMA:  Well, I think…

KROFT:  Why can’t you — why haven’t you been able to make
a deal?

OBAMA:  Well, be…

KROFT:  And why do you think you will be able to make a
deal?

OBAMA:  Well, I think that when I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans say, “My number one priority is making sure President Obama’s a one term president.”  Now, after the election, either he will have succeeded in that goal or he will have failed at that goal. Either way, my expectation is, my hope is, that that’s no longer their number one priority. And I’m hoping that after the smoke clears and the election season’s over that that spirit of cooperation comes more to the fore.

KROFT:  You came in running as an outsider, somebody who was going to change Washington. Do you still believe after three years in this gridlock that we’ve had that — that somebody who claims to be an outsider can get things accomplished in Washington?

OBAMA:  Oh, yeah. Well, look, I mean, we — we passed historic legislation that strengthened our financial regulations. We passed legislation that will not only provide thirty million more people coverage, but also ensures that you know, kids can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans till they are twenty-six and seniors have lower prescription drugs. And so change has happened and positive change for the American people. I — I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in — in a political slugfest, but were focused more on problem solving that, you know, I haven’t fully accomplished that, haven’t even come close in some cases. And you know if you ask me wha — what’s my biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.

KROFT:  And you don’t bear any responsibility for that?

OBAMA:  Oh, I think that, you know, as President I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree and one of the things I’ve realized over the last two years is that that only happens if I’m enlisting the American people much more aggressively than I did the first two years.

KROFT:  The Great Recession began with the housing crisis.

OBAMA:  Mm-hm.

KROFT:  We still have the housing crisis. The banks got bailed out. The homeowners didn’t. That was one of the decisions that you made. Very few homeowners have gotten mortgage relief. And your efforts to get the banks and the mortgage companies to renegotiate loans and modify terms have been underwhelming, to say the least. What happened?

OBAMA:  We have helped several million homeowners avoid foreclosure and make sure that the terms of their mortgage were ones that they could pay. Not everything you do right off the bat — when you’ve got emergencies here, there, and everywhere, and we’re all putting out fires — not everything’s going to work perfectly the first time. So, for example, the housing mortgage assistance program that we put in a place, we modified when we saw that there wasn’t as much take-up as we wanted. And since that time, we’ve actually seen that the rates of people utilizing it go up dramatically. We still have a long way to go. But this is in contrast to Governor Romney’s proposal. When asked about what we should do with mark — the housing market, he said, “Just let it bottom out.”  That’s a quote. So he was opposed to even the modest proposals that we put into place.

KROFT (voiceover):  While most of our White House interview involved domestic policies, the President’s day was dominated by foreign affairs. The attack on the Libyan consulate that left the U.S. ambassador and three others dead had occurred the night before…

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL:  Wait for what?

KROFT (voiceover):  … and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had inserted himself into the presidential campaign, criticizing the President and pushing him to lay out conditions for a military attack against Iran.

(on camera):  How much pressure have you been getting from Prime Minister Netanyahu to make up your mind to use military force in Iran?

OBAMA:  Well, look, I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race.

KROFT:  You’re — you’re saying you don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? You don’t feel any pressure?

OBAMA:  When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.

KROFT:  Have recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?

OBAMA:  Well, I’d said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path. The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change. I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have — have to be able to participate in their own governance. But I — I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty — pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam. The one part of society that hasn’t been controlled completely by the government. There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment. And, you know, can — can be tapped into by demagogues. There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with — with our interests. This is a tumultuous time that we’re in. But we can and we will meet those challenges if we stay true to who we are.

(APPLAUSE)

KROFT (voiceover):  The day after our White House interview, we followed the President to Colorado, a crucial swing state in the upcoming election, to ask him a few more questions central to the campaign.

(on camera):  Most Americans think we’re spending too much
money.

OBAMA:  Mm-hm.

KROFT:  The national debt has gone up sixty percent in — in the four years that you’ve been in office.

OBAMA:  Well, first — first of all, Steve, I think it’s important to understand the context here. When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history. And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but ninety percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren’t paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about ten percent of this increase in the deficit, and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower, in fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush.

KROFT:  Since the Benghazi tragedy, your opponent has attacked you as being weak on national defense and weak on foreign policy. He says you need to be more aggressive in Iran, haven’t done enough to support the revolt in Syria, and that our friends don’t know where we stand, and our enemies think we’re weak.

OBAMA:  Yeah. Well, let’s see what I’ve done since I came into office. I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we’d go after Al Qaida. They’ve been decimated in the FATA. That we’d go after bin Laden. He’s gone. So I’ve executed on my foreign policy. And it’s one that the American people largely agree with. So, you know if — if Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KROFT:  President Obama also reflected on the nature of leadership with us. We spoke following his campaign stop in Golden, Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KROFT (on camera):  What are the essential qualities of a leader, in your mind?

OBAMA:  Well, you know, I — I think that leadership more than anything is about setting a course and describing a vision for people. And you know, in the history of — of leadership in this country that vision isn’t always realized immediately. You know, Abraham Lincoln understood that we were a single union. And it took a bloody Civil War and terrible hardship and sacrifice to achieve that vision. And that vision wasn’t even fully realized until after he was — he was gone. What I try to do is to constantly present a — a — a vision of America in which everybody’s got a shot, everybody’s treated with respect and dignity in which the — the divides of — of race and faith, gender, sexual orientation, that that those are not the determining factors, in terms of whether people succeed but instead it’s how hard you work and are you trustworthy and are you responsible and you — do you look after your family and do you — do you love people and love this country?

KROFT:  David McCullough, the noted presidential historian, said all the great Presidents have had a number of common traits. And one of them is an understanding of history and an understanding of the history of — of the presidency.

OBAMA:  Yeah.

KROFT:  Is there anything that you’ve read or learned from your study of this area that has helped you?  Any examples you can give me?

OBAMA:  Well, whenever I look at the — the history of Presidents I deeply admire. The one thing that I’m always struck by is persistence. It’s a quality that’s underrated. Being able to plow through, being able to stay buoyant in the face of — of challenges. And, you know, I think that’s a characteristic of the American people. And, I think our best Presidents are able to tap into that resilience and that strength and that grit. And — and — and be inspired by it.

KROFT:  Where do you go to kind of sort things out on your own? And when do you find time to just be alone with your own thoughts?

OBAMA:  Well, I’m a night guy as it is. And so, Michelle usually goes to bed about 9:30. She’s — she’s an early bird, maybe ten o’clock. The girls go to bed around ten. And so I’ve got those hours between ten o’clock and one o’clock in the morning, let’s say, where not only do I do some work, but I do some reading, I do some writing. There are times where I sit on the Truman Balcony and it’s as good of a view as you get with the — the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Monument — Memorial set back behind that. And so those are moments of reflection that, you know, help gird you for the next challenge and the next day.

KROFT:  Many times in our history there have been big ideas like going to the moon or the Marshall Plan. This campaign, some people think, has been devoid of big ideas, not necessarily that the budget deficit and some of these things aren’t big ideas. But what would you like to see happen in your…

OBAMA:  Well…

KROFT:  … in your four years?

OBAMA:  I — I got to tell you, Steve, I think there’s no bigger purpose right now than making sure that if people work hard in this country, they can get ahead. That’s the central American idea. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. Because there was an economy that worked for everybody and that allowed us to do that. I think what Americans properly are focused on right now are just the — the bread- and-butter basics of making sure our economy works for working people. And if we can accomplish that there’s no bigger idea than that. That’s the idea that has attracted people to our shores for — for generations.

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Univision Town Hall with Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Remarks by the President at Univision Town Hall with Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas

Source: WH, 9-20-12 

University of Miami
Miami, Florida

2:15 P.M. EDT

Q Please welcome the President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Q Welcome. Thank you for being here with us.

THE PRESIDENT: Muchas gracias.

Q Before we start, before talking about education and its future, we would like to talk about something that is happening right now in recent news. As we know, at the present time, 1,000 people are trying to get into the embassy in Pakistan, and we have seen protests, anti-American protests in thousands of countries.

We know in Libya, four Americans were killed. We know now that Ambassador Chris Stevens warned about security days before he was killed. Many people want to know whether — if you expected so much anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world. And why wasn’t your administration better prepared with more security at our embassies on September 11?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, obviously we mourn the loss of the Americans who were killed in Benghazi. But I think it’s important to understand that that’s not representative of the attitudes of the Libyan people towards America, because they understand because of the incredible work that our diplomats did as well as our men and women in uniform, we liberated that country from a dictator who had terrorized them for 40 years. And Chris Stevens, the ambassador there, was one of the leaders of that process. So when he was killed, there were vigils in Libya but also in front of the White House expressing the deep sorrow that the Libyan people felt towards them.

What we’ve seen over the last week, week and a half, is something that actually we’ve seen in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is obviously something that then is used as an excuse by some to carry out inexcusable violent acts directed at Westerners or Americans.

And my number-one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe and to keep our embassies safe. And so when the initial events happened in Cairo and all across the region, we worked with Secretary Clinton to redouble our security and to send a message to the leaders of these countries, essentially saying, although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it’s not representative of America’s views, how we treat each other with respect when it comes to their religious beliefs, but we will not tolerate violence.

And our goal now is not only to make sure that our embassies and our diplomats are safe, but also to make sure that we bring those who carried out these events to justice.

There is a larger issue, and that is what’s going to be happening in the Arab Spring as these countries transition from dictatorship to democracy. And we cannot replace the tyranny of a dictator with the tyranny of a mob. And so my message to the Presidents of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and these other countries is, we want to be a partner with you, we will work with you, and we stand on the side of democracy, but democracy is not just an election; it’s also, are you looking out for minority rights, are you respecting freedom of speech, are you treating women fairly.

All these issues are ones that the region is going to wrestle with. The one thing we can’t do is withdraw from the region, because the United States continues to be the one indispensable nation. And even countries where the United States is criticized, they still want our leadership and they still look to us to make sure that we’re providing opportunity and peace. And so we’re going to continue to work in these regions.

Q We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests —

Q Al Qaeda?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we don’t know yet. And so we’re going to continue to investigate this. We’ve insisted on and have received so far full cooperation from countries like Egypt and Libya and Tunisia in not only protecting our diplomatic posts, but also to make sure that we discover who, in fact, is trying to take advantage of this.

But this is part of the reason why we have to remain vigilant. Look, when I came into office I said I would end the war in Iraq — and I did. I said that we would begin transitioning in Afghanistan so that over time Afghans can take responsibility for their own security. But what I also said was we’re going to have to focus narrowly and forcefully on groups like al Qaeda, the ones that carried out the 9/11 attacks and the ones that still threaten U.S. interests.

And those forces have not gone away. We’ve decimated al Qaeda’s top leadership in the border regions around Pakistan, but in Yemen, in Libya, in other of these places — increasingly in places like Syria — what you see is these elements that don’t have the same capacity that a bin Laden or core al Qaeda had, but can still cause a lot of damage, and we’ve got to make sure that we remain vigilant and are focused on preventing them from doing us any harm.

Q Mr. President, I want to ask you something that is known as the “Obama promise,” and you knew that I was going to ask you about that. On May 28th, 2008, we had a conversation in Denver, Colorado, and you told me the following — and I’m going to quote you: “But I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.”

I want to emphasize “the first year.” At the beginning of your governing, you had control of both chambers of Congress, and yet you did not introduce immigration reform. And before I continue, I want for you to acknowledge that you did not keep your promise.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me first of all, Jorge, make a point that when we talked about immigration reform in the first year, that’s before the economy was on the verge of collapse — Lehman Brothers had collapsed, the stock market was collapsing. And so my first priority was making sure that we prevented us from going into a Great Depression.

And I think everybody here remembers where we were four years ago. We lost 800,000 jobs the month that I took office. Small businesses and big businesses couldn’t get financing. People had seen their 401(k)s evaporate. People were losing homes left and right.

And so we had to take a whole series of emergency actions to make sure that we put people back to work, cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses so that they could stay open or pay the bills, making sure that states got assistance so they didn’t have to lay off teachers and firefighters and police officers, saving an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.

And so that took up a huge amount of time in the first year. But even in that first year, one of my first acts was to invite every single member of Congress who had previously been supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, and to say to them, we need to get this done. This is something I believe in deeply because we are a nation of laws and we’re a nation of immigrants. And I am willing to work with anybody to strengthen our border security and to crack down on employers who are taking advantage of undocumented workers, but what we also have to do is provide a pathway for all those millions of hardworking people who are simply here looking after their families, and oftentimes they’ve put deep roots in this country.

And what I confess I did not expect — and so I’m happy to take responsibility for being naive here — is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform — my opponent in 2008, who had been a champion of it and who attended these meetings — suddenly would walk away. That’s what I did not anticipate.

And as you know, Jorge, even though we controlled the House of Representatives, even though we had a majority in the Senate, the way the Senate operates was if you couldn’t get 60 votes you couldn’t get something moving. So we initiated the meetings, had a series of meetings. And what we could not get was a single Republican, including the 20 who had previously voted for comprehensive immigration reform, to step up and say, we will work with you to make this happen.

Q It was a promise, Mr. President. And I don’t want to — because this is very important, I don’t want to get you off the explanation. You promised that. And a promise is a promise. And with all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here is what I would say, Jorge, is that — and we’ve had this conversation before. There’s the thinking that the President is somebody who is all powerful and can get everything done. In our branch of — in our system of government, I am the head of the executive branch. I’m not the head of the legislature; I’m not the head of the judiciary. We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done. And so I am happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn’t get it done, but I did not make a promise that I would get everything done, 100 percent, when I was elected as President.

What I promised was that I would work every single day as hard as I can to make sure that everybody in this country, regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, that they would have a fair shot at the American Dream. And I have — that promise I’ve kept.

And what I’ve also — I think is relevant for today’s session is the fact that I have never wavered in my support of comprehensive immigration reform. We did put forward a DREAM Act that was passed in the House, got the overwhelming majority of support from Democrats in the Senate, and was blocked by the Republican Party.

We now are confronted with a choice between two candidates in which the candidate sitting here with you today is committed to comprehensive immigration reform, is committed to the DREAM Act, has taken administrative actions to prevent young people from being deported. And that stands in contrast with the other candidate who has said he would veto the DREAM Act, that he is uncertain about what his plan for immigration reform would be, and who considers the Arizona law a model for the nation and has suggested that the main solution for immigration is self-deportation.

So the issue here for voters — whose vision best represents the aspirations not just of the Latino community but of all Americans who believe that we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants? And that candidate, I believe, is talking to you right now. (Applause.)

Q I’m going to ask you some questions — you promised that on Facebook — and we have received this question: If you are reelected, do you think you’ll be able to have immigration reform even though there’s a majority of Republican representatives? How can you promise the same thing if you’re not going to be able to do that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I’m not going to concede that Republicans necessarily are controlling the Congress. That’s why we have elections. (Applause.)

But let’s assume that the Republicans do retain the House, let’s say. What I can — what I’m absolutely certain of is if the Latino community and the American community that cares about this issue turns out to vote, they can send a message that this is not something to use as a political football, that people’s lives are at stake, that this is a problem that we can solve and historically has had bipartisan support.

And I actually think the mindset within the Republican Party can change — because when you think about it, not only was it fairly recently that we had some Republican support, but even now you have voices like the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who has said that the Republican Party has taken an extreme view, a wrong approach when it comes to immigration reform.

So my hope is, is that after the election — when the number-one goal is no longer beating me, but hopefully the number-one goal is solving the country’s problems — if they have seen that people who care about this issue have turned out in strong numbers, that they will rethink it, if not because it’s the right thing to do, at least because it’s in their political interest to do so.

Q Mr. President, you have been the President who has made the largest number of deportations in history — more than 1.5 million so far. You’ve separated many families. There are more than 5,000 children who are American citizens in foster care and in the adoption process. Would you just — since you’ve granted deferred action, would you like to do something — consider doing something similar to other groups of non-criminal illegal immigrants such as the parents of U.S.-born children?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me describe sort of how we’ve tried to approach this given that we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done yet. My instructions to the Department of Homeland Security has been that we have to focus our attention, our enforcement, on people who genuinely pose a threat to our communities, not to hardworking families who are minding their own business and oftentimes have members of their family who are U.S. citizens — because that’s a — that’s a priority in terms of limited enforcement resources. We don’t have the capacity to enforce across the board when you’re talking about millions of people. And we’ve done that.

So more than half of our enforcement now is directed at people with criminal records. Of the remaining half, about two-thirds are actually people who are typically apprehended close to the border, so these are not people who have longstanding roots in our community. And what we’ve tried to do then is focus our attention on real threats, and make sure that families of the sort that you describe are not the targets of DHS resources.

Now, what I’ve always said is, as the head of the executive branch, there’s a limit to what I can do. Part of the reason that deportations went up was Congress put a whole lot of money into it, and when you have a lot of resources and a lot more agents involved, then there are going to be higher numbers. What we’ve said is, let’s make sure that you’re not misdirecting those resources. But we’re still going to, ultimately, have to change the laws in order to avoid some of the heartbreaking stories that you see coming up occasionally. And that’s why this continues to be a top priority of mine.

The steps we’ve taken with the DREAM Act kids, one of the great things about it is to see that the country as a whole has actually agreed with us on this. There are voices in the Republican Party have been very critical, but the good news is, is that the majority of Americans have said, you know what, if somebody lives here, has gone to school here, pledges allegiance to our flag, this is the only country they’ve known, they shouldn’t be sent away. We should embrace them and say we want you to help build this country.

So we’ve got public opinion on our side on that issue. And we will continue to make sure that how we enforce is done as fairly and justly as possible. But until we have a law in place that provides a pathway for legalization and/or citizenship for the folks in question, we’re going to be — continue to be bound by the law. And that’s a challenge.

Q Mr. President, the fact that you mentioned deferred action was granted months before the election has led some of your critics to say that it was just only to win the Hispanic vote. Why didn’t you do that earlier during your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think if you take a look at the polls, I was winning the Latino vote before we took that action — partly because the other side had completely abandoned their commitment to things like comprehensive immigration reform.

But I did this because I met young people all across the country — wonderful kids who sometimes were valedictorians, would participate in the community, has aspirations to go to college, some who were serving in our military — and if you heard their stories, there’s no way that you would think it was fair or just for us to have them suffering under a cloud of deportation.

And so part of the challenge as President is constantly saying, what authorities do I have. What we wanted to do was first make sure that we were directing our enforcement resources towards criminals and we’ve done that. And after we put that system in place we said, you know what, we’re still hearing stories of young people being scared about being deported; it’s time to see if we can take even further action. And that’s what we’ve done.

Q Thank you. Mr. President, now we are going to talk about education.

Q One out of 10 Hispanics — only one out of 10 graduates from college. And you know that one out of three, not even 25 percent, finishes high school.

And this is the question: First of all, I want to say, Mr. President, it’s an honor for me to be here. I’m a candidate for a doctorate in special education studies at the university level. So I would like to know, what do you attribute the dropout rate among Hispanics in the United States — 15 percent — and what plans do you have to change that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, one of my most important plans is to make sure that people like you can continue your studies and help solve the problem. And that’s why we’ve put such a big emphasis on making sure that college is affordable.

And some of the work that we’ve done over the last four years to make sure that the student loan interest rate stays low, expanding Pell grants for millions of students, including millions of Latino students, so that we are seeing the highest college enrollment rate among Latino students in history — all that is going to help to contribute to us being able to deal with the problem of secondary and high school educations because you’re going to be inspiring a whole lot of students to say, I can do that, too; I can achieve that dream.

Now, one of the things we know is going to make a big difference is early childhood education. So we’ve put enormous effort not only in providing additional funding for early childhood education, but also to improve the quality of early childhood education — because not all programs work perfectly.

We’ve also been very proud to be able to initiate reform in 46 states around the country — almost every state has initiated reforms — because what we’ve said is we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms that focus on dropout rates, that focus on some of the hardest-to-reach students, that focus on getting great teachers in the classroom and holding yourself to high standards and accountability.

So we’ve seen already gains in math and science in many of these schools. We’ve given additional dollars to some schools, predominantly Latino and African American, where the dropout rate is sky-high. And we’ve said, in some cases, you may just have to rework the school entirely. Get a great principal in there, hire wonderful teachers, and we will provide you additional help.

Now, for those of you who care deeply about education — because education was a gateway of opportunity for me, for Michelle, and for many of the people sitting here — this should be a vital decision that guides you in this upcoming election. Because even as we’ve done all this work to make sure that college is more affordable, that we’re reforming our schools, what you’ve seen on the other side and what’s been proposed by my opponent is a budget that would cut 20 percent of education funding, that would roll back tax credits that we’re providing middle-class families to help them send their kids to college, that would put billions of dollars back into the hands of banks as middlemen for the student loan program, which would then eliminate or reduce funding for Pell grants for millions of students around the country.

So, across the board, what you’ll hear from my opponent and from some of his allies in Congress is, we care deeply about education, but they don’t put their money where their mouth is. Their budget doesn’t reflect those values.

And I’m a firm believer that money alone can’t solve the problem. Parents, we have to make sure that we’re turning off the TV and providing a quiet space for our kids to do their homework. Teachers have to inspire. Principals have to lead. But ultimately, along with reform efforts, we also have to make sure that we don’t have overcrowded classrooms and textbooks that are outdated.

I was in Las Vegas talking to some wonderful teachers in a predominantly Latino district, and the teachers were telling me, at the start of school we’ve got 42 kids in the classroom. Some kids are sitting on the floor until they eventually get reassigned. They lose two weeks of instruction time just because the classrooms are so overcrowded. There are schools, particular in Latino communities, all across this country where kids are still studying in trailers. They don’t have regular classrooms, textbooks that are decades old.

Now, if we truly believe that education is the key not only for opportunity but also for making sure we can compete in this 21st century economy that is not a tolerable situation. And I put forward specific plans, with the budget behind it, to deal with these issues. And my opponent would actually roll back the process that we’ve already made.

Q Mr. President, we have time, but we have many more questions. We’re going to take a break and then we’ll be right back with many of those most important questions that Hispanics want to ask of the President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

* * *

Q We’ll continue with this special program right here because the debate commission didn’t want to have any Hispanic or African American journalists. So we decided to have our own meeting.

THE PRESIDENT: We’re thrilled to be here. (Applause.)

Q We have an education question. I think that it’s something that reminded problems our country has was the recent strike of 29,000 teachers who left 350,000 students out of school, and we have a question about that. This is a Facebook question: What is your plan to solve the present education crisis? What happened in Chicago could also happen in California and other states very soon. Are you concerned about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously what happened in Chicago was of concern, and we’re glad that it finally got resolved. But you’re going to see school districts all across the country dealing with this issue because part of what has happened over the last four years is a lot of teacher layoffs.

Now, when I first came into office, one of the most important things that we had to do was to help states and local communities not lay off teachers. And that was part of what the Recovery Act was all about — was providing states with help. Because we can’t afford to be laying off teachers when other countries are hiring teachers.

Unfortunately, though, we’ve still seen a lot of school districts lay off teachers. That has an impact on the students themselves because when you have larger classes, it’s harder to provide the individualized attention on those kids, especially at the younger grades.

This is, again, why the difference between the two candidates in this election is so important. If Governor Romney’s and Congressman Ryan’s budgets were introduced, you would see even less — by a magnitude of 20 percent — even less resources from the federal government to the states, and you could see potentially even more teachers being laid off, working conditions for teachers becoming worse, potentially more strikes.

And what we say to school districts all across the country is, we will provide you more help as long as you’re being held accountable. And as far as teachers go, I think they work as hard as anybody, but we also want to make sure that they are having high standards of performance, especially in math and science. So one of the plans that I presented at the convention was I want to hire 100,000 new math and science teachers, because that’s how teachers do better, students do better, the likelihood of strikes become lower.

Q Mr. President, I had the opportunity to watch our conversation with Mitt Romney yesterday, but previously in a video he has said that he was not concerned about the 47 percent of the population in the United States. But yesterday he said that he wanted to be the President of 100 percent of Americans. For you, which is the two is the true Mitt Romney? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s what I would say. First of all, I’ve been President now for almost four years. But the day I was elected, that night in Grant Park where I spoke to the country, I said, 47 percent of the people didn’t vote for me, but I’ve heard your voices and I’m going to work just as hard for you as I did for those who did vote for me. That’s how you have to operate as a President. I truly believe that. (Applause.)

I think your question, Jorge, about what’s the real Mitt Romney is better directed to Mr. Romney. But I will say this. When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven’t gotten around a lot, because I travel around the country all the time and the American people are the hardest working there are. (Applause.)

And their problem is not that they’re not working hard enough, or they don’t want to work, or they’re being taxed too little, or they just want to loaf around and gather government checks. We’ve gone through a challenging time. People want a hand up, not a handout.

Are there people who abuse the system? Yes, both at the bottom and at the top — because there are a whole bunch of millionaires who aren’t paying taxes at all either. (Applause.) But when you look — last point I’d make — when you look statistically, it turns out that even if people aren’t paying income taxes, they’re paying payroll taxes. They’re paying gas taxes. They’re paying sales taxes. They’re paying state and local taxes.

So the fact of the matter is that the few people who are not paying — the people who are not paying income taxes are either paying a lot of taxes because they’re working every day but they just don’t make enough money overall to pay income tax; or alternatively, they’re senior citizens; or they’re students who — I know these guys aren’t making a lot of money, even with some work-study program. (Laughter.) Or they’re disabled; or, in some cases, they’re veterans or soldiers who are fighting for us right now overseas — they don’t pay an income tax.

And so I just think it’s very important for us to understand Americans work hard, and if they’re not working right now, I promise you they want to get to work. And that’s what my economic plan is designed to do, to get more people back to work, and to lift up the middle class and people who want to work to get into the middle class. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, I am a student at the journalism school at UM. This is my question to you. What would you recommend to Latina women such as me in order to be successful in my search for employment in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you’ve got great role models here in journalism, particularly Maria Elena Salinas. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you. Because I ask you the tough questions.

THE PRESIDENT: But, look, the economy has been very tough for the last four years, and so there are a lot of young people out there who’ve graduated, have a great education, but have still had trouble getting work. The good news is over the last 30 months we’ve seen job growth every single month — 4.5 million new jobs.

The most important thing you can do, the best investment you can make to make sure you have a good job is to get a college education. So what you’re doing now cuts in half the likelihood that you end up unemployed.

The most important message, I guess I would tell you, though, is what I tell my daughters, which is that America remains a country where if you work hard and you don’t give up and you are persistent, you can succeed. And the good news is that because of some of the battles that were fought before you were born and, in some cases, before I was born, opportunity is opening up for more and more people — for women, for Latinas, Latinos, for African Americans. So you can go as far as your dreams will take you.

The big concern that I have is making sure that as you’re paying for your education, you don’t get burdened with tons of debt. And that’s why we focus so much on taking billions of dollars that were going to banks and making sure that we cut out the middlemen, provide some of these loans directly to students, or grants directly to students. And now we’re working with colleges and universities to keep tuition lower in order to make sure that when you get that first job, it may not pay everything you want — my first job, by the way, I made $10,000 a year.

So there’s nothing wrong with taking a job that doesn’t pay a lot if it’s what you’re interested in, as long as you don’t have these huge debt burdens that so many young people have now. And that’s a big contrast in this election. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, we have a question that is very important for us and also our neighbors in Mexico. You have supported the President Calderón policy against drug trafficking. Now, there’s a new President who will be taking office at the same time if you were to win. So do you think that after 65,000 deaths it’s time to change the strategy? Can you consider the 65,000 a failure and the policy should change?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously, there has been an extraordinary battle within Mexico to try to gain control over territories that, in some cases, have been just terrorized by these drug cartels. And I commend President Calderón for his courage in standing up to these cartels, and we have worked very closely and cooperatively with them in dealing with this issue.

Now, what I will be saying to the new President of Mexico when he takes office is that we want to continue that cooperation, and we recognize this is a threat on both sides of the border. We make a mistake if we just say this is Mexico’s problem because we obviously generate a lot of demand for drugs in this country, and guns and cash flow south at the same time as drugs flow north. That’s why —

Q How many more people have to die before this issue —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what we need to do is to weaken the grip of these drug cartels, and there are a couple of things we can do. Number one, the United States can focus on drug treatment and prevention, and helping people deal with addiction, making sure that young people are not getting hooked on drugs. If we can reduce demand, that means less cash flowing into these drug cartels. And we have actually beefed up our investment and support of prevention, because we have to treat this as a public health problem here in the United States, not just a law enforcement problem.

The other thing that we try to do is to work much more aggressively in preventing the flow of guns and cash down into Mexico. And so interdiction has to work both ways.

But ultimately, Mexico is also going to have to come to terms with the fact that in some communities and in some cities, law enforcement has been outgunned or compromised by the strength of these drug cartels. And we want to help them, but they’re going to also have to take action to continue to keep pressure on these drugs cartels. And that includes not just police, by the way, it also means the judiciary, their prosecutors — that if they capture drug kingpins that they actually stay in jail.

There’s a whole series of issues involved in law enforcement, and we’re proving them advice, but ultimately they’re a sovereign country and they’re going to have to take some of those steps as well. But we want to be partners with them throughout this process.

Q Mr. President, you told me during an interview that you — Eric Holder or you did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation that allowed 2,000 weapons from the United States to Mexico, and they were in drug-trafficking hands. I think that up to 100 Mexicans might have died, and also American agent, Brian Terry. There’s a report that 14 agents were responsible for the operation. But shouldn’t Attorney General Eric Holder — he should have known about that. And if he didn’t, should you fire him?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration. When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that, in fact, Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.

But what I think is most important is recognizing that we’ve got a challenge in terms of weapons flowing south. And the strategy that was pursued, obviously, out of Arizona, was completely wrongheaded. Those folks who were responsible have been held accountable. The question now is how do we move forward with a strategy that will actually work.

And we are going to have to work with Mexican law enforcement to accomplish this. But I will tell you that Eric Holder has my complete confidence because he has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we’re preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.

Q But if you have nothing to hide then why are you not releasing papers to this?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, actually, the truth is we’ve released thousands of papers —

Q But not all of them.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve released almost all of them. The ones that we don’t release typically relate to internal communications that were not related to the actual Fast and Furious operation.

And so the challenge that we have is that at any given moment in the federal government, there may be people who do dumb things. And I’ve seen it, I promise. (Laughter.) And ultimately, I’m responsible, and my key managers, including the Attorney General, are responsible, for holding those people accountable, for making sure that they are fired if they do dumb things, and then fixing the system to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. And I’m very confident that you will not see any kind of actions like this in the future.

But what I don’t like to see is these kinds of issues becoming political circuses or ways to score political points in Congress — partly because it becomes a distraction from us doing the business that we need to do for the American people.

Q Very briefly, talking about the same question — you know we have just one minute left. Why don’t just have an independent investigation? Because at the end of the day, it was just the Justice Department investigating its boss and saying that he’s not at fault. Why don’t we have — very briefly — independent investigation that is not from the Justice Department?

THE PRESIDENT: Maria Elena, understand that not only have we had multiple hearings in Congress, but the inspector general is put in place specifically to be independent from the Attorney General. And this Attorney General’s report was not a whitewash in any way. I mean, it was tough on the Justice Department. And it indicated that potentially more supervision was needed; people should have known in some cases, even if they didn’t actually know. So it was, I think, independent, honest. It was a clear assessment of what had gone wrong in that situation.

And we are happy to continue to provide the information that is relevant to this. But one of the things that happens in Washington is, very quickly these issues become political distractions as opposed to us actually solving the problems that we need to solve. And this issue of guns flowing south is a hard issue to solve. Because this country respects the Second Amendment; we want to protect the rights of gun owners and those who are seeking to purchase firearms. But oftentimes that’s exploited as well. And so we’ve got to make sure that we’re properly balancing the rights of U.S. citizens, but making sure that we’re also interdicting those arms that would get into the hands of criminals.

Q Mr. President, thank you so much. We’re going to have a last break and then we’re going to continue with a President Barack Obama. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

* * *

Q Something different, something personal. I don’t know what you’re reading before going to sleep right now. I don’t know if you have already read the book “No Easy Day,” in which a Navy SEAL tells the story of how Osama bin Laden was killed. According to many, his death was your biggest achievement. What is your biggest failure?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jorge, as you remind me, my biggest failure so far is we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done. (Laughter.) So we’re going to be continuing to work on that. (Applause.) But it’s not for lack of trying or desire, and I’m confident we’re going to accomplish that.

Obviously the fact that we haven’t been able to change the tone in Washington is disappointing. We know now that as soon as I came into office you already had meetings among some of our Republican colleagues saying, how do we figure out how to beat the President. And I think that I’ve learned some lessons over the last four years, and the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. That’s how I got elected, and that’s how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out. That’s how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families.

So something that I’d really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people so that they can put pressure on Congress to help move some of these issues forward. (Applause.)

Q Yes, as you said, that’s your biggest failure and Jorge asked you do you consider that you broke your promise. So I think the answer is, yes, with many excuses, but you actually broke your promise.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I will say this — what I’ll say is that — that I haven’t gotten everything done that I wanted to get done. And that’s why I’m running for a second term — because we’ve still got more work to do. (Applause.)

The good news is I think that we can build on the progress that we’ve made. The actions we took in terms of deferred action give us the basis now to get something done for the DREAMers, to get comprehensive immigration reform done.

The progress that we’ve made in helping young people finance their college educations serves as a basis for us to continue to try to bring tuition down and college graduation rates up. The 4.5 million jobs that we’ve already created gives us the basis for us now doubling down on manufacturing, and making sure that community colleges are training people for the jobs that are out there right now. The opportunities that we have in implementing health care — which is going to be providing millions of Americans, including millions of Latinos, for the first time, who’ve worked so hard, the peace of mind of knowing that they have affordable health care.

All those issues are ones that we’re very proud of, but we know we’re not done yet. And that’s exactly why this election is going to be so important.

Q Mr. President, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. And as we said yesterday, we did the same with Mitt Romney, and we want to give you the opportunity for you to talk to our audience on camera. So you can talk to Hispanics to try to convince them, for them to vote for you.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is my pleasure. Thank you so much for the time that you’ve given me and for this audience. And the U of Miami, thank you. We appreciate you. (Applause.)

I truly believe this is the most important election of our lifetimes. We’ve gone through some very tough times together over these last four years. But now we’ve got a choice about how we move forward.

My opponents, they think that if we provide tax cuts to folks at the very top, that somehow that’s going to result in jobs and opportunity for everybody. I’ve got a different philosophy. What I believe is, is that our economy grows best when it grows from the middle out and the bottom up; when everybody has got a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.

And so the plan that I put forward in terms of making sure that we are creating a million manufacturing jobs, that we’re providing tax breaks to companies that are investing and hiring here in the United States as opposed to shipping jobs overseas, the plan to make sure that we continue to expand opportunities for young people, making college affordable, hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers, an energy strategy that says, yes, we’re going to increase production of oil and gas and continue to cut our oil imports but also we’re developing wind power and solar power that will create new jobs and help to clean our environment, and the plan to reduce our deficit in a way that’s balanced so that we’re not providing tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that result in massive cuts in education or that would somehow turn Medicare into a voucher — those plans that I’ve put forward I’m confident can work, but they can only work with you.

So one thing that I saw in 2008 is that when the American people come together and decide that they are going to fight for the values and ideals that made this country great, we can’t be stopped. And I would urge everybody who is watching to look at my plan, look at Mr. Romney’s plan — compare who has got a better answer for middle-class families and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

And for the Latino community, I would say that the work that we’ve done on education, on immigration, on housing, on putting people back to work, on making sure that small businesses have access to financing — those are all issues that are representative of what you care about, your values. But you’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to make sure that you express that with your ballot.

So I would urge you to vote and I would ask you to vote for me and Democrats up and down the ticket. I think it will deliver for you in the future.

Thank you so much. (Applause.)

END
2:11 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Headlines September 16, 2012: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on NBC’s Meet the Press Says Iran Is ’20 Yards’ From Nuclear Bomb

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

September 16: Benjamin Netanyahu, Susan Rice, Keith Ellison, Peter King, Bob Woodward, Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrea Mitchell

Source: MSNBC, 9-16-12

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  This morning, a special hour of MEET THE PRESS.  Turmoil in the Middle East creates a flashpoint on the campaign trail.  Set off by an American anti-Islamic video, rage against the U.S. sweeps the Arab world.  And an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya kills ambassador Chris Stephens and three others.

(Videotape)

HILLARY CLINTON:  The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  But in this highly-charged campaign environment new questions about how the Obama administration should respond enter the political debate.

(Videotape)

MR. MITT ROMNEY:  The administration was wrong to stand by statements sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  This morning we’ll talk to a key member of the president’s foreign policy team–the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Also, this morning, an exclusive network interview with a key player in the Middle East–the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Has relations between his country and the U.S. have at a new low over the looming nuclear threat from Iran?

(Videotape)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:  Those in the international community that refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Sorting out U.S. options in the Middle East, consequences for the region, and the political impact in November–our political roundtable.  Joining us, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, Democratic Representative from Minnesota Keith Ellison; the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, New York Republican congressman Peter King; Author of the new book, The Price of Politics, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward; the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg; and NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Announcer:  From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

GREGORY:  And good morning.  Relative calm this morning in the Middle East after several days of intense anti-American protests raged across many parts of the Islamic world.  But word this morning that the Obama administration has ordered the evacuation of all but emergency personnel from diplomatic missions in Tunisia and Sudan.  And defense secretary Leon Panetta saying this morning, the Pentagon has deployed forces to several areas in an increased effort to protect U.S. personnel and property from the potential of violent protests, the latest consequences, of course, of this troubling unrest.  Joining me now for the very latest, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.  Ambassador Rice, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MS. SUSAN RICE (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations):  Thank you, good to be here.

GREGORY:  The images as you well know are jarring to Americans watching all of this play out this week, and we’ll share the map of all of this turmoil with our viewers to show the scale of it across not just the Arab world, but the entire Islamic world and flashpoints as well.  In Egypt, of course, the protests outside the U.S. embassy there that Egyptian officials were slow to put down.  This weekend in Pakistan, protests as well there.  More anti-American rage.  Also protests against the drone strikes.  In Yemen, you also had arrests and some deaths outside of our U.S. embassy there.  How much longer can Americans expect to see these troubling images and these protests go forward?

MS. RICE:  Well, David, we can’t predict with any certainty.  But let’s remember what has transpired over the last several days.  This is a response to a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.  Obviously, our view is that there is absolutely no excuse for violence and that– what has happened is condemnable, but this is a– a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it’s not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with The Satanic Verses with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.  Now, the United States has made very clear and the president has been very plain that our top priority is the protection of American personnel in our facilities and bringing to justice those who…

GREGORY:  All right.

MS. RICE:  …attacked our facility in Benghazi.

GREGORY:  Well, let’s talk– talk about– well, you talked about this as spontaneous.  Can you say definitively that the attacks on– on our consulate in Libya that killed ambassador Stevens and others there security personnel, that was spontaneous, was it a planned attack?  Was there a terrorist element to it?

MS. RICE:  Well, let us– let me tell you the– the best information we have at present.  First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing.  And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired.  But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.  What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.  Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now.  We’ll await the results of the investigation.  And the president has been very clear–we’ll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

GREGORY:  Was there a failure here that this administration is responsible for, whether it’s an intelligence failure, a failure to see this coming, or a failure to adequately protect U.S. embassies and installations from a spontaneous kind of reaction like this?

MS. RICE:  David, I don’t think so.  First of all we had no actionable intelligence to suggest that– that any attack on our facility in Benghazi was imminent.  In Cairo, we did have indications that there was the risk that the video might spark some– some protests and our embassy, in fact, acted accordingly, and had called upon the Egyptian authorities to– to reinforce our facility.  What we have seen as– with respect to the security response, obviously we had security personnel in Benghazi, a– a significant number, and tragically, among those four that were killed were two of our security personnel.  But what happened, obviously, overwhelmed the security we had in place which is why the president ordered additional reinforcements to Tripoli and– and why elsewhere in the world we have been working with governments to ensure they take up their obligations to protect us and we reinforce where necessary.

GREGORY:  The president and the secretary of state have talked about a mob mentality.  That’s my words, not their words, but they talked about the– the tyranny of mobs operating in this part of the world.  Here’s the reality, if you look at foreign aid–U.S. direct foreign aid to the two countries involved here, in Libya and Egypt, this is what you’d see: two hundred million since 2011 to Libya, over a billion a year to Egypt and yet Americans are seeing these kinds of protests and attacks on our own diplomats.  Would– what do you say to members of congress who are now weighing whether to suspend our aid to these countries if this is the response that America gets?

MS. RICE:  Well, first of all, David, let’s put this in perspective.  As I said, this is a response to a– a very offensive video.  It’s not the first time that American facilities have come under attack in the Middle East, going back to 1982 in– in Beirut, going back to the Khobar Towers in– in Saudi Arabia, or even the attack on our embassy in 2008 in Yemen.

GREGORY:  Or Iran in 1979.

MS. RICE:  This has– this has happened in the past, but there– and so I don’t think that– that we should misunderstand what this is.  The reason we provide aid in Egypt and in Libya is because it serves American interests because the relationships…

GREGORY:  But– but our Americans are not being served if this is the response.

MS. RICE:  It serves our interests to have Egypt willing and able to– to maintain its peace treaty with Israel, it servers our interest for Egypt to continue to be a strong partner.  Now, let’s be clear, the government, once President Obama called President Morsi, immediately in Egypt the security forces came out and have provided very significant protection.  Same in Tunisia, same in Libya, same in Yemen.  And all of these leaders have very forcefully conveyed their condemnation of what has transpired.

GREGORY:  But there were conflicting messages from the Morsi government.  In Arabic they encourage protests, in English they said stop the protests.  This from an ally that we give over a billion dollars?

MS. RICE:  What has happened in fact is that the Egyptian government has come out and protected our facilities.  Our embassy is open today, things are calm.  And Morsi has repeatedly been clear in his condemnation of– of what has occurred.  We– we are in these partnerships, David, over the long-term.  We think that– that– despite this very bumpy path we’re on and the very disturbing images we’ve seen, it’s in the United States fundamental interest that people have the ability to choose their own governments, that the governments be democratic and free.  That’s in our long-term best interest.

GREGORY:  You know that this…

MS. RICE:  We need to reinforce that with our assistance.

GREGORY:  We are in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, there are different foreign policy visions.  That’s why we wanted to dedicate the hour to this today to really understand these different views.  Mitt Romney spoke out this week, he criticized the administration, talked about whether the United States was apologizing for some of the initial response to this.  These were his comments this week.

(Videotape; Wednesday)

MR. MITT ROMNEY:  The administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions.  I think it’s a– a– a terrible course to– for America to– to stand in apology for our values.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Our embassies did not stand up for speech– free speech in this initial response to this violence.  And the Republican charge is that it’s weakness on the part of this administration that invites this kind of chaos, that the administration has not been tough enough on radical extremists that are beginning to take root in these countries.  How do you respond to that?

MS. RICE:  First of all, I think the American people and certainly our diplomats and– and development experts who are putting their lives on the line around the world every day expect from our leadership unity in times of challenge and strong, steady, steadfast leadership of the sort that President Obama has been providing.  With respect to this, I think, vacuous charge of weakness, let’s– lets recall, I think, the American people fully understand that this is an administration led by a president who said when he ran for office that he would take the fight to al Qaeda.  We have decimated al Qaeda.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  He said we would end the war responsibly in Iraq.  We’ve done that.  He has restored relationships around the world.  I spend every day up at the United Nations where I have to interact with 192 other countries.  I know how well the United States is viewed.  I know that our standing is much improved and it’s translated into important support for strong American positions, for example with sanctions against Iran.

GREGORY:  Was it inappropriate for Governor Romney to level the criticism he leveled?

MS. RICE:  I’m not going to get into politics, David.  That’s not my role in this job.  But I think the American people welcome and appreciate strong, steady, unified leadership, bipartisan in times of challenge.  And for those men and women in our diplomatic service, including those we tragically lost, they look to our leadership to be unified and responsible.

GREGORY:  Let’s talk about another area where the administration is on the defensive in terms of leadership in the world, and that is the nuclear threat from Iran.  Another area of tension between the United States and Israel.  In just a couple of minutes we will show our interview with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.  And our viewers will see that.  One aspect is how close Iran is getting to becoming a nuclear power.  I asked him about that.  I want to show you a piece of the interview and get your reaction to it.

(Videotape)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Prime Minister of Israel):  I can tell you, David, that Iran has been placed with some clear red lines on a few matters, and they have avoided crossing them.  So I think that as they get closer and closer and closer to the achievement of the weapons-grade material, and they’re very close, they’re six months away from being about 90 percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb, I think that you have to place that red line before them now, before it’s– it’s too late.

GREGORY:  As the prime minister of Israel, has Iran crossed your red line?

MR. NETANYAHU:  Well, the way I would say it, David, is they are in the red zone.  You know, they are in the last 20 yards.  And you can’t let them cross that goal line.  You can’t let them score a touchdown, because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences, for the peace and security of us all– of the world really.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  What is President Obama’s line in the sand, the point at which he says to Iran don’t cross this with your nuclear program or there’s going to be a military consequence?

MS. RICE:  David, the president has been very, very clear.  Our bottom line, if you want to call it a red line, president’s bottom line has been that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon and we will take no option off the table to ensure that it does not acquire a nuclear weapon, including the military option.

GREGORY:  The prime minister says…

MS. RICE:  But…

GREGORY:  …they are acquiring.

MS. RICE:  …he’s talking about a– a red zone which is a new concept…

GREGORY:  No, no, but he’s talking about how close they are to actually becoming a nuclear power–having to develop a capacity to become a nuclear power.

MS. RICE:  They’re not there yet.  They are not there yet.  And our assessment is, and– and we share this regularly with our Israeli counterparts in the intelligence and defense community, that there is time and space for the pressure we are mounting, which is unprecedented in terms of sanctions, to still yield results.  This is not imminent.  The window is not infinite, but let’s be clear–the sanctions that– that are now in place reached their high point in July.  The– the Iranian economy is suffering.  It’s shrinking for the first time.  Negative one percent growth.  The amount of production of Iranian oil has dropped 40 percent over the last several months.  Their currency has plummeted 40 percent over the last several months.  This pressure is even to use the Iranian’s own words crippling.

GREGORY:  But can you say…

MS. RICE:  And we think…

GREGORY:  …that President Obama’s strategy to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon almost at the end of his first term is succeeding or failing?

MS. RICE:  David, what is clear is Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.  And that Iran is more isolated than ever internationally.  The economic pressure it is facing is much greater than ever.  When President Obama came to office the international community was divided about Iran.  And Iran was internally very united.  The exact opposite is the case today.  The international community is united.  We just had another strong resolution out of the IAEA Board of Governors.  And the internal dynamics in Iran are– are fracturing and the leadership is divided.  We are committed and President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  It is not a policy of containment.  But, David, the most difficult and profound decision that any president has to make is the decision to go to war.  And this president is committed to exhausting pressure, economic pressure, and diplomacy while there is– is still time before making a decision of such consequence.

GREGORY:  Ambassador Rice, the debate continues.  Thank you very much…

MS. RICE:  Thank you.

GREGORY: …for your views this morning.

Now to this looming nuclear threat from Iran from the Israeli perspective.  There were new tensions between the Obama administration in Israel this week.  Earlier, I spoke with the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu about where things stand and whether he is trying to influence the outcome of our presidential campaign.

Prime Minister, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  Good to be with you, David.

GREGORY:  I want to talk specifically before we get to the questions of what’s happening more broadly in the Middle East and the turmoil there this week about the threat from Iran.  You spoke about that this week, and this question of whether Israel has to take matters into its own hands.  And you launched pretty pointed criticism at the United States.  I want to play a portion of what you said.

(Videotape; Monday)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:  The world tells Israel, wait.  There’s still time.  And I say, wait for what?  Wait until when?  Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.

(End videotape)

GREGORY:  Prime Minister, I want to understand very clearly what your views are.  Is it your view that the Obama administration is either unwilling or unable to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Now first of all, President Obama and the U.S. administration have repeatedly said that Israel has the right to act by itself against any threat to defend itself.  And I think that that remains our position.  And for me, the issue is– as the prime minister of a country that is threatened with annihilation by a regime that is racing a brutal regime in Tehran that is racing to develop nuclear bombs for that and, obviously, we– we cannot delegate the job of stopping Iran if all else fails to someone else.  That was the main point that I was saying there.  It was directed at the general international community.  A lot of leaders calling me telling me don’t do it, it’s not necessary.  You know, the danger of acting is much greater than not acting.  And I always say the danger of not acting in time is much greater because Iran with nuclear weapons would mean that the kind of fanaticism that you see storming your embassies would have a nuclear weapon.  Don’t let these fanatics have nuclear weapons.

GREGORY:  But Prime Minister, let’s be clear.  You were upset with this administration.  The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said in an interview that there were no deadlines by this administration in terms of what Iran should or shouldn’t do by a date certain.  That’s what led to those remarks.  And so my question still stands.  Is it your view that this administration is either unwilling or unable to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  No.  President Obama has said that he’s determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and I appreciate that and I respect that.  I think implicit in that is that if you’re determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, it means you’ll act before they get nuclear weapons.  I just think that it’s important to communicate to Iran that there is a line that they won’t cross.  I think a red line in this case works to reduce the chances of the need for military action because once the Iranians understand that there’s no– there’s a line that they can’t cross, they are not likely to cross it, you know, when President Kennedy set a red line in the Cuban missile crisis, he was criticized.  But it turned out it didn’t bring war, it actually pushed war back and probably purchased decades of peace with the Soviet Union.  Conversely, when there was no American red line set before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and maybe that war could have been avoided.  And I can tell you David that Iran has been placed with some clear red lines on a few matters and they have avoided crossing them.  So I think that as they get closer and closer and closer to the achievement of weapons grade material, and they are very close, they are six months away from being about ninety percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb, I think that you have to place that red line before them now before it’s– it’s too late.  That was the point that I was making.

GREGORY:  As a prime minister of Israel, has Iran crossed your red line?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Well, the way I would say it David is they are in the red zone.  You know, they are in the last 20 yards.  And you can’t let them cross that goal line.  You can’t let them score a touchdown because that would have unbelievable consequences, grievous consequences, for the peace and security of us all– of the world really.

GREGORY:  That seems to be a newer development from your way of thinking that they are now in a red zone.  And to use– to use the sports metaphor, you won’t let them cross the– the goal line.  Is Israel closer to taking action into its own hands?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  We always reserve the right to act.  But I think that if we are able to coordinate together a common position, we increase the chances that neither one of us will have to act.  Iran is very cognizant of the fact of its degrees of freedom and as the IAEA report says not only have they not stopped, they have actually rushed forward– they’re rushing forward with their enrichment program.  And I think it’s very important to make it clear to them that they can’t just proceed with impunity.

GREGORY:  Your criticism, your calling on President Obama to set this red line, comes in the middle of a heated presidential campaign.  You understand the American political system very well.  You’re very sophisticated in that regard.  In your view, would Governor Mitt Romney as President Romney make Israel safer?  Would he take a harder line against Iran than President Obama in your judgment?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  God, I’m– I’m not going to be drawn into the American election.  And– and what’s guiding my statements are– is not the American political calendar but the Iranian nuclear calendar.  They’re just– you know, if they stop spinning the centrifuges for– and took timeout for the American elections, I wouldn’t have to talk.  And I wouldn’t have to raise this issue.  But as the prime minister of Israel, knowing that this country committed to our destruction is getting closer to the goal of having weapons of mass destruction then I speak out.  And it’s got– it’s really not a partisan political issue.  And I think it’s important for anyone who is the president of the United States to be in that position of preventing Iran from having this nuclear weapons– nuclear weapons capability.  And I’m talking to the president.  I just talked to him the other day.  We are in close consultations.  We’re trying to prevent that.  It’s really not a partisan issue.  It’s a policy issue not a political issue.

GREGORY:  Well, but it may not be a partisan issue.  You have known Mitt Romney a long time.  The reality is– tell me if you disagree that Governor Romney just in an interview this week said that his position is very much the same as President Obama.  They are both committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Not just as an impartial observer, as the prime minister of Israel, do you agree with that that both the president and his challenger have the same view with regard to preventing Iran from going nuclear?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  I have no doubt that they are equally committed to preventing that.  It’s a– it’s a vital American interest.  It’s a– it’s an existential interest on my case so, this isn’t the issue.  We are united on this across the board.

GREGORY:  Why can’t Iran be contained just as the Soviet Union was?  There are those in your country and in the United States who believe that a containment strategy would actually work?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  I think Iran is very different.  They put their zealotry above their survival.  They have suicide bombers all over the place.  I wouldn’t rely on their rationality, you know, you– since the advent of nuclear weapons, you had countries that had access to nuclear weapons who always made a careful calculation of cost and benefit.  But Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism.  It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today.  You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?  I mean, I’ve heard some people suggest, David, I actually I read this in the American press.  They said, well, you know, if you take action, that’s– that’s a lot worse than having Iran with nuclear weapons.  Some have even said that Iran with nuclear weapons would stabilize the Middle East– stabilize the Middle East.  I– I think the people who say this have set a new standard for human stupidity.  We have to stop them.  Don’t rely on containment.  That is not the American policy.  It would be wrong.  It would be a grave, grave mistake.  Don’t let these fanatics have nuclear weapons.  It’s terrible for Israel and it’s terrible for America.  It’s terrible for the world.

GREGORY:  Prime Minister, one more question on the American election.  You have been accused this week by pundits in this country of trying to interfere in this presidential election, siding with Governor Mitt Romney.  Now, Governor Romney for a year, and he said it in his convention speech, has said, quote, “President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”  Do you agree or disagree with Governor Romney’s charge?  It’s a serious charge.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Well, you’re– you’re trying to get me into the– into the American election and I’m not going to do that.  The relationship between Israel and the United States is a bond of– it’s just a very powerful bond.  It was, it is, and will be and will continue to be.  And I– I can tell you there’s no one– there’s no leader in the world who’s more appreciative than me of the strength of this alliance.  It’s very strong.  There’s no one in Israel who appreciates more than me the importance of American support for Israel.  It’s not a partisan issue.  In fact, we cherish the bipartisan support of Democrats and Republicans alike.  This is critical for us.

GREGORY:  But prime minister, with respect, if I may just interrupt you…

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  And– and I think it’s critical that we take…

GREGORY:  I think this is a very important point because you say you don’t want to interfere in the election.  There are tens of millions of Americans who are watching that speech, who hear that rhetoric, who hear that charge, who may not understand the complexities of this issue.  You are the leader of the Jewish people.  You say this is not a partisan issue.  You get billions of dollars from direct foreign investment from this country, hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans, Jews and Christians alike from this country.  It seems to me for you to remain silent on whether this administration has thrown Israel under the bus is tantamount to agreeing with the sentiment.  So where do you come down on that specific charge against President Obama?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Now, there you go again, David, you’re trying to draw me into something that– that is simply not– not the case and it’s not my position.  My position is that we– we have strong cooperation.  We’ll continue to cooperate.  We’re the best of allies.  And Israel is the one reliable ally of the United States in the Middle East…

GREGORY:  So President Obama has not thrown Israel under the bus?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  …if that wasn’t understood until yesterday.  So it’s– it’s– there’s– there’s no bus, and we’re not going to get into that discussion, except to say one thing.  We have a strong alliance and we’re going to continue to have a strong alliance.  I think the important question is where does the– the only bus that is really important is the Iranian nuclear bus.  That’s the one that we have to– to derail.  And that’s my interest.  That’s my– my only interest.

GREGORY:  Final question on the broader Middle East and what we’re seeing this week.  This anti-American and indeed anti-Israeli rage throughout the Middle East attacking our embassy, killing a United States ambassador as you well know.  What has been unleashed and what can United States and its allies specifically do to contain it?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Well, look, I– I– I think people focus on the spark.  The spark of reprehensible and irresponsible film is a– is a spark, but it’s not– it doesn’t explain anything.  I mean, it doesn’t explain 9/11.  It doesn’t explain the decades of animosity and the grievances that go back centuries.  In fact, there’s a tinderbox of hatred here from a virulent strain of Islam that takes moderate Muslims and Arabs and attacks them first but seeks to deprive all of us of the basic– the basic values that we have.  They’re against the human rights.  They’re against the rights of women.  They’re against freedom of religion.  They’re against freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  They’re against all the things that we value.  They’re against tolerance.  They’re against– they’re against pluralism, and they’re against freedom.  And they’re– they’re– they view not your policies but you, the very existence of United States and its values, and by extension Israel.  They view that as an intolerable crime.  And we have to understand that.  We have to deal with it.  And we have to be the close support because in– in this vast expanse of land, you can understand why they are so– so antagonistic to us because for them we are you and you are us.  And at least on this point they’re right.

GREGORY:  Finally, prime minister, did you feel snubbed not getting a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in New York during the upcoming U.N. meetings?  Would you like to have that face-to-face encounter?  Would it be helpful to your relationship at this point?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  You know, I’m always pleased and– and happy to have a conversation with President Obama.  He’s– I think he’s met me more than any other leader in the world and I– I appreciate that.  We’ve had our discussions.  Our– our schedules on this visit didn’t work out.  I come to New York and he leaves New York.  But we continue in close consultations.  We have urgent business, Israel and America, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.  I think it’s important to delineate a red line for Iran so we’re not faced with a conundrum of what to do if we don’t place a red line and they just proceed to the bomb.

GREGORY:  Prime minister, thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you, to all of you.

GREGORY:  Coming up next, our political roundtable on the political impact of this turmoil in the Middle East.  Is it a case of weakness on the part of this administration?  Did Governor Romney go too far in that criticism?  Our political roundtable is here and we’ll weigh in.  Democratic congressman from Minnesota, Keith Ellison; Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King of New York;  The Washington Post’s, Bob Woodward; Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine; and our own Andrea Mitchell.

(Announcements)

GREGORY:  Coming up our political roundtable.  Was this week that 3:00 AM phone call moment for Romney?  What is his response to the turmoil in the Middle East say about his readiness to be president?  Our roundtable weighs in up next after this brief break.

(Announcements)

GREGORY:  And we’re back with our political roundtable.  Joining me national correspondent for The Atlantic, a journalist who’d spent his career covering the Middle East, Jeff Goldberg; NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell; associate editor for The Washington Post and author of the new groundbreaking book The Price of Politics, Bob Woodward; Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York; and the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.  Welcome to all of you.  These are very difficult times for this country and for the Middle East.  There’s a question I think that Americans have of what is going on here.  Why is this happening?  And it’s happening, Jeff Goldberg, in a heated presidential debate.  And so you have accusations and response, and we’ve seen that play out already in the course of this hour.  Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, launched a very serious attack that indeed Governor Romney amplified on.  And she wrote in the Wall Street Journal–I want to show it to our viewers and get discussion about it here.  In too many parts of the world, she writes, America is no longer viewed as a reliable ally or an enemy to be feared… Nor do our adversaries any longer fear us.  Ask the mobs in Cairo who attacked our embassy or the Libyan mobs who killed our diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  Ask the Iranians who make unhindered daily progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon.

MR. JEFF GOLDBERG (National Correspondent, The Atlantic):  Well, I mean, a couple of quick points.  The first is, you know, to be fair, 9/11 happened during the Bush administration, the Bush-Cheney administration.  So it’s not as if people– Muslim radicals feared the United States during that period, not when they were killing thousands of American troops in Iraq certainly.  I mean, the larger point is that– that, you know, there’s a tendency, especially seven weeks out from an election, to turn this in– turn everything that happens in the world into an election issue.  There are some very, very deep and troubling things going on in– in the Middle East that have very little to do with what a president does or doesn’t do.  I mean, let’s– let’s be fair about this.  You– you– you have a complete upheaval in the Middle East.  You don’t have American policymakers being able to shape the way Muslims think about the world, about modernity, about the United States.  So– so to blame the president for– for an attack on– on these embassies, I think, is a bit much.

GREGORY:  Congressman…

REP. PETER KING (R-NY/Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security):  Yeah.

GREGORY: …as a Republican here, supporter of Governor Romney…

REP. KING:  Yes.

GREGORY:  …is this American weakness that brought this on?  Is that the Republican view?  Is that what the view of President Romney would be?

REP. KING:  Well, my view is it was a large component of it.  There has been– this president’s policy– President Obama’s policy has been confusing.  It’s been apologetic, and it’s been misguided.  From the day he started his apology tour back in 2009 where he was, no matter what people say, apologizing for America, somehow suggesting that we’ve been anti-Islam until he became the president throughout– the fact that– even talking about Iraq, the way he took our troops out of Iraq without even getting the status of forces agreement.  He was given a glide path in Iraq.  And yet he pulled the troops out, brags about the fact that troops are out, gives a definite date for getting out in Afghanistan.  What he is doing by that is telling our allies they can’t trust us and he’s also telling unaligned that the U.S. is not a reliable ally.  And the fact that you would have the prime minister of Israel on this show explaining his relationship with the president of the United States at a time of such turmoil in the Middle East, we have never had a situation like this where there has been such a disconnect between the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister.  And the fact that he won’t even meet with him at the U.N., while he’s going to meet with President Morsi, sends terrible signals.

GREGORY:  Well, to– to be fair, the prime minister of Israel did not describe that as a stub– snub in that interview.

REP. KING:  I’m saying it.  I’m saying, I’m saying.

GREGORY:  You’re saying, okay.  Congressman, your response?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN):  Well, it’s ridiculous.  The president has been consistent.  He’s been steady.  And he’s had progress in the policy wins in the Middle East.  I mean, this is a seriously deeply rooted phenomenon, the Arab Spring that is going to be unfolding for a long time.  And the last thing we need is to start making quick emo– emotionally-charged decisions.  We need consistent steady leadership like the president has shown.

GREGORY:  But there is a policy component, Andrea and Bob, to this.  The New York Times writes about it in an analysis piece this morning.  I want to put a portion of that on the screen because it does provide some context here.  The upheaval over an anti-Islam video has suddenly become Mr. Obama’s most serious foreign policy crisis of the election season and a range of analysts say it presents questions about central tenets of his Middle East policy:  Did he do enough during the Arab Spring to help the transition to democracy from autocracy?  Has he drawn a hard enough line against Islamic extremists?  Did his administration fail to address security concerns?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL (Host, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”):  Well, first of all, I think we have to exce– concede that George Herbert Walker Bush’s relationship with the then prime minister of Israel was arguably much worse than what we’re seeing now.  So, Republicans as well as Democrats have had difficulty, Congressman, in the past with Israel.  That..,

REP. KING:  It’s always the post-9/11 world.

MS. MITCHELL:  ..but that said…

REP. KING:  There’s never been a relationship like this.

MS. MITCHELL:  …that said.  I think there can be a legitimate criticism that this president has not handled the Israeli-Palestinian issue well, but the Arab Spring has been a much greater, much broader troubling issue that arguably not any American president could handle very effectively.  That is not the argument.  That is not the policy argument that– that Mitt Romney has made.  Mitt Romney’s– the criticism of Mitt Romney is coming largely from many Republicans whom I talked to, foreign policy experts, who say that in the middle of the crisis when the state department did not know where Ambassador Stevens was, when the body was missing, that he came out with a written statement and doubled down on it the next morning and that it was not presidential, it did not show leadership.  That is the criticism…

REP. KING:  When he put out the statement, he didn’t know that the ambassador had been shot.

MS. MITCHELL:  But then he shouldn’t have put out a statement, you know, the argue…

REP. KING:  Well, first up– that’s exactly the problem.  Entire project– I mean, if you don’t know something, how can you– I mean, it’s not (Unintelligible).

MS. MITCHELL:  But silence is often a good choice.  Peggy Noonan said that as well.

REP. ELLISON:  What about waiting until you know more?  I mean, what about Reagan?  Reagan said, you know, when we have a crisis like this, we should all come together as Americans and not sort of– divide up politically and try to seek a– a point.

REP. KING:  You know, sometimes wait…

REP. ELLISON:  That was in– that was a– that was a sad moment.

REP. KING:  President Obama waited three days after the underwear bomber before he made a statement, and then he came out and said, this was a sole individual…

GREGORY:  All right, let me get Bob to weigh in.

REP. KING:  …al Qaeda operation.

MR. BOB WOODWARD (Associate Editor, Washington Post):  There’s a way to look at this neutrally, and I– I just don’t think the charge of weakness will stick.  I mean, Obama’s been tough on these things.  Let’s be realistic.  The extremists in the Middle East who are causing all of this trouble are extremists.  And no Republican, no Democratic president is going to be able to control them.  The question is, what’s the policy and what’s the response?  And you deal in the intelligence world and you ask the experts about this and they’ll say you never know.  Ten people are going to come together and take over an embassy, shoot someone and so forth.  So the idea that government can– has the puppet strings here is- is just–

(Cross talk)

GREGORY:  But couldn’t we’ve done well with– well, but let’s get– gentleman, let’s get to the point.  Where…

MR. GOLDBERG:  Yeah.

GREGORY:  Where are the extremists who are– who are protesting about the fact that Muslims are being killed in Syria every day, as you don’t see those protests?  Is this about the United States or is it about them?

MR. GOLDBERG:  It’s about everything.  I mean, the truth is it’s about everything.  It’s unfolding.  It’ll be unfolding for a generation.  And you’re right.  I mean, you don’t see– you don’t see that level of anxiety directed at Syria.  Hundred– in the last week, hundreds of Syrian Muslims have been killed by the Syrian regime.  And you don’t see Syrian embassies being attacked.  Obviously– obviously– obviously, if you’re– you know, we talked so much about the Arab street, how the Arab street feels about America.  We– we have to start talking about the American street too, because this is going to have consequences for these governments that we support.  You know, we Americans see these countries that are– that we provide billions of dollars who’re not protecting our embassies, and they’re eventually going to say, the American people can say enough already with this.

REP. ELLISON:  This is a good time to realize that the so-called Arab street is not one monolithic thing.  You have some people in, say, Libya, for example, who are pro– holding up signs, apologizing for what happened to Chris Stevens.

GREGORY:  Right.  We have some of them.  Yeah.

REP. ELLISON:  Yeah.  And– and– and, we– we need to understand that this is not– everybody’s not on the same side.  You have some radicals who want to push back.  Some con– some of– some loyalists from the old regime, some extremists, who want to exploit the situation, and you have people who want a Democratic society.  They’re both contesting for who’s going to come out and the United States should stay on their side.

REP. KING:  But– but how do we appeal to the wrong people in the Middle East by somehow exalting this whole– this whole idea of the video being the cause of the– of the riot?

REP. ELLISON:  It’s a spark.  It’s not a cause.

REP. KING:  Okay.  But for us to be saying somehow putting that on the equivalence of the American policy or to say that our policy in this country can be determined by a fanatical Christian minister in the South or radical Islamist mobs in the Middle East, then I think, the president can do more.

MS. MITCHELL:  I– I agree with that.

REP. KING:  The president should be dealing with the–

GREGORY:  But, Congressman, is it responsible for Mitt Romney to say that a President Romney could have stopped this from happening?

REP. KING:  I think it’s responsible for him to say that he would set a policy which would not be as confusing as this one.  Why (Unintelligible) with President Morsi?  Why didn’t the next day the president even mention President Morsi?  He come out to not say a word about the fact that our supposed ally–he doesn’t even know if he’s an ally or not–was getting a billion dollars not to defend our embassy in Cairo.  The president did not mention that.

REP. ELLISON:  But when the president called– but when the president called, Morsi listened.

REP. KING:  But for the single (cross talk) said nothing about it…

REP. ELLISON:  And I– and I wouldn’t…

(Cross talk)

REP. KING:  No, everyone is being critical of Mitt Romney.

GREGORY:  Okay, good.

REP. KING:  President Obama made his statement, he did not even mention the failure of leadership in Egypt.

MS. MITCHELL:  Well, Congressman, you’re absolutely correct.  I think that it is easy for the administration to try to point to the film.  There is a much broader issue, as Jeffrey and– and Bob has– have been pointing to.  The world is changing and it is changing too rapidly for any American leadership to figure out what to do.  There is going to be a big argument over foreign aid, you know that.  And whether or not that is even a sensible argument is another question.  They have a big problem with Morsi.  Morsi needs economic aid.  He has, I’ve been told, reached out to the New York economic club.  He wants to give a speech here in 10 days.  He knows he needs the IMF.  He knows he needs the United States.  But he’s trying at the same time to placate the radical elements in the brotherhood.

GREGORY:  Let me…

MR. WOODWARD:  But– but the core problem is there’re angry people out there.  And you can’t identify them.  And the– the idea that you’re going to have a government policy to deal with angry people in a– in a way that will suppress them just is not going to happen.

GREGORY:  Let me get a break in here– let me get a break in here.  We’ll come back with the roundtable.  More on this, the political impact right in the middle of the campaign.  More with our roundtable right after this.

(Announcements)

GREGORY:  We’re back with our roundtable.  Some context here–look at this polling from CNN/ORC–better at handling foreign policy, a big advantage for President Obama as we go into these presidential debates.  Jeffrey Goldberg?

MR. GOLDBERG:  You know, I– I was troubled by something that Susan Rice said before, which is talking about how people are offended by this movie and sort of apologizing for this– this film.  I think there’s a– there’s a perpetual grievance machine working in the Middle East.  Bob– Bob points this out.  People will be angry no matter what.  And– and at a certain point, I think the administration should just say, look, we have free speech in America.  It is part of our value system.  You know, opp– opposition to blasphemy is part of your value system and we respect that as long as you do it peacefully, but we have free speech in our country and we’re going to stand up for our liberal western values.

MR. KING:  Suppose tomorrow with Salman Rushdie, we going to back down on that also, yeah.

MR. GOLDBERG:  No.  Exactly.  You want to be– you want to stand very strongly.  And you want to also support liberal thought in the Middle East and that means engaging with– you have to remember most Muslims in the Middle East aren’t attacking American embassies, many want to be– have more liberal open society.

GREGORY:  Congressman Ellison, is our only leverage in the United States money and foreign aid?

REP. ELLISON:  Absolutely not.  We have a lot of influence in terms of culture, in terms of just the way America is a democratic society.  We should use that.  They, as a matter of fact, all the protests we saw were for people reaching for a greater level of democracy.  But foreign aid is a part of it.  And I think that for us to threaten to snatch aid now is dangerous and a bad idea.

GREGORY:  Andrea Mitchell, the question of Iran as well, I want to get reaction to the prime minister.  He said something among the significant things, there– they have an equal commitment, he said, Mitt Romney and President Obama, to prevent Iran from going nuclear.  That is not the wedge that Governor Romney has been arguing.  He has said, “You re-elect President Obama they go nuclear, you elect me they do not.”

MS. MITCHELL:  And yet Mitt Romney himself misspoke apparently in another interview saying that he agrees with President Obama on what that imaginary red line is.  I thought it was very interesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu said they are in a red zone.  The football analogy, yes.  But he was trying to smooth over the differences.  But there are very real differences.  Real differences in that while President Obama has made a commitment to stop them from weaponizing, from getting a– from going nuclear, they believe somehow in this notion that they will have the intelligence, they will know when the Ayatollah makes a political decision, and they will still have the time.  And arguably in the past, we’ve learned that intelligence is not that precise.

MR. WOODWARD:  There is so much turns on the intelligence.  It was this interesting your discussion with the Israeli Prime Minister, and he said, well, at six months and they’ll have 90 percent.  And the Ambassador Rice said, well, it’s not imminent that they’re going to get the bomb.  If you study intelligence, as I have for about 40 years, and Jeffrey and I were talking about, some day we’re going to write a book called “The Unintelligence of Intelligence” because it’s just often wrong.  And people are surprised.  And we’re– you know, deep, deep uncertainty about all of this– 90 percent, six months, it’s not going to happen.  We don’t know.

GREGORY:  What about– what about this interference in our election?  You’re curious about that from both of you, because he takes on– well, I– I pressed him on that charge.

MR. GOLDBERG:  Well, there’s– there’s two issues.  One is a legitimate issue, which is this debate over red lines.  This is the debate that Obama and Netanyahu should have, a discussion, in private.  And– and that’s– that’s legitimate for– for Netanyahu to raise.  What’s illegitimate, and– and let me put this as– as bluntly as I can.  I’ve been watching the relationship between the U.S. and Israel for 20 years, more than 20 years, very seriously and I’ve never seen an Israeli prime minister mismanage the relationship with the United States or with the administration the way this prime minister has.  Obama is not blameless.  The first year, the peace process was a disaster.  But, you know, one– one person here is the– one person here is the senior partner, one is the– the junior partner, and Netanyahu has turned this into a story about himself and Obama.

REP. KING:  No, I– I disagree.  I’m– I’m not here to criticize our president.  The fact is in 2009 when he went to the Middle East and suggested a moral equivalency between the Iranians and the Israelis, when he was harping on against the Israelis, the fact is the Israeli government does not trust the American government.  And that’s really the issue.  Not when the red line is going to be or where it’s going to be.  The fact is there was not a trust between the Israeli prime minister and the American President.  And this is a President who’d come in saying he was going to restore harmony among nations, he was going to have better relationship with our overseas allies…

MS. MITCHELL:  But…

REP. KING:  …and adversaries.

GREGORY:  Are you double down on the comment that this President has thrown Israel under the bus?

REP. KING:  He has not shown– yes, I will.  In the context of politics, yes, he has, absolutely.

REP. ELLISON:  That’s– that’s absolutely wrong.

REP. KING:  He absolutely has.

REP. ELLISON:  There’s no evidence to that.

REP. KING:  The way…

GREGORY:  What does that mean in the context of politics, it’s either true or it’s not.

REP. KING:  It– it is true.

REP. ELLISON:  It’s not true.

REP. KING:  It is true.  Let me tell you why it’s true.  You had an Israeli prime minister being– when he went to the White House being put off to eat by himself, being ignored by the president.  You have the president refusing to sit down with him at the U.N.  This is an ally.

REP. ELLISON:  Well…

REP. KING:  He’s not going to treat Morsi this way.

REP. ELLISON:   According to…

REP. KING:  He’s not going to treat the Arab League this way.

REP. ELLISON:   According to…

REP. KING:  To treat an ally like that is, yeah, like putting him under the bus.

GREGORY:  All right.  Go ahead, Congressman.

REP. ELLISON:  —military leaders the security relationship is as good as it ever has been.

REP. KING:  We’re talking about diplomatic relationship.

GREGORY:  Hold on, let him…

REP. ELLISON:  And– and– no, no, no.  And so– and so the point is this is a sad reality where we are putting Israel as a political football in an election, it should not be done.

REP. KING:  The president…

REP. ELLISON:  And– and as a matter of fact, I think that the– that the president– President Netanyahu (sic) ought to be a little bit more careful (cross talk) himself.

GREGORY:  Andrea, and I really– in ten seconds, what do you look for this week as we move beyond, as this conversation moves?

MS. MITCHELL:  I think there are more security challenges.  You’ve got embassies shut down.  The marines are going to be more engaged in various places.  This is a crisis.  And it could rebound against President Obama.

GREGORY:  All right.  Before we go and take a break, I wanted to let you know that you can catch more of Bob Woodward in our take two web extra, which will be posted on our press pass blog this afternoon.  We’re going to talk in depth about his new book, The Price of Politics.  You can read an excerpt on our– of the book on our website as well, that’s meetthepressnbc.com.  We’ll be back with more in just a moment.

(Announcements)

GREGORY:  Before we go this morning, a couple of programming notes.  You can watch this week’s press pass conversation on our blog as well, a lot going on on the blog.  Some straight talk from the much talked about duo themselves.  Simpson-Bowles, Former Senator Alan Simpson, former White House chief of staff for President Clinton Erskine Bowles, that’s at meetthepressnbc.com.

Also Thursday on ROCK CENTER WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS, Ted Koppel goes toe-to-toe with the lives of Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Bill Maher for a provocative new look at the role of openly partisan media and at the role it’s playing in our society.  That’s on ROCK CENTER Thursday at 10:00 P.M. Eastern, 9:00 Central.

That is all for us today.  We’ll be back next week.  If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.  And as we leave you, we remember the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans that were lost this week in the attack on our consulate in Libya.  Our thoughts and prayers of course are with their families.

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