Full Text Campaign Buzz September 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the AARP Convention —

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Slams Romney’s Medicare Plan to AARP

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-21-12

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

Appealing to senior voters, President Obama today defended his Medicare and social security policies, while claiming his opponents would slash the popular entitlement programs to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

“There’s a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security that hasn’t been completely on the level over the last several months,” the president told an AARP convention via satellite. “Here is what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare as president.”…READ MORE

Remarks by the President to AARP Convention via Satellite

Source: WH, 9-21-12 

G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium
Woodbridge, Virginia

11:18 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jane. (Applause.) Thank you, AARP. (Applause.) I want to thank Barry, and the entire AARP, for everything you do on behalf of America’s seniors. (Applause.)

And today is especially poignant for me I think because I can’t help to think about my grandmother, Madelyn Dunham. During World War II, she worked on a bomber assembly line, with a baby at home, while her husband was off serving his country. And in the postwar years, she worked her way from a secretary to vice president at her local bank. And later, she helped raise my mother, and then obviously helped raise me and my sister.

She was a great citizen who lived up to her responsibilities. And after a lifetime of hard work, what she hoped for in return was to be able to live out her golden years with dignity and security, and to see her grandchildren and her great grandchildren have a better life.

And she was fiercely independent, so she didn’t want a lot of help from me or anybody else. She just wanted to make sure that the work she had put in was going to pay off. And I’m thinking a lot about her these days because we lost my grandmother three days before I was elected to this office, back in 2008. But rewarding those hopes that she and so many other Americans shared — restoring the basic bargain that says if you work hard, that work will pay off — is one of the reasons I ran for this office in the first place. The values that she taught me are part of what has driven me over the last four years

Now, we’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet. And that’s why I’m asking you for a second term as President. (Applause.)

There’s been a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security in this campaign, as there should be. And these are bedrock commitments that America makes to its seniors, and I consider those commitments unshakeable. But given the conversations that have been out there in the political arena lately, I want to emphasize Medicare and Social Security are not handouts. (Applause.) You’ve paid into these programs your whole lives. You’ve earned them. And as President, it’s my job to make sure that Medicare and Social Security remain strong for today’s seniors and for future generations.

It probably won’t surprise you, though, that there’s a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security that hasn’t been completely on the level over the last several months. So here’s what you need to know:

I have strengthened Medicare as President. (Applause.) We’ve added years to the life of the program by getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies that weren’t making people healthier. And we used those savings to lower prescription drug costs, and to offer seniors on Medicare new preventive services like cancer screenings and wellness services.

In fact, the health reform law we passed has already saved more than 5.5 million seniors and people with disabilities nearly $4.5 billion on their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Seniors who received a discount have saved an average of more than $600 this year alone. And over the next 10 years, we expect the average Medicare beneficiary to save nearly $5,000 as a result of this law.

Now, my opponents have pledged to repeal these savings and benefits in their first day on the job, which means billions in new profits for insurance companies, but also would mean immediately increased costs for seniors and would bankrupt the Medicare trust fund in just four years. And what would they replace it with? Their plan replaces guaranteed Medicare benefits with a voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.

And when they tell you that their plan lets you keep your doctor, they’re leaving out one thing — and that’s the facts. A new study says that under their plan, if just 5 percent of seniors switch to private plans, 40 percent of doctors who currently take Medicare would stop accepting it. So think about that. Millions of seniors would be forced to change doctors.

I don’t consider this approach bold or particularly courageous, I just think it’s a bad idea. No American should ever spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned. (Applause.)

Now, we do have to reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’re going to do it by reducing the costs of care — not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more while we’re giving millionaires and billionaires a massive new tax cut. (Applause.)

And when it comes to Social Security, we’ve got to keep the promise of Social Security by taking responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street. (Applause.) The last time the other side was in charge, my opponent’s running mate wrote a bill that would have privatized Social Security. And after what happened on Wall Street just four years ago, does anybody actually think that’s a good idea? (Laughter.)

Most seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income. It keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty each and every year. And while it’s not the cause of today’s deficits, we do need to strengthen the program for the coming decades. And that means folks on both sides need to come together around a balanced plan. (Applause.)

My opponent claims that to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut skewed towards the very top, he’d just close tax loopholes for the very wealthy. But independent experts say there’s no way to do that without also cutting deductions that the middle class relies on, and that includes taxing things like Social Security benefits. And this could mean higher taxes for seniors on Social Security, including taxing benefits for seniors who make less than $32,000 a year for the first time ever. Nearly 30 million seniors could see their taxes go up by hundreds of dollars.

So I want you all to know at AARP I’m not going to let that happen. (Applause.) My plan calls for both parties to come together and take responsible steps to preserve Social Security for the long run. And we’ll do it in a way that ensures a lifetime of hard work is rewarded with dignity and security for generations to come.

So you guys have a big choice in this election and these are the paths — the two paths our country can take. We can spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts targeted towards the wealthiest Americans, which could result in cuts to benefits that you’ve worked a lifetime to earn. Or we can take a balanced approach to invest in the middle class and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for you and your children and your grandchildren. That’s the choice in this election and that’s why I’m asking for your vote. (Applause.)

So thanks so much, AARP, for having me. And with that, Jane, I’m ready to take some questions. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, Jane Pauley here again. I’m back in the hall with our members, and they do have some questions for you. I’d like to explain here in the hall that — what a satellite delay is. When I ask a question, it goes up there, and then it comes down. There’s about a second and a half delay between my delivering a question and the President hearing it. Just so you know the drill and a little inside stuff on television.

Mr. President, we are so grateful that you can stay with us a few minutes longer.

Mike, from Brier, Washington, asks: “How will you reduce the federal debt and not gut Social Security and Medicare?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question, Mike, and I appreciate it. We have a genuine challenge in bringing our deficit down and reducing our debt, and I think it’s important for folks to know that 90 percent of the debt and deficits that we’re seeing right now are the result of choices that were made over the course of the last decade — two wars that weren’t paid for; tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy that were not paid for. So we made some decisions, and then when the Great Recession hit, that meant more money was going out and not as much money was coming in, and that has blown up our deficit and our debt.

The key to reducing it is to do it in a balanced, responsible way. So I’ve put forward a $4 trillion, deficit-reduction plan which would bring our deficits down to a manageable level and begin the work of bringing our debt down, and it involves making some tough choices. So I’ve already signed a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts, programs that we don’t need, programs that, frankly, are not helping people get more opportunity or creating pathways for success for middle-class families or those who are striving to get into the middle class.

But after those cuts are made and some additional cuts are made, the only way to reach that $4 trillion target to also ask the wealthiest among us to do a little bit more. So what I’ve suggested is that we go back for people whose incomes are above $250,000 to go back to the tax rates that existed when Bill Clinton was President, which, by the way, was a time when we created 23 million new jobs, went from a deficit to a surplus, and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot. (Applause.)

Now, this contrasts with the plan that my opponent is putting forward for deficit reduction. And some of you may have seen President Clinton speak at the convention — (applause) — what’s missing from it is arithmetic, because what they’re proposing is not only to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but then they want to add another $5 trillion tax cut on top of that, and $2 trillion in additional defense spending that our Joint Chiefs of Staff say doesn’t make sense at a time when we’re winding down two wars.

So before they even start digging us out of the hole that we’re in, they just added to the hole with $7 trillion in additional spending on tax cuts or on defense. Now, they haven’t explained how they would pay for that, but independent analysts who have looked at it have said the only way you pay for this is not only to gut investments in education, in basic research that could help find cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s, to not invest in our infrastructure, but it also means that you’re going to have to impose a higher tax burden on middle-class families — up to $2,000 a year for families with children.

And as I mentioned in my opening remarks, if you’re looking at figuring out how to pay for that $5 trillion tax cut, part of what you would also start looking at is taxing Social Security benefits, or turning Medicare into a voucher program. And that is not the right approach to take.

My attitude is that if we’re going to work together to bring down our deficit, everybody has got to do their fair share, everybody has got to do their part. (Applause.) And for us to have new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to pay for cuts in Social Security or Medicare or education is just not the right way to go.

Q Mr. President, from Washington D.C, Paulette (ph) asks a question. She says, “If one makes $106 [thousand] a year or less, they pay Social Security taxes on 100 percent of their income; a millionaire pays 10 percent or less. Will you try to get the cap removed for Social Security taxes?”

THE PRESIDENT: I do think that looking at changing the cap is an important aspect of putting Social Security on a more stable footing. (Applause.) And what I’ve said is, is that I’m willing to work with Republicans and examine all their ideas, but what I’m not going to do as a matter of principle is to slash benefits or privatize Social Security and suddenly turn it over to Wall Street. Because we saw what can happen, back in 2008/2009, when the stock market crashed. And we’re still recovering from that.

Q Mr. President, James from Derry, Pennsylvania says, “I haven’t heard you say much about out-of-control prescription drug costs facing those of us retired and living on fixed incomes. What are you plans to bring down these costs?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the good news is, I’m not just talking about it, we’ve actually done something about it. (Applause.) The health care bill that we passed, Obamacare, which, by the way, I don’t mind the term because I do care, that’s why we passed the bill — (applause) — one of the things that we did was to begin closing the notorious doughnut hole that so many seniors suffer from.

So starting this year already, what we’re seeing is a 50 percent discount for seniors who are in the doughnut hole. Each year they’re going to get additional discounts until the doughnut hole is completely closed. That’s already saving millions of seniors around the country an average of $600 to $650 a year. That’s on top, by the way, of the preventive care that is now provided without additional charge, under Medicare, as a consequence of what we did with Obamacare.

And there’s more that we can do on prescription drugs. One of the things that I’ve proposed in my budget is that Medicare recipients should get some of the same deep discounts that Medicaid receives. That would save additional billions of dollars for seniors. (Applause.) And there’s work that we can also do in terms of accelerating the use of generics and making sure that the process for seniors getting access to cheaper prescription drugs is obtained.

But this is critically important because I meet too many families where they tell me a story of their parents having to cut their pills in half because they just can’t afford the prescriptions that have been given to them.

Q Mr. President, a question for you from Hawaii, from Richard: “What would you do to guarantee the future of Medicare?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, again, it turns out that contrary to what you’ve heard and what you may hear from subsequent speakers, Obamacare actually strengthened Medicare. So what we did was extend the Medicare trust fund by eight years. In addition, we dealt with prescription drugs in a way that is helping seniors now and in the future. The preventive care that we’re doing is going to ensure that seniors stay healthier, which reduces costs.

And one thing that I want to point out is, when you hear this notion of — that we somehow took $716 billion, robbed it from Medicare beneficiaries and seniors, I want you to know that is simply not true. (Applause.) What we did was we went after waste and fraud, and overcharging by insurance companies, for example. Those savings do come out to $716 [billion], and those savings are part of what allows us to close the doughnut hole, provide the preventive care, and is actually going to extend the life of Medicare over the long term. It also, by the way, helps to reduce the increase in the premiums that seniors pay under Medicare.

And that points to what we need to do with Medicare generally. What we need to do is to go after the waste, the fraud, and reduce health care costs overall. (Applause.) So part of what we’re doing through this new health care law is using the power of — the purchasing power of Medicare to say to doctors and hospitals and insurance companies, you guys need to work smarter — instead of having five different tests that you’re charging us for, do one test and then email it to everybody. (Applause.) Instead of having all kinds of administrative costs and paperwork, let’s make sure that we’re using health IT — information technologies — to do a better job. Let’s coordinate care better. Let’s engage in more preventive care. (Applause.)

Because this is not just a Medicare problem. Medicare actually is a very efficient program relative to the private insurance programs. The problem is health care costs generally are going up. So we’ve got to bring down health care costs; that’s what we’re focused on. And I just want to point out that the other side’s approach to saving Medicare — and you’ll be hearing about this, I gather, after I speak — is to turn Medicare into a voucher program and essentially transfer those costs onto seniors.

Congressman Ryan’s original plan that was put forward — independent analysis showed that, as a consequence, seniors could expect to pay over $6,000 more for their Medicare once they were under a voucher program. Now, that was his original plan. I want to be fair here. He then modified it — because obviously there was a lot of pushback from seniors on that idea — so he said, well, we’re going to have traditional Medicare stand side by side with the voucher program, and no current beneficiaries will be affected.

The problem is that insurance companies, once they’re getting vouchers, they’re really good at recruiting the healthier, younger Medicare recipients, and weeding out and leaving in traditional Medicare [to] the older, sicker recipients. And over time what happens is that, because there are older, sicker folks in the traditional Medicare plan, premiums start going up, they start going through the roof. And the entire infrastructure of traditional Medicare ends up collapsing, which means that all seniors at some point end up being at the mercy of the insurance companies through a voucher program. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. And the reason that AARP supported Obamacare and does not support this voucher approach is because they have looked at these independent experts and the analysis that they’ve put forward, and they know that a voucher program is not going to be a good deal for Medicare over the long haul. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, from Sandwich, Massachusetts. Kathy (ph) has the following question for you: “What would your administration do to make sure age discrimination laws are enforced so we have an even playing field to get a job?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is a great question, and obviously one of the challenges that we’ve seen as a consequence of this terrible recession we went through was a lot of workers in their 50s and early 60s found themselves suddenly laid off, and it’s very hard for them to get their foot in the door despite all the incredible experience that they have and the skills and training that they’ve got. So there are a couple of things that we need to do.

Number one, we just have to make sure that we’re enforcing nondiscrimination laws effectively. And the Attorney General knows that that’s always a top priority for me. In some cases, part of what we’re trying to do is to see if we legislatively can overturn some bad Supreme Court rulings that have made it harder to prove age discrimination. (Applause.)

Q Using the —

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s something that we’re really focused on.

Q Forgive me for interrupting the President of the United States. Sorry. (Laughter.)

Mr. President, you used the word “legislation” which will ring a bell with Joe from Fort Aktinson, Wisconsin, who asks: “What can you do about this gridlock between both sides of the aisle in Congress?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jane, let me just say this — first of all, before I go to the gridlock issue, I did want to emphasize that in addition to dealing with age discrimination, the work that’s being done between the SBA and the AARP around the Encore Entrepreneur’s Program, helping thousands of seniors across the country start their own small businesses, if in fact they’re not getting hired, to provide them a source of income and use their incredible skills — I just wanted to give a shout out to AARP because that program is really doing great work. (Applause.)

But when it comes to gridlock, look, I came in in 2008 and I said, even though I got 53 percent of the vote and 47 percent of the country voted against me, that I’d be the President for everybody, and I’d listen to everybody’s voices. (Applause.)

And every idea that I put forward and all the work that we have done has been to draw on the best ideas from both parties. In fact, Obamacare now owes a debt to what was done in Massachusetts by my opponent Mr. Romney, even though sometimes he denies it. (Applause.)

So I am always going to be looking to find common ground and solve problems for the American people. The one thing I won’t do, though, is to go along with bad ideas that are not helping the middle class, not helping people who have worked hard all their lives, not helping to provide ladders of opportunity to people who are still looking to succeed in this great country of ours. And so, if I hear that the only way that Republicans in Congress are willing to move forward is to voucherize Medicare, I’ll say no. (Applause.) If the only thing that they’re willing to offer in terms of deficit reduction is to do it on the backs of seniors or our children who need to get a great education, or middle-class families who can’t afford another tax increase, I’m going to say no.

So part of what I think you want from your President is somebody who is working hard to bring people together, but is also willing to stand up to bad ideas that would end up tilting the playing field further in favor of those who have already made it instead of also thinking about folks who are trying to make it who worked hard all their lives, like my grandmother. And that’s exactly why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, on behalf of everyone here in the hall and listening online, we are so grateful that you could spend some time with us this morning. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Jane. Take care, everybody.

END
11:46 A.M. EDT

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Campaign Headlines July 24, 2012: Mitt Romney Blasts President Obama Over Security Leaks, Defense Cuts in a Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Reno, Nevada

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Romney Blasts Obama Over Security Leaks, Defense Cuts

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-24-12

Saul Loeb/AFP/J.D. Pooley/GettyImages

On the eve of his week-long trip abroad, Mitt Romney today condemned President Obama’s handling of recent security leaks to the media, including details from the attack that led to the death Osama Bin Laden, describing it as “contemptible” and urging the president to accept responsibility for leaks that might have stemmed from his administration.
“This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national-security crisis,” Romney said in remarks delivered to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev. “This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation, with explanation and consequence….READ MORE

Full Text Campaign Buzz July 24, 2012: Fact Sheet: Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy & National Plan For An American Century

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

A brief look at Mitt Romney’s foreign policy plan

Source: AP, 7-24-12

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outlined his vision of U.S. national security policy on Tuesday, challenging President Barack Obama over everything from classified information leaks to his handling of the war in Afghanistan….READ MORE

Fact Sheet: The Romney Plan For An American Century

Source: Mitt Romney, 7-24-12

Defense Policy

American military power is vital to the preservation of our own security and peace around the world. Mitt Romney will:

  • Reverse Obama-era defense spending cuts with the goal of setting a core defense spending floor of 4% of GDP.In his first 100 days, put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year.  Maintain a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers.
    Find efficiencies in the Department of Defense procurement process and bureaucratic staff to reinvest in the force.
  • Modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure.
  • Add 100,000 active duty troops.
  • In the first 100 days, begin reversing Obama-era cuts to missile defense and commit to a robust multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Iran Policy

Mitt Romney believes it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapons capability and will adopt a comprehensive strategy to prevent that scenario.  He will:

  • In his first 100 days, make clear that the military option is on the table by ordering the regular presence of an aircraft carrier task force in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. He will also begin talks with Israel to increase military coordination and assistance and enhance intelligence sharing.
  • Increase military coordination with Arab allies in the region and conduct more naval exercises in the region as a demonstration of strength and resolve.
  • Fully implement sanctions targeted at Iran’s Central Bank and its petroleum industry. Cease the Obama Administration’s practice of issuing exemptions from sanctions to nations such as China that fail to meaningfully reduce their oil imports from Iran.
  • Step up enforcement of existing U.S. laws that bar commerce with Iran, such as the exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran.
  • Increase diplomatic isolation of Iran and work to indict Iranian President Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide under the Genocide Convention.
  • Support the Iranian opposition by improving the flow of information to the Iranian population about its own government’s repressive activities and refusing to stand silent while the Iranian regime ruthlessly terrorizes its own people.
  • Reaffirm that any negotiated agreement must entail the internationally recognized redline of full suspension of enrichment activities by the Iranian regime. In addition, call for intrusive and unannounced inspections, unfettered access to all officials and scientists who have participated in Iran’s nuclear program, removal of enriched uranium stockpiles from Iran, and a full accounting of past weaponization work.
  • Commit to the on-time completion of a fully capable missile defense system in Eastern Europe and retain the option of reverting to a swifter implementation plan. Mitt Romney will deny Russia any control or veto over the missile defense system.

Afghanistan & Pakistan Policy

Mitt Romney will cease President Obama’s practice of politicizing decisions on troop levels and transition timetables. Mitt Romney will:

  • In his first 100 days, order a full interagency review of our transition in Afghanistan toward the goal of a successful transition of combat operations by the end of 2014. He will review our military and assistance presence to determine the level required to secure our gains and to train Afghan forces to the point where they can protect the sovereignty of Afghanistan on their own. Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders.
  • Work with the Afghan government and Pakistan and use U.S. leverage to ensure that those nations are fully contributing to the success of our mission. He will make clear to Afghan President Hamid Karzai that our commitment must be met with reciprocal efforts to crack down on corruption in his government, respect free and fair elections as required by the Afghan constitution, and coordinate with the United States on fighting the narcotics trade that fuels the insurgency. Mitt Romney will work with Pakistan to sever any connection between insurgent forces and Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies.

China Policy

Mitt Romney will implement a strategy that makes the path of regional hegemony for China far more costly than the alternative path of becoming a responsible partner in the international system. Mitt Romney will:

  • Maintain robust military capabilities in the Pacific to guarantee that trade routes remain open and East Asia’s community of nations remains secure and prosperous.
  • Deepen cooperation among regional partners like India and build stronger ties to influential countries like Indonesia.
  • Defend human rights. Any serious policy must confront the fact that China’s Communist regime continues to deny its people basic political freedoms and human rights. Mitt Romney will support and engage civil society groups within China that are promoting democratic reform, anti-corruption efforts, religious freedom, and women’s and minority rights. These efforts will provide them with greater access to information through a stronger Internet freedom initiative.

Specifically on issues of trade, Mitt Romney will lay out a clear series of steps that the Chinese must take to become a responsible participant in the global economy, and a clear series of consequences that would accompany failure to make rapid progress down that path, such as:

If China continues to block government procurement from foreign firms:

  • End U.S. government procurement from China

If China continues to manipulate its currency:

  • Formally declare China to be a currency manipulator
    • Impose associated countervailing duties

If China continues to unfairly subsidize its domestic producers,  interfere with foreign competitors, and pursue an “indigenous innovation” policy by coercing and stealing from foreign firms:

  • Impose punitive tariffs on Chinese products for which China provides anti-competitive assistance
  • Work with other developed nations to impose intellectual property sanctions, blocking the transfer into China of technologies that China has prioritized

In response to all of these practices:

  • Use Reagan Economic Zone to confer benefits on genuine free trading nations from which China is excluded so long as its unfair practices continue

Middle East Policy

A Romney administration will pursue a strategy of supporting groups and governments across the Middle East to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights. And it will oppose any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence. Mitt Romney will:

  • Engage Congress to organize all diplomatic and assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one regional director with unified budgetary and directive authority who will train our soft power on ensuring the Arab Spring does not become an Arab Winter.
  • Make available technical assistance to transitional governments to promote democracy, good governance, and sound financial management.
  • Convene a summit that brings together world leaders, donor groups, and young leaders of civil society groups in nations in transition.

Israel

Mitt Romney will restore our relationship with our closest ally in the Middle East. He will:

  • Make Israel the destination of his first foreign trip as president.
  • In the first 100 days, reaffirm as a vital U.S. national interest the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
  • Work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge and increase military assistance.
  • Reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Mitt Romney will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable.
  • Reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Egypt

Egypt is in many ways the fulcrum of the Arab world.  Mitt Romney will orient U.S. policy to encourage the development of an Egyptian government that represents all Egyptians, maintains peace with Israel, and promotes peace throughout the region. He will:

  • Condition the $1.3 billion in U.S. military assistance to Egypt on maintaining its peace agreement with Israel. Place conditions of good governance and peaceful relations on the $250 million in economic assistance, $1 billion in debt cancelation pledges, and $1 billion in OPIC loan guarantees the United States grants to Egypt.
  • Engage G-8 partners, the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank to use their collective influence and place conditions of good governance and peaceful relations on the billions they have pledged to Egypt.

Syria

Both America’s humanitarian and strategic interests would be served by the departure of Bashar al-Assad.  Mitt Romney will make clear that Assad must go and that no way forward in Syria will include Assad. He will:

  • Work with partners to call on Syria’s military to protect civilians rather than attack them, drive a wedge between the Assad regime and the wider Alawite minority and other minorities, assure them of a role in a post-Assad Syria if they abandon the regime, and increase the chances for reconciliation with the majority Sunni population after Assad’s fall.
  • Make clear that the United States and our allies will support the Syrian opposition when the time comes for them to forge a post-Assad government.
  • Work with partners to identify, organize, and arm opposition groups aligned with U.S. interests.

Russia Policy

Mitt Romney will reset President Obama’s “Reset” with Russia and implement a strategy to discourage aggressive or expansionist behavior on the part of Russia and encourage democratic political and economic reform. He will:

  • Review the implementation of the New START treaty and other decisions by the Obama Administration regarding America’s nuclear posture and arms-control policies to determine whether they serve the best interests and national security of the United States.
  • Pursue policies to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian sources of energy. He will explore increasing technical assistance to the Eastern European nations currently developing the Turkey-to-Austria Nabucco natural gas pipeline and work with the private sector to spur access to untapped shale energy resources in Western Europe.
  • Deter Russian ambitions to its south by enhancing diplomatic ties, increasing military training and assistance, and negotiating trade pacts and educational exchanges with Central Asian states.
  • Forthrightly confront the Russian government over its authoritarian practices. Mitt Romney will increase the flow of information into Russia that highlights the virtues of freedom and a government free of corruption. He will bring more leaders of Russian civil society to the United States on exchange programs.

Latin America Policy

A Romney administration will support democratic allies and market-based economic relationships, contain destabilizing internal forces such as criminal gangs and terrorists, and oppose destabilizing outside influences such as Iran. Mitt Romney will:

  • In his first 100 days, launch a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region—the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA)—to encourage trade and investment between the United States and Latin America and draw a stark contrast between the virtues of democracy and free trade and the ills of the authoritarian socialist model offered by Cuba and Venezuela.
  • Build on separate existing anti-drug and counterterrorism initiatives to form a unified Hemispheric Joint Task Force on Crime and Terrorism to coordinate intelligence and enforcement among allies to combat regional terrorist groups and criminal networks and sever connections to foreign terrorist entities like Hezbollah.
  • Explore with Mexico the need for enhanced military-to-military training cooperation and intelligence sharing to combat our mutual challenge of drug cartels and criminal gangs. Complete a high-tech fence to secure the southern border.

North Korea Policy

Mitt Romney will commit to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure. He will:

  • Work with allies to institute harsher sanctions on North Korea, such as cracking down on financial institutions that service the North Korean regime and sanctioning companies that conduct commercial shipping in and out of North Korea.
  • Step up enforcement of the Proliferation Security Initiative to constrain North Korean illicit exports.
  • Work to persuade China to commit to North Korea’s disarmament. Mitt Romney will discuss with China how the international community will address the humanitarian and security issues that will arise should North Korea disintegrate. And by reinvigorating our military and counter-proliferation relationships with South Korea, Japan, and others regional allies, he will demonstrate to the Chinese that they should join the coordinated effort or be left behind.

Diplomatic & National Security Institutions

Mitt Romney will empower our diplomatic, assistance, and national security institutions to best secure our enduring national interests and ideals. He will:

  • Reorganize our diplomatic and assistance agencies to foster joint regional strategic planning by placing unified budgetary and directive authority under one official responsible for all diplomatic and assistance programs within a particular region. This structure will mirror the regional military combatant command structure.
  • In the first 100 days, order a full interagency initiative to formulate a unified national strategy to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, cyber-espionage, and private-sector intellectual property theft.
  • Order an initiative to combat homegrown terrorism by redoubling efforts to work with state and local authorities to share intelligence “vertically,” enhance partnerships with Muslim-American communities to identify threats and suspicious activity, and develop our database of knowledge about the hallmarks of radicalization and recruitment. The strategy will contain measures to preserve privacy and our constitutional rights.
  • Work with Congress to update the chief source of statutory authority for the war on terrorism to authorize the use of force against any foreign terrorist entity that is waging war against the United States.
  • Work with Congress to unify the over 108 authorizing committees in Congress that oversee the Department of Homeland Security.

Setting a New Tone: Eight Actions for the First Hundred Days

  1. Restore America’s Naval Credibility

Announce an initiative to increase the naval shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year and sustain the carrier fleet at eleven. This will restore America’s presence and credibility on the high seas with a view toward deterring aggressive behavior and maintaining the peace.

  1. Strengthen and Repair Relationships with Steadfast Allies

Take swift measures to restore and enhance relationships with our most steadfast allies. Actions include reaffirming as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as Jewish state, declaring the U.S.-U.K. special relationship to be a foundation for peace and liberty, and beginning talks to strengthen cooperation with Mexico on the shared problem of drugs and security.

  1. Enhance Our Deterrent Against Iran

Reaffirm that Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. Order the regular presence of a carrier task force in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region. Begin discussions with Israel to increase levels of military and intelligence coordination and assistance.

  1. Commit to a Robust National Missile Defense System

Begin process of reversing Obama-era budget cuts to national missile defense and raise to a top priority the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic-missile defense system.

  1. Establish a Single Point of Responsibility for All Soft Power Resources in the Middle East

Work with Congress and relevant Executive branch agencies to organize all diplomatic and assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one Regional Director with unified budgetary and directive authority. One official with responsibility and accountability will set regional priorities and direct our soft power toward ensuring the Arab Spring realizes its promise.

  1. Launch Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America

Capitalize on the benefits arising from the ratification of the Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements to launch a robust public-diplomacy and trade promotion campaign in Latin America that contrasts the benefits of democracy, free trade, and economic opportunity with the ills caused by the authoritarian model of Venezuela and Cuba.

  1. Conduct a Full Review of Our Transition in Afghanistan

Conduct a full interagency review of our military and assistance presence in Afghanistan to determine the presence necessary to secure our gains and successfully complete our mission. The review will involve discussions with generals on the ground and the delivery of the best recommendations of our military commanders.

  1. Order Interagency Initiative on Cybersecurity

Order a full interagency initiative to formulate a unified national strategy to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, cyber-espionage, and private-sector intellectual property theft. U.S. defense and intelligence resources must be fully engaged in this critical aspect of national defense.

To view the full foreign policy white paper please click here.

Full Text Campaign Buzz July 24, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech on Foreign Policy & National Security to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Reno, Nevada

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Remarks At The VFW National Convention

Source: Mitt Romney, 7-24-12

romney-2012-blog-image-texas.jpg

Thank you.  Commander Richard DeNoyer, I appreciate the introduction, and I’m proud to see a combat veteran from Massachusetts serving as National Commander of the VFW.

Ladies Auxiliary President Gwen Rankin, incoming National Commander John Hamilton, incoming Ladies Auxiliary President Leanne Lemley, Adjutant General Allen “Gunner” Kent, Executive Director Bob Wallace, distinguished guests and members of the VFW: Thank you for your generous welcome.

I want to start today with a few words about the unimaginable tragedy in Colorado last week.  We’ve since learned that among the victims were four people who had served – or were serving – our country in uniform.  Today, our hearts go out to the families of John Larimer of the U.S. Navy; Rebecca Wingo, an Air Force veteran; Jesse Childress, an Army veteran and member of the Air Force reserve; and Jonathan Blunk, a Navy veteran who died shielding his girlfriend from the spray of bullets.  The loss of four Americans who served our country only adds to the profound tragedy of that day.  All Americans are grateful for their service and deeply saddened by their deaths.  We mourn them and we will remember them.

The VFW is now over two million strong.  It has a special place in America’s heart.  Some of you fought recently, in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Others are old enough to have marched, flown, or sailed by orders of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Whatever your age, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, whenever you served – there’s one thing you have in common: You answered the call of your country in a time of war. From December 7th, 1941 to September 11, 2001, whenever America has been tested, you stepped forward. You come from our farms, our great cities, our small towns and quiet neighborhoods. Many of you have known violence so that your neighbors could only know peace.  You have done more than protect America; your courage and service defines America.  You are America at our best and it is an honor to address you.

Our veterans are part of a proud tradition that stretches back to the battlefields at Lexington and Concord – and now to places like Fallujah and Kandahar.  Year after year, our men and women in uniform have added proud achievements to their record of service.  And President Obama pointed to some of them yesterday in his speech.

Any time our military accomplishes a vital mission it is a proud moment for our nation.  But we owe our veterans and our military more than just an accounting of our successes.  They deserve a fair and frank assessment of the whole picture – of where we are and where we want to be.  And when it comes to national security and foreign policy, as with our economy, the last few years have been a time of declining influence and missed opportunity.

Just consider some of the challenges I discussed at your last national convention:

Since then, has the American economy recovered?

Has our ability to shape world events been enhanced, or diminished?

Have we gained greater confidence among our allies, and greater respect from our adversaries?

And, perhaps most importantly, has the most severe security threat facing America and our friends, a nuclear-armed Iran, become more or less likely?

These clear measures are the ultimate tests of American leadership.  And, by these standards, we haven’t seen much in the President’s first term that inspires confidence in a second.

The President’s policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in seventy years … exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify … compromised our national-security secrets … and in dealings with other nations, given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due.

From Berlin to Cairo to the United Nations, President Obama has shared his view of America and its place among nations.  I have come here today to share mine.

I am an unapologetic believer in the greatness of this country. I am not ashamed of American power.  I take pride that throughout history our power has brought justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair.  I do not view America as just one more point on the strategic map, one more power to be balanced.  I believe our country is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and that our influence is needed as much now as ever.  And I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion:  This century must be an American Century.

In 1941, Henry Luce called on his countrymen – just then realizing their strength – “to create the first great American century.” And they succeeded: together with their allies, they won World War II, they rescued Europe, they defeated Communism, and America took its place as leader of the free world. Across the globe, they fought, they bled, they led.  They showed the world the extraordinary courage of the American heart and the generosity of the American spirit.

That courage and generosity remains unchanged today.  But sadly, this president has diminished American leadership, and we are reaping the consequences. The world is dangerous, destructive, chaotic.  And the two men running to be your commander-in-chief must offer their answers to the challenges we face.

Like a watchman in the night, we must remain at our post – and keep guard of the freedom that defines and ennobles us, and our friends.  In an American Century, we have the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world.  In an American Century, we secure peace through our strength.  And if by absolute necessity we must employ it, we must wield our strength with resolve.  In an American Century, we lead the free world and the free world leads the entire world.

If we do not have the strength or vision to lead, then other powers will take our place, pulling history in a very different direction.  A just and peaceful world depends on a strong and confident America. I pledge to you that if I become commander-in-chief, the United States of America will fulfill its duty, and its destiny.

American leadership depends, as it always has, on our economic strength, on our military strength, and on our moral strength.  If any of these falter, no skill of diplomacy or presidential oratory can compensate. Today, the strength of our economy is in jeopardy.

A healthy American economy is what underwrites American power. When growth is missing, government revenue falls, social spending rises, and many in Washington look to cut defense spending as an easy out.  That includes our current President.

Today, we are just months away from an arbitrary, across-the-board budget reduction that would saddle the military with a trillion dollars in cuts, severely shrink our force structure, and impair our ability to meet and deter threats.  Don’t bother trying to find a serious military rationale behind any of this, unless that rationale is wishful thinking. Strategy is not driving President Obama’s massive defense cuts.  In fact, his own Secretary of Defense warned that these reductions would be “devastating.”  And he is right.

That devastation starts at home. These cuts would only weaken an already stretched VA system and impair our solemn commitment that every veteran receives care second to none. I will not allow that to happen.

This is not the time for the President’s radical cuts in the military. Look around the globe. Other major powers are rapidly adding to their military capabilities, some with intentions very different from ours.  The regime in Tehran is drawing closer to developing a nuclear weapon.  The threat of radical Islamic terrorism persists. The threat of weapons of mass destruction proliferation is ever-present. And we are still at war and still have uniformed men and women in conflict.

All this and more is ongoing in the world.  And yet the President has chosen this moment for wholesale reductions in the nation’s military capacity.  When the biggest announcement in his last State of the Union address on improving our military was that the Pentagon will start using more clean energy – then you know it’s time for a change.

We’re not the first people to observe this.  It is reported that Bob Gates, the President’s first secretary of defense, bluntly addressed another security problem within this administration.  After secret operational details of the bin Laden raid were given to reporters, Secretary Gates walked into the West Wing and told the Obama team to “shut up.”  He added a colorful word for emphasis.

Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake.  But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action in Iran.

This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis.  And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.”

This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field.  And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence.  Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama’s Attorney General, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House.

Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished.  The time for stonewalling is over.

It is not enough to say the matter is being looked into, and leave it at that.  When the issue is the political use of highly sensitive national security information, it is unacceptable to say, “We’ll report our findings after Election Day.”

Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets?  Did a superior authorize it?  These are things that Americans are entitled to know – and they are entitled to know right now.  If the President believes – as he said last week – that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.

And let me make this very clear:  These events make the decision we face in November all the more important.  What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain?  I’ll tell you right now:  Mine won’t.

The harm done when national security secrets are betrayed extends, of course, to the trust that allies place in the United States.

The operating principle of American foreign policy has been to work with our allies so that we can deter aggression before it breaks out into open conflict.  That policy depends on nurturing our alliances and standing up for our common values.

Yet the President has moved in the opposite direction.

It began with the sudden abandonment of friends in Poland and the Czech Republic.  They had courageously agreed to provide sites for our anti-missile systems, only to be told, at the last hour, that the agreement was off. As part of the so-called reset in policy, missile defenses were sacrificed as a unilateral concession to the Russian government.

If that gesture was designed to inspire good will from Russia, it clearly missed the mark.  The Russian government defended the dictator in Damascus, arming him as he slaughtered the Syrian people.

We can only guess what Vladimir Putin makes of the Obama administration. He regained the Russian presidency in a corrupt election, and for that, he got a congratulatory call from the Oval Office.  And then there was that exchange picked up by a microphone that President Obama didn’t know was on.  We heard him asking Dmitry Medvedev to tell Mr. Putin to give him “space.”  “This is my last election,” President Obama said, and “After my election I’ll have more flexibility.”

Why is flexibility with Russian leaders more important than transparency to the American people?

President Obama had a moment of candor, however, just the other day.  He said that the actions of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez have not had a serious national security impact on us.  In my view, inviting Hezbollah into our hemisphere is severe, serious, and a threat.

But at least he was consistent.  After all, this is the president who faltered when the Iranian people were looking for support in their struggle against the ayatollahs.  That uprising was treated as an inconvenient problem for the President’s policy of engagement, instead of as a moral and strategic opportunity.  That terrible misjudgment should never be repeated.  When unarmed women and men in Tehran find the courage to confront their oppressors, at risk of torture and death, they should hear the unequivocal voice of an American president affirming their right to be free.

I will leave Reno this evening on a trip abroad that will take me to England, Poland, and Israel.   And since I wouldn’t venture into another country to question American foreign policy, I will tell you right here – before I leave – what I think of this administration’s shabby treatment of one of our finest friends.

President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was.  And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem.

The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world.  And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the President of the United States.

There are values, causes, and nations that depend on American strength, on the clarity of our purpose, and on the reliability of our commitments.  There is work in this world that only America and our allies can do, hostile powers that only we can deter, and challenges that only we can overcome.

For the past decade, among those challenges has been the war in Afghanistan. As commander-in-chief, I will have a solemn duty to our men and women in uniform.  A president owes our troops, their families, and the American people a clear explanation of our mission, and a commitment not to play politics with the decisions of war.

I have been critical of the President’s decision to withdraw the surge troops during the fighting season, against the advice of the commanders on the ground.  President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions is arguing for endless war.  But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat.

As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.  I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders.  And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.

We face another continuing challenge in a rising China.  China is attentive to the interests of its government – but it too often disregards the rights of its people.  It is selective in the freedoms it allows; and, as with its one-child policy, it can be ruthless in crushing the freedoms it denies.  In conducting trade with America, it permits flagrant patent and copyright violations … forestalls American businesses from competing in its market … and manipulates its currency to obtain unfair advantage.  It is in our mutual interest for China to be a partner for a stable and secure world, and we welcome its participation in trade.  But the cheating must finally be brought to a stop.  President Obama hasn’t done it and won’t do it. I will.

We’ll need that same clarity of purpose and resolve in the Middle East.  America cannot be neutral in the outcome there.  We must clearly stand for the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights. And we must stand against the extension of Iranian or jihadist influence.

Egypt is at the center of this historical drama.  In many ways, it has the power to tip the balance in the Arab world toward freedom and modernity. As president, I will not only direct the billions in assistance we give to Egypt toward that goal, but I will also work with partner nations to place conditions on their assistance as well.  Unifying our collective influence behind a common purpose will foster the development of a government that represents all Egyptians, maintains peace with Israel, and promotes peace throughout the region. The United States is willing to help Egypt support peace and prosperity, but we will not be complicit in oppression and instability.

There is no greater danger in the world today than the prospect of the ayatollahs in Tehran possessing nuclear weapons capability.  Yet for all the talks and conferences, all of the extensions and assurances, can anyone say we are farther from this danger now than four years ago?

The same ayatollahs who each year mark a holiday by leading chants of “Death to America” are not going to be talked out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons.  What’s needed is all the firmness, clarity, and moral courage that we and our allies can gather.  Sanctions must be enforced without exception, cutting off the regime’s sources of wealth.  Negotiations must secure full and unhindered access for inspections.  As it is, the Iranian regime claims the right to enrich nuclear material for supposedly peaceful purposes.  This claim is discredited by years of deception.  A clear line must be drawn: There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, period.

And at every turn, Iran must know that the United States and our allies stand as one in these critical objectives.  Only in this way can we successfully counter the catastrophic threat that Iran presents.  I pledge to you and to all Americans that if I become commander-in-chief, I will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region, and to prevent the worst from happening while there is still time.

It is a mistake – and sometimes a tragic one – to think that firmness in American foreign policy can bring only tension or conflict.  The surest path to danger is always weakness and indecision.  In the end, it is resolve that moves events in our direction, and strength that keeps the peace.

I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world. We must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose, and resolve in our might.

This is very simple: if you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your President.  You have that President today.

The 21st century can and must be an American Century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

Fewer members of the Greatest Generation are with us today – and they can’t hold the torch as high as they have in the past.  We must now seize the torch they carried so gallantly and at such sacrifice. It is an eternal torch of decency, freedom and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough so that all the world can see its light.

Believe in America.

Thank you and God Bless the United States of America.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada — Defends Foreign Policy Record

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama Speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars

Source: WH, 7-23-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Reno, Nev., July 23, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and discussed the promises his Administration has kept to secure our nation, fight terrorism, renew American leadership in the world, better serve our troops and military families and honor our veterans. He also thanked veterans for their service to our nation:

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.

Our troops have helped secure a better future for our country, the President said:

Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

“Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free,” the President said. “And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.”

President Obama discussed his administration’s work to strengthen our military, support military families and uphold the nation’s sacred trust with our veterans, and announced a redesign of the Transition Assistance Program, which helps service members transition to the civilian workforce:

We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing service members.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers. We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business. And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.

The President also called on Congress to pass his Veterans Job Corps proposal and to extend the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that hire veterans.

Remarks by the President to the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

VFW Convention Hall

Reno, Nevada

12:35 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.

Commander DeNoyer, thank you for your introduction, and your service in Vietnam and on behalf of America’s veterans.  I want to thank your executive director, Bob Wallace; your next commander, who I look forward to working with, John Hamilton.  And to Gwen Rankin, Leanne Lemley, and the entire Ladies Auxiliary, thank you for your patriotic service to America.  (Applause.)

I stand before you as our hearts still ache over the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.  Yesterday I was in Aurora, with families whose loss is hard to imagine — with the wounded, who are fighting to recover; with a community and a military base in the midst of their grief.  And they told me of the loved ones they lost.  And here today, it’s fitting to recall those who wore our nation’s uniform:

Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress — an Air Force reservist, 29 years old, a cyber specialist who loved sports, the kind of guy, said a friend, who’d help anybody.

Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer — 27 years old, who, like his father and grandfather before him, joined the Navy, and who is remembered as an outstanding shipmate.

Rebecca Wingo — 32 years old, a veteran of the Air Force, fluent in Chinese, who served as a translator; a mother, whose life will be an inspiration to her two little girls.

And Jonathan Blunk — from Reno, just 26 years old, but a veteran of three Navy tours, whose family and friends will always know that in that theater he gave his own life to save another.

These young patriots were willing to serve in faraway lands, yet they were taken from us here at home.  And yesterday I conveyed to their families a message on behalf of all Americans: We honor your loved ones.  We salute their service.  And as you summon the strength to carry on and keep bright their legacy, we stand with you as one united American family.  (Applause.)

Veterans of Foreign Wars, in you I see the same shining values, the virtues that make America great.  When our harbor was bombed and fascism was on the march, when the fighting raged in Korea and Vietnam, when our country was attacked on that clear September morning, when our forces were sent to Iraq — you answered your country’s call.  Because you know what Americans must always remember — our nation only endures because there are patriots who protect it.

In the crucible of battle, you were tested in ways the rest of us will never know.  You carry in your hearts the memory of the comrades you lost.  For you understand that we must honor our fallen heroes not just on Memorial Day, but all days.  And when an American goes missing, or is taken prisoner, we must do everything in our power to bring them home.  (Applause.)

Even after you took off the uniform, you never stopped serving.  You took care of each other — fighting for the benefits and care you had earned.  And you’ve taken care of the generations that followed, including our newest veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  On behalf of all our men and women in uniform, and on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, VFW.  Thank you for your outstanding work.  (Applause.)

Of course, some among you — our Vietnam veterans — didn’t always receive that thanks, at least not on time.  This past Memorial Day, I joined some of you at The Wall to begin the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  And it was another chance to say what should have been said all along:  You did your duty, and you made us proud.  And as this 50th anniversary continues, I’d ask all our Vietnam vets to stand, or raise your hand, as we say:  Thank you and welcome home.  (Applause.)

Every generation among you served to keep us strong and free.  And it falls to us, those that follow, to preserve what you won.  Four years ago, I stood before you at a time of great challenge for our nation.  We were engaged in two wars.  Al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens in Pakistan.  Many of our alliances were frayed.  Our standing in the world had suffered.  We were in the worst recession of our lifetimes.  Around the world, some questioned whether the United States still had the capacity to lead.

So, four years ago, I made you a promise.  I pledged to take the fight to our enemies, and renew our leadership in the world. As President, that’s what I’ve done.  (Applause.)  And as you reflect on recent years, as we look ahead to the challenges we face as a nation and the leadership that’s required, you don’t just have my words, you have my deeds.  You have my track record. You have the promises I’ve made and the promises that I’ve kept.

I pledged to end the war in Iraq honorably, and that’s what we’ve done.  (Applause.)  After I took office, we removed nearly 150,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  And some said that bringing our troops home last year was a mistake.  They would have kept tens of thousands of our forces in Iraq — indefinitely, without a clear mission.  Well, when you’re Commander-in-Chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan — and that includes recognizing not just when to begin wars, but also how to end them.

So we brought our troops home responsibly.  They left with their heads held high, knowing they gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future.  And today, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq, and we are proud of all the Americans who served there.  (Applause.)

I pledged to make it a priority to take out the terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11.  And as a candidate, I said that if we had Osama bin Laden in our sights, we would act to keep America safe — even if it meant going into Pakistan.  Some of you remember, at the time, that comment drew quite a bit of criticism.  But since I took office, we’ve worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al Qaeda leaders than any time since 9/11.  And thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again, and al Qaeda is on the road to defeat.  (Applause.)

I pledged to finish the job in Afghanistan.  After years of drift, we had to break the momentum of the Taliban, and build up the capacity and the capability of Afghans.  And so, working with our commanders, we came up with a new strategy, and we ordered additional forces to get the job done.  This is still a tough fight.  But thanks to the incredible services and sacrifices of our troops, we pushed the Taliban back; we’re training Afghan forces; we’ve begun the transition to Afghan lead.

Again, there are those who argued against a timeline for ending this war — or against talking about it publicly.  But you know what, that’s not a plan for America’s security either.  After 10 years of war, and given the progress we’ve made, I felt it was important that the American people — and our men and women in uniform — know our plan to end this war responsibly.  (Applause.)  And so by the end of this summer, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home.  Next year, Afghans will take the lead for their own security.  In 2014, the transition will be complete.  And even as our troops come home, we’ll have a strong partnership with the Afghan people, and we will stay vigilant so Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America. (Applause.)

We’re not just ending these wars; we’re doing it in a way that achieves our objectives.  Moreover, it’s allowed us to broaden our vision and begin a new era of American leadership.  We’re leading from Europe to the Asia Pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger.  We’re leading the fight against nuclear dangers.  We’ve applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea — nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  We’re leading on behalf of freedom — standing with people in the Middle East and North Africa as they demand their rights; protecting the Libyan people as they rid the world of Muammar Qaddafi.

Today, we’re also working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime.  And given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons.  (Applause.)  And we will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity.

Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America.  There’s more confidence in our leadership.  We see it everywhere we go.  We saw it as grateful Libyans waved American flags.  We see it across the globe — when people are asked, which country do you admire the most, one nation comes out on top — the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So this is the progress that we’ve made.  Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, we’re winding down a decade of war; we’re destroying the terrorist network that attacked us; we’re strengthening the alliances that extend our values.  And today, every American can be proud that the United States is safer and stronger and more respected in the world.

And all this allows us to fulfill another promise that I made to you four years ago — strengthening our military.  After 10 years of operations, our soldiers will now have fewer and shorter deployments, which means more time on the home front to keep their families strong; more time to heal from the wounds of war; more time to improve readiness and prepare for future threats.

As President, I’ve continued to make historic investments to keep our armed forces strong.  And guided by our new defense strategy, we will maintain our military superiority.  It will be second to none as long as I am President and well into the future.  We’ve got the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history.  And as Commander-in-Chief I am going to keep it that way.  (Applause.)

And by the way, given all the rhetoric lately — it is political season — let’s also set the record straight on the budget.  Those big, across-the-board cuts, including defense, that Congress said would occur next year if they couldn’t reach a deal to reduce the deficit?  Let’s understand, first of all, there’s no reason that should happen, because people in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong. It should be done.  (Applause.)

And there are a number of Republicans in Congress who don’t want you to know that most of them voted for these cuts.  Now they’re trying to wriggle out of what they agreed to.  Instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military.  And I’ve got to tell you, VFW, I disagree.  If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time.  (Applause.)

So let’s stop playing politics with our military.  Let’s get serious and reduce our deficit and keep our military strong.   Let’s take some of the money that we’re saving because we’re not fighting in Iraq and because we’re winding down in Afghanistan — use half that money to pay down our deficit; let’s use half of it to do some nation-building here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Let’s keep taking care of our extraordinary military families.  For the first time ever, we’ve made military families and veterans a top priority not just at DOD, not just at the VA, but across the government.  As Richard mentioned, this has been a mission for my wife, Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.  Today, more people across America in every segment of society are Joining Forces to give our military families the respect and the support that they deserve.  (Applause.)

And there’s another way we can honor those who serve.  It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but one thing is certain — it is contemptible.  So this week, we will launch a new website, a living memorial, so the American people can see who’s been awarded our nation’s highest honors.  Because no American hero should ever have their valor stolen.  (Applause.)

This leads me to another promise I made four years ago —  upholding America’s sacred trust with our veterans.  I promised to strengthen the VA, and that promise has been kept.  In my first year, we achieved the largest percentage increase in the VA budget in 30 years.  And we’re going to keep making historic investments in our veterans.  When Richard came to the Oval Office, we talked about what those automatic budget cuts — sequestration — could mean for the VA.  So my administration has made it clear:  Your veteran’s benefits are exempt from sequestration.  They are exempt.  (Applause.)  And because advance appropriations is now the law of the land, veterans’ health care is protected from the budget battles in Washington.  (Applause.)

I promised you that I’d stand up for veterans’ health care. As long as I’m President, I will not allow VA health care to be turned into a voucher system, subject to the whims of the insurance market.  Some have argued for this plan.  I could not disagree more. You don’t need vouchers, you need the VA health care that you have earned and that you depend on.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made dramaticinvestments to help care for our veterans.  For our Vietnam veterans, we declared that more illnesses are now presumed connected to your exposure to Agent Orange.  As a result of our decision, Vietnam-era vets and your families received nearly $4 billion in disability pay.  You needed it; you fought for it.  We heard you and we got it done.  (Applause.)

We’ve added mobile clinics for our rural veterans; more tailored care for our women veterans; unprecedented support for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.  All tolled, we’ve made VA health care available to nearly 800,000 veterans who didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  And we’re now supporting caregivers and families with the skills and the stipends to help care for the veterans that they love.

Of course, more veterans in the system means more claims.  So we’ve hired thousands of claims processors.  We’re investing in paperless systems.  To their credit, the dedicated folks at the VA are now completing one million claims a year.  But there’s been a tidal wave of new claims.  And when I hear about veterans waiting months, or years, for your benefits — it is unacceptable.  And we are doing something about it.  (Applause.)

We’re taking all those folks who processed your Agent Orange claims — more than 1,200 experts — and giving them a new mission:  Attack the backlog.  We’re prioritizing veterans with the most serious disabilities.  And the VA and DOD will work harder towards a seamless transition so new veterans aren’t just piled on to the backlog. And we will not rest — I will not be satisfied until we get this right.  And today, I’m also calling on all those who help our vets complete their claims — state VAs, physicians and veteran groups like the VFW — to join us.  You know how this can work better, so let’s get it done, together.

We’re also focused on the urgent needs of our veterans with PTSD.  We’ve poured tremendous resources into this fight — thousands of more counselors and more clinicians, more care and more treatment.  And we’ve made it easier for veterans with PTSD to qualify for VA benefits.  But after a decade of war, it’s now an epidemic.  We’re losing more troops to suicide — one every single day — than we are in combat.  According to some estimates, about 18 veterans are taking their lives each day — more every year than all the troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  That’s a tragedy.  It’s heartbreaking.  It should not be happening in the United States of America.

So when I hear about servicemembers and veterans who had the courage to seek help but didn’t get it, who died waiting, that’s an outrage.  And I’ve told Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey and Secretary Shinseki we’ve got to do better.  This has to be all hands on deck.

So our message to everyone who’s ever worn the uniform — if you’re hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help, it’s a sign of strength.  And when you do, we’ll be there and do more to help — including more counselors and clinicians to help you heal.  We need to end this tragedy, VFW.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to work together to make it happen.

So, too with our campaign to end homelessness among our veterans.  We’ve now helped to bring tens of thousands of veterans off the streets and into permanent housing.  This has to be a core mission, because every veteran who has fought for America ought to have a home in America.  (Applause.)

And this brings me to the last promise I want to discuss with you.  Four years ago, I said that I’d do everything I could to help our veterans realize the American Dream, to enlist you in building a stronger America.  After all, our veterans have the skills that America needs.  So today, our economy is growing and creating jobs, but it’s still too hard for too many folks to find work, especially our younger veterans, our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And with a million more troops rejoining civilian life in the years ahead — and looking for work — we’ve got to step up our game, at every stage of their careers.

So today, I’m announcing a major overhaul of our transition assistance program.  We’re going to set up a kind of “reverse boot camp” for our departing servicemembers.  Starting this year, they’ll get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers.  We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education, or start that business.  And just as they’ve maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of “career readiness.”

In addition, by making the Post-9/11 GI Bill a priority, we’ve helped more than 800,000 veterans and their families pursue their education.  And I’ve issued an executive order to help put a stop to schools that are ripping off our veterans.  (Applause.)

I’ve directed the federal government to step up on jobs.  Since I took office, we’ve hired more than 200,000 veterans into the federal government.  We made it a priority.  (Applause.)  And we’re keeping track — every agency, every department:  What are you doing for our veterans?

I’ve challenged community health centers to hire thousands of veterans as physicians and nurses.  And as we help local communities hire new police officers and firefighters and first responders, we’re giving a preference to veterans.

We’re also fighting to get more vets hired in the private sector.  With new tools like our online Veterans Jobs Bank, we’re connecting veterans directly to jobs.  We’re helping thousands of veterans get certified for good-paying jobs in manufacturing.  We succeeded in passing tax credits for businesses that hire our veterans and our wounded warriors.  And this morning, I signed into law the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act — making it easier for veterans to transfer their outstanding military skills into the licenses and credentials they need to get civilian jobs.  (Applause.)

If you are a young man that is in charge of a platoon or millions of dollars of equipment and are taking responsibility, or you’re a medic out in the field who is saving lives every single day — when you come home, you need to be credentialed and certified quickly so you can get on the job.  People should understand how skilled you are.  (Applause.)  And there shouldn’t be bureaucrats or runarounds.  We’ve got to put those folks to work.

Last summer, I also challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or their spouses.  Michelle and Jill Biden have been leading the effort, through Joining Forces.  And so far, thousands of patriotic businesses have hired or trained more than 90,000 veterans and spouses.  And our message to companies is simple:  If you want somebody who gets the job done, then hire a vet.  (Applause.)  Hire a vet.  Hire a vet and they will make you proud just like they’ve made America proud.

And we’re fighting for veterans who want to start their own businesses, including more training in entrepreneurship.  It’s one of the reasons we’ve cut taxes — 18 times for small businesses, including veteran-owned businesses.  And the effects ripple out, because vets are more likely to hire vets.

So today, we can point to progress.  More veterans are finding jobs; the unemployment rate for veterans has come down.  Yes, it’s still too high, but it’s coming down.  And now we’ve got to sustain that momentum.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve proposed to Congress a Veterans Jobs Corps to put our veterans back to work protecting and rebuilding America.  And today, I am again calling on Congress:  Pass this Veterans Jobs Corps and extend the tax credits for businesses that hire veterans so we can give these American heroes the jobs and opportunities that they deserve.  (Applause.)

So, VFW, these are the promises that I made.  These are the promises that I’ve kept.  Where we still have more to do, we will not rest.  That’s my vow to you.  I’ve got your back.  I’ve got your six.  Because we have a solemn obligation to all who serve

— not just for the years you’re in uniform, but for all the decades that follow, and because even though today’s wars are ending, the hard work of taking care of our newest veterans has only just begun.

Just as you protected America, we’re going to pass our country to the next generation, stronger and safer and more respected in the world.  So if anyone tries to tell you that our greatness has passed, that America is in decline, you tell them this:  Just like the 20th century, the 21st is going to be another great American Century.  For we are Americans, blessed with the greatest form of government ever devised by man, a democracy dedicated to freedom and committed to the ideals that still light the world.  We will never apologize for our way of life; we will never waver in its defense.

We are a nation that freed millions and turned adversaries into allies.  We are the Americans who defended the peace and turned back aggression.  We are Americans who welcome our global responsibilities and our global leadership.  The United States has been, and will remain, the one indispensable nation in world affairs.

And you, you are the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, the Marines and the Coast Guardsmen who have kept us strong.  We will honor your legacy.  And we will ensure that the military you served, and the America that we love, remains the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.

God bless you.  God bless all of our veterans.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END               1:08 P.M. PDT

Political Headlines July 23, 2012: Obama Defends His Foreign Policy, Declares ‘New Era’ of US Leadership at Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Defends His Foreign Policy, Declares ‘New Era’ of US Leadership

Source: ABC News, 7-23-12

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday argued that his foreign policy has ushered in a “new era of American leadership,” while suggesting that Republican rival Mitt Romney has not shown he is ready to be commander in chief.
“Four years ago, I made you a promise.  I pledged to take the fight to our enemies and renew our leadership in the world.  As president, that’s what I’ve done,” Obama said at the national convention for the Veterans of Foreign Wars….READ MORE

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