President Barack Obama’s Statement on the UK Decision to Leave the European Union

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS

President Obama on the UK Decision to Leave the European Union

Source: WH, 6-24-16

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy. So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond. The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.”

 

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Full Text Political Transcripts June 24, 2016: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech announcing his resignation after the UK votes to leave the European Union

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS:

British Prime Minister David Cameron announces his resignation after the UK votes to leave the European Union

Source: AOL, 6-24-16

“Good morning everyone, the country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history.

Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have all had their say.

We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people for these big decisions.

We not only have a parliamentary democracy, but on questions about the arrangements for how we’ve governed there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves and that is what we have done.

The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside party differences to speak in what they believe was the national interest and let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionate case that they made.

The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.

It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision.

So there can be no doubt about the result.

Across the world people have been watching the choice that Britain has made.

I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Britons living in European countries and European citizens living here there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances.

There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.

We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union.

This will need to involve the full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced.

But above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership.

I’m very proud and very honoured to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years.

I believe we’ve made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people’s life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality, but above all restoring Britain’s economic strength.

And I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped to make that happen.

I have also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them.

That is why we delivered the first coalition government in 70 years, to bring our economy back from the brink.

It’s why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland.

And it’s why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain’s position in the European Union and to hold the referendum on our membership and have carried those things out.

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel – head, heart and soul.

I held nothing back, I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone – not the future of any single politician including myself.

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly but I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.

There is no need for a precise timetable today but in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.

Delivering stability will be important and I will continue in post as Prime Minister with my Cabinet for the next three months.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the Governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps that the Bank and the Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets.

We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen’s Speech.

And I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning to advise her of the steps that I am taking.

A negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new prime minister and I think it’s right that this new prime minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU.

I will attend the European Council next week to explain the decision the British people have taken and my own decision.

The British people have made a choice that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument – myself included – should help to make it work.

Britain is a special country – we have so many great advantages – a parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate, a great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity, respected the world over.

And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model for the multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, that people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows.

Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths.

I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way.

Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help.

I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.

Thank you very much.”

Full Text Political Transcripts June 24, 2016: Brexit Results: Referendum of the United Kingdom’s European Union membership

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS:

Referendum of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union

Last updated Jun 24 at 2:11 AM
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
100.0% Reporting
Votes
Remain a member of the European Union
48.1%
16,141,241

Leave the European Union

51.9%
17,410,742

 

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the world’s nations and their leaders mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 after a lengthy illness late Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 flags all over the world were ordered to fly at half…READ MORE

Political Headlines August 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Parliament Votes No

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No

Source: NYT, 8-29-13

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.
Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.

President Obama is ready to pursue a limited military strike even with a rejection of such action by Britain and mounting questions from Congress, officials said….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Meets with Top Advisers on Syria, Calls UK’s David Cameron

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Meets with Top Advisers on Syria, Calls UK’s David Cameron

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Three days after an alleged, large-scale chemical-weapons attack in Syria, President Obama spent much of Saturday meeting with his highest-level national-security and intelligence advisers, grappling with what to do if Syria has crossed the “red line” of chemical-weapons use.

The U.S. intelligence community is still gathering evidence about Wednesday’s attack in a suburb of Damascus that sent thousands to hospitals and left hundreds reported dead, the White House said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 13, 2013: President Barack Obama & United Kingdom Prime Minister Cameron’s Remarks at a Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 5-13-13 

East Room

11:41 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.  And to all our moms out there, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

It’s always a great pleasure to welcome my friend and partner, Prime Minister David Cameron.  Michelle and I have wonderful memories from when David and Samantha visited us last year.  There was a lot of attention about how I took David to March Madness — we went to Ohio.  And a year later, we have to confess that David still does not understand basketball — I still do not understand cricket.

As we’ve said before, the great alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in shared interests and shared values, and it’s indispensable to global security and prosperity.  But as we’ve seen again recently, it’s also a partnership of the heart.  Here in the United States, we joined our British friends in mourning the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, a great champion of freedom and liberty and of the alliance that we carry on today.  And after the bombings in Boston, we Americans were grateful for the support of friends from around the world, particularly those across the Atlantic.  At the London Marathon, runners paused in a moment of silence and dedicated their race to Boston.  And David will be visiting Boston to pay tribute to the victims and first responders.

So, David, I want to thank you and the British people for reminding us that in good times and in bad, our two peoples stand as one.

David is here, first and foremost, as he prepares to host the G8 next month.  I appreciate him updating me on the agenda as it takes shape, and we discussed how the summit will be another opportunity to sustain the global economic recovery with a focus on growth and creating jobs for our people.  Michelle and I are looking forward to visiting Northern Ireland, and I know that the summit is going to be a great success under David’s fine leadership.

We discussed the importance of moving ahead with the EU towards negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  Our extensive trade with the U.K. is central to our broader transatlantic economic relationship, which supports more than 13 million jobs.  And I want to thank David for his strong support for building on those ties, and I look forward to launching negotiations with the EU in the coming months.  I believe we’ve got a real opportunity to cut tariffs, open markets, create jobs, and make all of our economies even more competitive.
With regard to global security, we reviewed progress in Afghanistan, where our troops continue to serve with extraordinary courage alongside each other.  And I want to commend David for his efforts to encourage greater dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is critical to regional security.

As planned, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the country soon — this spring.  U.S., British and coalition forces will move into a support role.  Our troops will continue to come home, and the war will end by the end of next year, even as we work with our Afghan partners to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a haven for terrorists who would attack our nations.

Given our shared commitment to Middle East peace, I updated David on Secretary Kerry’s efforts with Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of moving towards negotiations.  And we reaffirmed our support for democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, including the economic reforms that have to go along with political reforms.

Of course, we discussed Syria and the appalling violence being inflicted on the Syrian people.  Together, we’re going to continue our efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to provide humanitarian aid to the long-suffering Syrian people, to strengthen the moderate opposition, and to prepare for a democratic Syria without Bashar Assad.

And that includes bringing together representatives of the regime and the opposition in Geneva in the coming weeks to agree on a transitional body which would allow a transfer of power from Assad to this governing body.  Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work to establish the facts around the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and those facts will help guide our next steps.

We discussed Iran, where we agreed to keep up the pressure on Tehran for its continued failure to abide by its nuclear obligations.  The burden is on Iran to engage constructively with us and our P5-plus-1 partners in order to resolve the world’s concerns about its nuclear program.

And, finally, today we’re reaffirming our commitment to global development.  Specifically, we’re encouraged by the ambitious reforms underway at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, where both of our nations are stepping up our efforts.  And David has made it clear that the G8 Summit will be another opportunity to make progress on nutrition and food security.

So, David, thank you very much, as always, for your leadership and your partnership.  As we prepare for our work in Northern Ireland, as we consider the challenges we face around the world, it’s clear we face a demanding agenda.  But if the history of our people show anything, it is that we persevere.  As one of those London runners said at the marathon — we’re going to keep running, and we’re going to keep on doing this.  And that’s the spirit of confidence and resolve that we will continue to draw upon as we work together to meet these challenges.

So, David, thank you very much.  And welcome.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Thank you very much, Barack.  And thank you for the warm welcome.  It’s great to be back here with you in the White House.  Thank you for what you said about Margaret Thatcher.  It was a pleasure to welcome so many Americans to her remarkable funeral in the U.K.

I absolutely echo what you said about the appalling outrage in Boston.  I look forward to going there to pay my tribute to the people of that remarkable city and their courage, and we will always stand with you in the fight against terrorism.

Thank you for the remarks about the cricket and the basketball.  I haven’t made much progress — I made a bit of progress on baseball; I actually read a book about it this year, so maybe next time we’ll get to work on that one.

It’s good to be back for the first time since the American people returned you to office.  And as you said, the relationship between Britain and the United States is a partnership without parallel.  Day in, day out across the world, our diplomats and intelligence agencies work together, our soldiers serve together, and our businesses trade with each other.

In Afghanistan, our armed forces are together defending the stability that will make us all safer.  And in the global economic race, our businesses are doing more than $17 billion of trade across the Atlantic every month of every year.  And in a changing world, our nations share a resolve to stand up for democracy, for enterprise and for freedom.

We’ve discussed many issues today, as the President has said.  Let me highlight three:  the economy, the G8, and Syria.

Our greatest challenge is to secure a sustainable economic recovery.  Each of us has to find the right solutions at home.  For all of us, it means dealing with debt, it means restoring stability, getting our economy growing, and together seizing new opportunities to grow our economies.

President Obama and I have both championed a free trade deal between the European Union and the United States.  And there is a real chance now to get the process launched in time for the G8.  So the next five weeks are crucial.  To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring will take ambition and political will — that means everything on the table, even the difficult issues, and no exceptions.  It’s worth the effort.  For Britain alone, an ambitious deal could be worth up to 10 billion pounds a year, boosting industries from car manufacturing to financial services.
We discussed the G8 Summit in some detail.  When we meet on the shores of Loch Erne in Northern Ireland five weeks from today, I want us to agree ambitious action for economic growth.  Open trade is at the heart of this, but we have a broader agenda, too — to make sure everyone shares in the benefits of this greater openness, not just in our advanced economies but in the developing world, too.  I’m an unashamedly pro-business politician, but as we open up our economies to get business growing, we need to make sure that all companies pay their taxes properly and enable citizens to hold their governments and businesses to account.

Today we’ve agreed to tackle the scourge of tax evasion.  We need to know who really owns a company, who profits from it, whether taxes are paid.  And we need a new mechanism to track where multinationals make their money and where they pay their taxes so we can stop those that are manipulating the system unfairly.

Finally, we discussed the brutal conflict in Syria — 80,000 dead; 5 million people forced from their homes.  Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch.  The world urgently needs to come together to bring the killing to an end.  None of us have any interest in seeing more lives lost, in seeing chemical weapons used, or extremist violence spreading even further.

So we welcome President Putin’s agreement to join an effort to achieve a political solution.  The challenges remain formidable, but we have an urgent window of opportunity before the worst fears are realized.  There is no more urgent international task than this.  We need to get Syrians to the table to agree a transitional government that can win the consent of all of the Syrian people.  But there will be no political progress unless the opposition is able to withstand the onslaught, and put pressure on Assad so he knows there is no military victory.  So we will also increase our efforts to support and to shape the moderate opposition.

Britain is pushing for more flexibility in the EU arms embargo and we will double nonlethal support to the Syrian opposition in the coming year.  Armored vehicles, body armor, and power generators are route to be shipped.  We’re helping local councils govern the areas that they liberate, and we’re supporting Lebanon and Jordan to deal with the influx of refugees.  We’ll also do more for those in desperate humanitarian need — care for trauma injuries; helping torture victims to recover; getting Syrian families drinking clean water; having access to food, to shelter.

There is now, I believe, common ground between the U.S., U.K., Russia, and many others that whatever our differences, we have the same aim — a stable, inclusive, and peaceful Syria, free from the scourge of extremism.  There is real political will behind this.  We now need to get on and do everything we can to make it happen.

Barack, thank you once again for your warm welcome and for our talks today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  All right, we’ve got time for a couple of questions.  We’re going to start with Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about the IRS and Benghazi.  When did you first learn that the IRS was targeting conservative political groups?  Do you feel that the IRS has betrayed the public’s trust?  And what do you think the repercussions for these actions should be?  And on Benghazi, newly public emails show that the White House and the State Department appear to have been more closely involved with the crafting of the talking points on the attack than first acknowledged.  Do you think the White House misled the public about its role in shaping the talking points?  And do you stand by your administration’s assertions that the talking points were not purposely changed to downplay the prospects of terrorism?  And, Prime Minister Cameron, on Syria, if the EU arms embargo that you mentioned is amended or lapses, is it your intention to send the Syrian opposition forces weapons?  And are you encouraging President Obama to take the same step?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me take the IRS situation first.  I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.  I think it was on Friday.  And this is pretty straightforward.

If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it.  And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they’re applying it in a non-partisan way — applying the laws in a non-partisan way.

And you should feel that way regardless of party.  I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, independent or a Republican.  At some point, there are going to be Republican administrations.  At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones.  Either way, you don’t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate.  So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about.

The IG is conducting its investigation.  And I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely, but I can tell you that if you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.  And people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed.  So we’ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are.  But I’ve got no patience with it.  I will not tolerate it.  And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.

With respect to Benghazi, we’ve now seen this argument that’s been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now.  And I’ve just got to say — here’s what we know.  Americans died in Benghazi.  What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected.  The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.  And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime.

And that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do.  And over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans — Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering — who investigated every element of this.  And what they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world.  They gave us a whole series of recommendations.  Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak.

The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.  What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.  It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film.  And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.

And the emails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees.  They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used.  And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story.  There’s no “there” there.

Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing.  And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.

So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya.

Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days?  So the whole thing defies logic.  And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.  We’ve had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity.  It’s a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks.  They’ve used it for fundraising.

And frankly, if anybody out there wants to actually focus on how we make sure something like this does not happen again, I am happy to get their advice and information and counsel.  But the fact of the matter is these four Americans, as I said right when it happened, were people I sent into the field, and I’ve been very clear about taking responsibility for the fact that we were not able to prevent their deaths.  And we are doing everything we can to make sure we prevent it, in part because there are still diplomats around the world who are in very dangerous, difficult situations.  And we don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington.  We should be focused on what are we doing to protect them.

And that’s not easy, by the way.  And it’s going to require resources and tough judgments and tough calls.  And there are a whole bunch of diplomats out there who know that they’re in harm’s way.  And there are threat streams that come through every so often, with respect to our embassies and our consulates — and that’s not just us, by the way; the British have to deal with the same thing.

And we’ve got a whole bunch of people in the State Department who consistently say, you know what, I’m willing to step up, I’m willing to put myself in harm’s way because I think that this mission is important in terms of serving the United States and advancing our interests around the globe.

And so we dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus.  What happened was tragic.  It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya.  We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we are trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Thank you.  On the issue of the opposition in Syria, we have not made the decision to arm opposition groups in Syria.  What we’ve done is we have amended the EU arms embargo in order that we can give technical assistance and technical advice.  And as I said in my statement, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We’re continuing to examine and look at the EU arms embargo and see whether we need to make further changes to it in order to facilitate our work with the opposition.  I do believe that there’s more we can do, alongside technical advice, assistance, help, in order to shape them, in order to work with them.  And to those who doubt that approach, I would just argue that, look, if we don’t help the Syrian opposition — who we do recognize as being legitimate, who have signed up to a statement about a future for Syria that is democratic, that respects the rights of minorities — if we don’t work with that part of the opposition, then we shouldn’t be surprised if the extremist elements grow.

So I think being engaged with the Syrian opposition is the right approach, and that is an approach I know I share with the President and with other colleagues in the European Union.

James Landale from the BBC.

Q    James Landale, BBC.  Prime Minister, you’re talking here today about a new EU-U.S. trade deal, and yet members of your party are now talking about leaving the European Union.  What is your message to them and to those pushing for an early referendum?  And if there were a referendum tomorrow, how would you vote?

And, Mr. President, earlier this year you told David Cameron that you wanted a strong U.K. in a strong EU.  How concerned are you that members of David Cameron’s Cabinet are now openly contemplating withdrawal?

And on Syria, if I may, a question to both of you:  What gives you any confidence that the Russians are going to help you on this?

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Well, first of all, on the issue of a referendum, look, there’s not going to be a referendum tomorrow.  And there’s a very good reason why there’s not going to be a referendum tomorrow — is because it would give the British public I think an entirely false choice between the status quo — which I don’t think is acceptable.  I want to see the European Union change.  I want to see Britain’s relationship with the European [Union] change and improve.  So it would be a false choice between the status quo and leaving.  And I don’t think that is the choice the British public want or the British public deserve.

Everything I do in this area is guided by a very simple principle, which is what is in the national interest of Britain. Is it in the national interest of Britain to have a transatlantic trade deal that will make our countries more prosperous; that will get people to work; that will help our businesses?  Yes, it is.  And so we will push for this transatlantic trade deal.

Is it in our interests to reform the European Union to make it more open, more competitive, more flexible, and to improve Britain’s place within the European Union?  Yes, it is in our national interest.  And it’s not only in our national interest, it is achievable, because Europe has to change because the single currency is driving change for that part of the European Union that is in the single currency.  And just as they want changes, so I believe Britain is quite entitled to ask for and to get changes in response.

And then finally, is it in Britain’s national interest, once we have achieved those changes but before the end of 2017, to consult the British public in a proper, full-on, in/out referendum?  Yes, I believe it is.  So that’s the approach that we take — everything driven by what is in the British national interest.

That is what I’m going to deliver.  It’s absolutely right for our country.  It has very strong support throughout the country and in the Conservative Party, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

On the Syrian issue, you asked the question — what are the signs of Russian engagement.  Well, I had very good talks with President Putin in Sochi on Friday.  And, look, we had a very frank conversation in that we have approached this — and in some extent, still do approach this — in a different way.  I have been very vocal in supporting the Syrian opposition and saying that Assad has to go, that he is not legitimate, and I continue to say that.  And President Putin has taken a different point of view.

But where there is a common interest is that it is in both our interests that at the end of this there is a stable, democratic Syria, that there is a stable neighborhood, and that we don’t encourage the growth of violent extremism.  And I think both the Russian President, the American President, and myself — I think we can all see that the current trajectory of how things are going is not actually in anybody’s interest and so it is worth this major diplomatic effort, which we are all together leading this major diplomatic effort to bring the parties to the table to achieve a transition at the top in Syria so that we can make the change that country needs.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  With respect to the relationship between the U.K. and the EU, we have a special relationship with the United Kingdom.  And we believe that our capacity to partner with a United Kingdom that is active, robust, outward-looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world.  And I think the U.K.’s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world, as well as obviously a very important economic partnership.

Now, ultimately, the people of the U.K. have to make decisions for themselves.  I will say this — that David’s basic point that you probably want to see if you can fix what’s broken in a very important relationship before you break it off makes some sense to me.  And I know that David has been very active in seeking some reforms internal to the EU.  Those are tough negotiations.  You’ve got a lot of countries involved, I recognize that.  But so long as we haven’t yet evaluated how successful those reforms will be, I at least would be interested in seeing whether or not those are successful before rendering a final judgment.  Again, I want to emphasize these are issues for the people of the United Kingdom to make a decision about, not ours.

With respect to Syria, I think David said it very well.  If you look objectively, the entire world community has an interest in seeing a Syria that is not engaged in sectarian war, in which the Syrian people are not being slaughtered, that is an island of peace as opposed to potentially an outpost for extremists.  That’s not just true for the United States.  That’s not just true for Great Britain.  That’s not just true for countries like Jordan and Turkey that border Syria, but that’s also true for Russia.

And I’m pleased to hear that David had a very constructive conversation with President Putin shortly after the conversation that had taken place between John Kerry and President Putin.  I’ve spoken to President Putin several times on this topic.  And our basic argument is that as a leader on the world stage, Russia has an interest, as well as an obligation, to try to resolve this issue in a way that can lead to the kind of outcome that we’d all like to see over the long term.

And, look, I don’t think it’s any secret that there remains lingering suspicions between Russia and other members of the G8 or the West.  It’s been several decades now since Russia transformed itself and the Eastern Bloc transformed itself.  But some of those suspicions still exist.

And part of what my goal has been, John Kerry’s goal has been — and I know that David’s goal has been — to try to break down some of those suspicions and look objectively at the situation.

If, in fact, we can broker a peaceful political transition that leads to Assad’s departure but a state in Syria that is still intact; that accommodates the interests of all the ethnic groups, all the religious groups inside of Syria; and that ends the bloodshed, stabilizes the situation — that’s not just going to be good for us; that will be good for everybody.  And we’re going to be very persistent in trying to make that happen.

I’m not promising that it’s going to be successful.  Frankly, sometimes once sort of the Furies have been unleashed in a situation like we’re seeing in Syria, it’s very hard to put things back together.  And there are going to be enormous challenges in getting a credible process going even if Russia is involved, because we still have other countries like Iran and we have non-state actors like Hezbollah that have been actively involved.  And frankly, on the other side we’ve got organizations like al Nusra that are essentially affiliated to al Qaeda that have another agenda beyond just getting rid of Assad.

So all that makes a combustible mix and it’s going to be challenging, but it’s worth the effort.  And what we can tell you is that we’re always more successful in any global effort when we’ve got a strong friend and partner like Great Britain by our side and strong leadership by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:11 P.M. EDT

White House Recap March 10-16, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Barack Obama Hosts British Prime Minister David Cameron for Basketball, State Dinner & Press Conference

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: MARCH 10-16, 2012

West Wing Week: 3/16/12 or “Leveling the Playing Field”

Source: WH, 3-16-12

This week, the President pressed for support of advanced manufacturing, held a series of “Live from the White House” Interviews, made a major announcement on trade rights, hosted Prime Minster Cameron for an Official State Visit and a trip to an NCAA game, and spoke on energy and job creation in Maryland.

Weekly Wrap Up: Standing Together and Working Together

Source: WH, 3-16-12

No Quick Fix: Speaking from Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland on Thursday, the President explained his all-of-the-above strategy to develop every available source of American-made energy. “We need an energy strategy for the future,” the President explained. “Yes, develop as much oil and gas as we can, but also develop wind power and solar power and biofuels.”

Rock-Solid Alliance: On Wednesday morning, President Obama – together with the First Lady, the Vice President and Dr. Biden – welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron and Samantha Cameron to the White House during the Official Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn. Later that evening, the Prime Minister and his wife were honored with a State Dinner, where they were joined by dignitaries from both countries. “In war and I peace, in times of plenty and times of hardship,” President Obama remarked, “we stand tall and proud and strong, together.”

Announcing a New Trade Case: After forming the Trade Enforcement Unit two weeks ago, President Obama announced on Wednesday that, “we’re bringing a new trade case against China – and we’re being joined by Japan and some of our European allies.” The effort is focused on expanding American manufacturers’ access to rare earth materials, which China currently supplies and, due to their policies, prevents the United States from obtaining.

Bracketology: Before the madness began, the President took time to fill out his brackets for the 2012 NCAA men and women’s basketball tournaments. While Kentucky, Ohio State and Mizzou made his Final Four, it’s the North Carolina Tar Heels who he selected as his national champion. On Monday night, the President headed to Dayton, Ohio with Prime Minister Cameron to catch some early round action in person.

Political Buzz March 15, 2012: President Barack Obama Hosts British Prime Minister David Cameron at Press Conference, NCAA Basketball Game in Ohio & UK State Dinner

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama, the First Lady, Prime Minister Cameron, and Samantha Cameron pose for an official State Dinner photo (March 14, 2012)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Mrs. Samantha Cameron for an official State Dinner photo in the Grand Foyer of the White House, March 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HOSTS BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON AT PRESS CONFERENCE, NCCAA BASKETBALL GAME IN OHIO & UK STATE DINNER

When Barack Met David: A Trans-Atlantic Love Story: This is intended as a quick catch-up for American readers who may have inexplicably missed the top news story of the week: you just had a visit from the British prime minister. And, by the way, his name is David Cameron.
Foreign leaders turn up in Washington with the same regularity that pro-consuls and minor princelings once took the road to ancient Rome. So, if you missed it, you’re forgiven. In the British media, however, this particular three-day meet-and-greet was followed as if it were the second coming.
British officials were spinning like nuclear centrifuges to stress the importance of this latest manifestation of the “special relationship” and of the depth and warmth of the personal ties between “Barack” and “David.”… – IHT, NYT, 3-16-12

  • Cameron visits 9/11 memorial in NYC: British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, visited the memorial at the World Trade Center on Thursday after touring businesses in Newark, N.J…. – AP, 3-15-12
  • British state dinner and red carpet arrivals: President Obama and first lady welcome British prime minister David Cameron and wife for a state dinner at the White House. President Barack Obama proposes a toast as he and first lady Michelle Obama host a state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron… – WaPo, 3-14-12
  • Obamas host British Prime Minister David Cameron at state dinner: President Obama and his wife, Michelle, hosted the sixth state dinner of their tenure Wednesday evening, honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron in a celebration of spring in a tent on the White House’s South … – LAT, 3-14-12
  • White House state dinner for British PM mixes election-year celebrity power: Wednesday’s giant state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife — the biggest ever thrown by Barack and Michelle Obama — dished up a potent mix of celebrity glam, corporate heft and political money under an enormous … – WaPo, 3-16-12
  • Obama hails ‘indispensable’ US alliance with Britain: A “chuffed to bits” President Barack Obama gushed over British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, but deepening world crises conspired to darken a warm welcome for a special ally.
    Obama went out of his way to hail America’s “indispensable” relationship with Britain, even offering to learn the rules of cricket, gifting his guest a top of the range American grill, and laying on a sumptuous state dinner…. – AFP, 3-14-12
  • President Obama, David Cameron stress trust, admiration: President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spent Wednesday evening pouring praise on each other in front of a state dinner crowd of celebrities, politicians, business leaders, journalists and major campaign donors of the president.
    “In good times and in bad, he’s just the kind of partner that you want at your side. I trust him. He says what he does and he does what he says,” Obama said at the White House event.
    The president spoke of his admiration of Cameron’s “character,” especially in light of the death of his young son Ivan in 2009. “All of us have seen how you as a parent, along with Samantha, have shown a measure of strength that few of us will ever know,” he said.
    Obama showed a note of familiarity with the prime minister, calling Cameron by his first name throughout his warm words. Cameron reciprocated.
    “There are three things about Barack that really stand out for me: Strength, moral authority and wisdom,” Cameron said, citing the killing of Osama bin Laden and the international action in Libya, among other efforts…. – Politico, 3-14-12
  • The White House state dinner: Sweet nothings across the pond: The British arrived. Brilliant! For the British, we roll out our most glorious specimen. For the British, we bring out The Clooney. The purpose of a state dinner is always to cement relationships, celebrate ties, create photo-ops…. – WaPo, 3-14-12
  • Michelle Obama wears Marchesa gown to state dinner _ and designer is on the guest list: Michelle Obama chose an off-the-shoulder Marchesa gown for her duties Wednesday night as hostess at a White House state dinner honoring the British prime minister and his wife, David and Samantha Cameron. It was a deep shade of teal in a … – WaPo, 3-14-12
  • Michelle Obama Wears Marchesa to the White House State Dinner: It was a win for Marchesa last night when Michelle Obama chose to wear the label’s draped teal column dress to the White House state dinner. The first lady accessorized with a “Pearls in Peril” necklace by Tom Binns…. – WSJ, 3-15-12
  • Obama, Cameron warn Iran: They warn that new military action might be near…. – Politico, 3-14-12
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom hold a press conference (March 14, 2012)

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom hold a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Cameron and Obama Show Unity on Afghanistan: Seeking to project a united front on Afghanistan after a spate of bloody setbacks on the battlefield, President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain pledged on Wednesday that their countries would stick to the timetable for … – NYT, 3-14-12
  • Obama, Cameron outline shift to support role in Afghanistan next year: Determined to show momentum in a war marred by setbacks, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minster David Cameron said for the first time Wednesday that NATO forces would hand over the lead combat role to Afghanistan forces next year … – WaPo, 3-14-12
  • Obama, Cameron affirm commitment to Afghan mission: Seeking strength and persuasion in numbers, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron together laid out a case for continuing their policy in Afghanistan, an increasingly unstable war-front with fading support in both countries.
    Appearing together Wednesday in the Rose Garden for Cameron’s first official visit to the United States, the leaders sought to project a unified front against calls to speed up the pace of withdrawal of forces in the face growing violence and a weary electorate.
    Cameron declared firmly that “we will not give up on this mission,” while Obama emphasized his commitment to a “steady, responsible transition process.”
    “I don’t anticipate at this stage that we’re going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have,” Obama said…. – LAT, 3-14-12
  • First lady brings Olympics to pupils: Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron lead a group of fifth-graders through a mini-Olympics…. – Politico, 3-14-12
  • President Obama takes British leader to NCAA basketball game in Ohio: The casual start to Prime Minister David Cameron’s state visit showcases the nations’ close relationship at a crucial time for the president.
    British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama headed to Ohio to take in one of the “First Four” games of the NCAA basketball tournament Tuesday, a lighthearted start to a visit that will turn to more difficult subjects Wednesday.
    The leaders left their wives in Washington for the man date in the swing state, an outing billed by the White House as important cross-cultural bonding time…. – LAT, 3-13-12
  • Obama, Cameron take in ‘Heartland’: The president said Cameron would get to see both basketball and “the great state of Ohio.”…. – Politico, 3-13-12
  • British prime minister gets a taste of American life: Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife come to the United States for a two-day visit that includes, among other activities, attending the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. US President Barack Obama talks to British Prime Minister David Cameron … – WaPo, 3-13-12

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron watch basketball
President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron watch Mississippi Valley State play Western Kentucky in a first-round NCAA tournament game in Dayton, Ohio. (Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press / March 13, 2012)

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2012: UK State Dinner — President Barack Obama & British PM David Cameron’s Speeches Toasting the Alliance between America and Britain

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Toasting the Alliance between America and Britain

Source: WH, 3-14-12

President Obama, the First Lady, Prime Minister Cameron, and Samantha Cameron pose for an official State Dinner photo (March 14, 2012)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Mrs. Samantha Cameron for an official State Dinner photo in the Grand Foyer of the White House, March 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Technically, Prime Minister Cameron’s trip to the United States is an official visit — not a state visit. State visits are reserved for the head of state, and in the case of the United Kingdom, that means the Queen. But last night, the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha Cameron were honored with a State Dinner all the same.

They were joined by dignitaries from both countries — including Warren and Susan Buffet, Sir Jony Ive (the Apple designer), Hugh Bonnerville (the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey), and George Clooney.

Before raising his glass for a toast, President Obama spoke again on the nature of the values our two countries share:

In war and in peace, in times of plenty and times of hardship, we stand tall and proud and strong, together. And as free peoples committed to the dignity of all human beings, we will never apologize for our way of life, nor waver in its defense.

It’s why David’s grandfather fought alongside us Yanks after D-Day; why my grandfather marched across Europe in Patton’s army. It’s why tonight, at dusty bases in Afghanistan, both American and British soldiers are getting ready to go on patrol, like generations before them, shoulder to shoulder. It’s why our diplomats and development workers are side by side, standing with the activists who dare to demand their rights, save a child from drought or famine.

Read the full set of remarks from both leaders here. Or check out a slideshow of images throughout the visit below.

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President Obama And First Lady Ready To Greet

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in an Exchange of Toasts at State Dinner

South Grounds Tent

9:01 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening, everyone.  Please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  I was just telling the Prime Minister that, so far, the evening has been successful because I have not stepped on Michelle’s train.  (Laughter.)  My main goal this evening.  Michelle and I could not be more honored that you could join us as we host our great friends — the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and his remarkable wife, Samantha.  You can give them a round of applause — why not?  (Applause.)

As I said this morning, this visit also gives us an opportunity to return the gracious hospitality that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, as well as David and Samantha and all the British people showed us during our visit to London last year.  And I know Michelle looks forward to returning.  Because, as she announced yesterday, she will be leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in London.  (Applause.)  I am jealous.  (Laughter.)

Now, I’m so grateful for all the time that David and I have had together.  But as we’ve learned, you can never tell how things will get reported as a consequence of our interactions.  When we met two years ago, we exchanged beers from our hometowns.  One news story said:  “David Cameron and Barack Obama cemented their special relationship — by hitting the bottle.”  (Laughter.)

When we had a barbeque at Downing Street for some of our servicemembers, David and I rolled up our sleeves, threw away the aprons, decided to flip the burgers ourselves.  One reporter called it a “brave and foolish move.”  (Laughter.)  Another expressed amazement at our “surprising competence.”  (Laughter.)  Michelle and Samantha often remark the same way.  (Laughter.)

And finally, when David and I got beat pretty badly in table tennis by some local London kids, one newspaper asked the head coach of the British Olympic women’s team to critique our performance.  Obama, the coach said, “talked a lot.”  (Laughter.)  David “overhits the ball.”  (Laughter.)  Both of them — I’m quoting here –“looked a little confused.”  (Laughter.)

But in moments like that, and in all of our interactions — including today — I’ve learned something about David.  In good times and in bad, he’s just the kind of partner that you want at your side.  I trust him.  He says what he does, and he does what he says.  And I’ve seen his character.  And I’ve seen his commitment to human dignity, during Libya.  I’ve seen his resolve, his determination to get the job done, whether it’s righting our economies or succeeding in Afghanistan.

And I will say something else, David.  All of us have seen how you, as a parent, along with Samantha, have shown a measure of strength that few of us will ever know.  Tonight, I thank you for bringing that same strength and solidarity to our partnership — even if you do overhit the ball.  (Laughter.)

We are by no means the first President and Prime Minister to celebrate the deep and abiding bonds between our people.  There has been no shortage of words uttered about our special relationship.  And I was humbled to offer my own last year when I had the opportunity to address Parliament in Westminster Hall.

So, rather than words, I’d like to leave you tonight with two simple images.  They’re from different times and places, decades apart.  But they’re moments, I think, that reveal the spirit of our alliance and the character of our countries.

The first is from the Blitz, when, month after month, the British people braved the onslaught from the sky.  And one of those most enduring images from those days is of the London skyline, covered in smoke, with one thing shining through — the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, tall and proud and strong.  The other image we know from our own lives — from that awful September day, that unforgettable picture of the Manhattan skyline, covered in smoke and dust, with one thing shining through — our Statue of Liberty, tall and proud and strong.

In those two moments I think you see all you need to know about who we are and what brings us together tonight.  In war and in peace, in times of plenty and times of hardship, we stand tall and proud and strong, together.  And as free peoples committed to the dignity of all human beings, we will never apologize for our way of life, nor waver in its defense.

It’s why David’s grandfather fought alongside us Yanks after D-Day; why my grandfather marched across Europe in Patton’s army.  It’s why tonight, at dusty bases in Afghanistan, both American and British soldiers are getting ready to go on patrol, like generations before them, shoulder to shoulder.  It’s why our diplomats and development workers are side by side, standing with the activists who dare to demand their rights, save a child from drought or famine.

It’s why leaders of our two countries can embrace the same shared heritage and the promise of our alliance — even if we come from different political traditions; even if the Prime Minister is younger than nearly 200 years of his predecessors; even if the President looks a little different than his predecessors.  And David, it’s why, tonight, our young children — and children across our countries — can sleep well, knowing that we’re doing everything in our power to build a future that is worthy of their dreams.

So, in closing, let me just say that I intended to make history tonight.  I thought that I could be the first American President to make it through an entire visit of our British friends without quoting Winston Churchill.  (Laughter.)  But then I saw this great quote and I thought, “Come on, this is Churchill!”  (Laughter.)  So I couldn’t resist.

It was December 1941, and the attack on Pearl Harbor had finally thrust America into war, alongside our British friends.  And these were the words Sir Winston spoke to his new American partners:  “I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants.”

And so I’d like to propose a toast:  To Her Majesty the Queen, on her Diamond Jubilee; to our dear friends, David and Samantha; and to the great purpose and design of our alliance.  May we remain, now and always, its faithful servants.  Cheers, everyone.

(A toast is offered.)

David.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  President Obama, First Lady, ladies and gentlemen:  It is a tremendous honor to be here this evening. And I want to thank you for putting on such a great dinner, and for making our visit so special over the last two days.  And thank you also for those strong and beautiful words that you’ve just spoken.

Now, Michelle, I’m sure that, like Sam, you often wonder what happens when your husband goes for a night out with the guys.  (Laughter.)  So maybe I should come clean about last night.  (Laughter.)  We went to basketball and we had a real man-to-man chat.  Barack tried to confuse me by talking about bracketology — (laughter) — but I got my own back by running him gently through the rules of cricket.  (Laughter.)

The truth is we have to have a guys’ night out because so often we find we are completely overshadowed by our beautiful wives.  (Applause.)

As I rolled into bed last night, I said, “Samantha, do you want to hear about what I got up to on this great guys’ night out?”  And she — she’s not too impressed by these things.  She said, “Well, everything you did was on television.  You were surrounded by the presidential bodyguard, so presumably you didn’t get up to anything.”  (Laughter.)

Now, both Barack and I have said a lot today about the importance of the relationship between our two countries and our peoples.  Like my predecessors, I’m proud of our essential relationship and of Britain’s strong national bond with the United States of America.  I feel it in my bones.

Now, there is, of course a great history of close relationships between U.S. Presidents and British Prime Ministers.  Importantly, these have been regardless of the political parties they happen to represent.  Her Majesty the Queen is a great authority on the matter.  She has seen — and she likes to tell me this — no fewer than 12 British Prime Ministers and 11 American Presidents during her time on the throne.  But I’m sure everyone here would want to pay tribute to her incredible service and selfless duty in this, her special Diamond Jubilee year.  (Applause.)

Now, Her Majesty’s first Prime Minister was, of course, Winston Churchill, a regular guest here at the White House.  I’m not going to quote from Churchill, I’m going to quote about Churchill — because it seems his visits were not always the easiest experience for his American hosts.

As Roosevelt’s secretary wrote after one visit:  “Churchill is a trying guest.  He drinks like a fish.  He smokes like a chimney.  He has irregular routines, works nights, sleeps days, and turns the clocks upside down.”  And for those of you who wonder why the British Prime Minister now stays at Blair House rather than the White House — (laughter) — I simply observe this.  We all know the story of Winston Churchill famously found naked in his bath by President Roosevelt.  This happened while he stayed at the White House in December 1941, and the federal government bought Blair House in 1942.  (Laughter.)

Now, for every genuine presidential-prime ministerial friendship, there have been some — I think we could call them –total disconnects.  Edward Heath and Richard Nixon took personal awkwardness with each other to new and excruciating levels.  (Laughter.)  And yet, despite this, Richard Nixon arranged for someone to pay for the swimming pool at the Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers.  Incidentally, this swimming pool now has a serious and possibly terminal leak.  (Laughter.)

So I hope you won’t find it amiss as I say here in the White House, for the first time in 40 years, these words:  It is time to call in the plumbers.  (Laughter.)

Now, turning to Obama-Cameron.  As fellow parents, Barack and Michelle have both been personally very kind to Sam and me.  And as fellow leaders, we’ve struck up, I believe, a really good partnership.  It is frank and honest.  We talk through issues very rationally.  We don’t need to remind each other of the basic threats that we face; we know them.  But there are three things about Barack that really stand out for me:  strength, moral authority, and wisdom.

Strength, because Barack has been strong when required to defend his national interests.  Under President Obama’s leadership, America got bin Laden.  (Applause.)  And together with British and coalition forces, America has fundamentally weakened al Qaeda.  The President says what he will do and he sticks to it.

I’ll never forget that phone call on Libya, when he told me exactly what role America would play in Libya, and he delivered his side of the bargain to the letter.  We delivered our side of the bargain, too.  And let us all agree that the world is better off without bin Laden, but the world is better off without Qaddafi, too.  (Applause.)

Moral authority, because Barack understands that the means matter every bit as much as the ends.  Yes, America must do the right thing, but to provide moral leadership, America must do it in the right way, too.  The first President I studied at school was Theodore Roosevelt.  He talked of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.  That is Barack’s approach.  And in following it, he has pressed the reset button on the moral authority of the entire free world.

Wisdom, because Barack has not rushed into picking fights, but is steward of America’s resources of hard and soft power.  He’s taken time to make considered decisions, drawing down troops from Iraq and surging in Afghanistan.  He’s found a new voice for America with the Arab people.  And at home, he’s recognized that in America, as in Britain, the future depends on making the best of every citizen.  Both our nations have historically been held back by inequality.  But now there’s a determined effort in both our countries — most notably through education reform — to ensure that opportunity is truly available for all.

Half a century ago, the amazing courage of Rosa Parks, the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King, and the inspirational actions of the civil rights movement led politicians to write equality into the law and make real the promise of America for all her citizens.  But in the fight for justice and the struggle for freedom, there is no end, because there is so much more to do to ensure that every human being can fulfill their potential.

That is why our generation faces a new civil rights struggle, to seek the prize of the future that is open to every child as never before.

Barack has made this one of the goals of his presidency, the goal he’s pursuing with enormous courage.  And it is fitting that a man whose own personal journey defines the promise and potential of this unique nation should be working to fulfill the hopes of his country in this way.

Barack, it is an honor to call you an ally, a partner, and a friend.  You don’t get to choose the circumstances you have to deal with as a President or a Prime Minister.  And you don’t get to choose the leaders that you have to work with.  But all I can say is that it is a pleasure to work with someone with moral strength, with clear reason, and with fundamental decency in this task of renewing our great national alliance for today and for the generations to follow.

And with that, I propose a toast:  To the President, to the First Lady, and to the people of the United States of America.  Cheers.

(A toast is offered.)  (Applause.)

END
9:19 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the U.K. State Dinner for the Press

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the U.K. State Dinner

First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the U.K. State Dinner
Source: WH, 3-14-12

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the First Lady at State Dinner Press Preview

State Dining Room

1:55 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, isn’t this beautiful?  Every time I see this — see, I’m getting to see the full effect along with you all.  The placements are beautiful.

Well, welcome.  Good afternoon.  How’s everybody doing?  Welcome to the White House.

One of the things that I love to do — we’re doing a press preview.  And just to be simple, we open up the state dinner to the press so that they get to see what the inside of the tent is going to look like, what the feel of the dinner is going to be, and what the menu is going to taste like, and all of that good stuff.  So that’s something that we generally do with the state dinner.

But over the years, as we’ve invited guests here, we also try to open up these press previews to students and young people, so that you all get a sense of what actually happens at a state dinner — what goes on at that dinner; what’s the purpose of it; what does it feel like.  So we have decided — we have made this a wonderful tradition to invite you all here to the press preview to be a part of it.  And that’s what we’re doing this afternoon.

And we have three wonderful groups of young women who are with us today.  We’ve got National Cathedral School students who are here.  Where are you guys?  Right here in D.C.  Hello.  How are you guys?  What years do we have here?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Juniors and seniors.

MRS. OBAMA:  Juniors and seniors.  Excellent.  Excellent.

And we also have the Elizabeth Seton High School students in Maryland.  Where are you all?  Over there.  What years?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Twelfth.

MRS. OBAMA:  Twelfth.  Going to college?  Moving and grooving?  You guys are all ready to — college bound as well?  Good.  Good.

And then we have some very special guests from the United Kingdom, our young ladies — 12 of them — from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School.  And these young ladies are right here with us, and they are 12 wonderful young people.  I have developed a terrific relationship with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School over the years.

When I did my very first visit to the UK a couple of years ago, I got to visit the school.  And the students there were amazing.  They did a wonderful program for me, and I was so touched and so moved and felt so connected to them that one of the things I wanted to do was just stay connected.  And we have done that.

And when we visited again last year, I took a group of them to Oxford to see one of the finest colleges in the country to make sure that like all of you young women here, that our girls in the UK were reaching for the greatest heights possible and seeing the inside of some of the most astounding institutions their country has to offer.  And when I was there, I invited them back to the United States.

And because of their wonderful teachers and sponsors and mentors, they selected 12 students who had to compete, actually, to attend this trip — write essays and show their leadership skills.  And these are the 12 young women who were selected, and they’ve been here for a few days; you’ve gotten to go to the State Department.

We met yesterday with the mentees that I host here at the White House.  We had a good little conversation; you guys did some community service with our mentees yesterday, and we’re grateful — at Martha’s Table.  So we’re very proud of the investment that you’re making while you’re here.

So we are just happy to have all of you here this afternoon.  And we want you to relax, enjoy yourselves.  Because you’re going to hear a bit about what a state visit — what we try to accomplish at a state visit.  And you’re going to hear from Brooke Anderson — she’s the Chief of Staff for the National Security Staff — who’s to my left.  And she’s going to talk a bit about what a state visit means, what we’re trying to accomplish with this particular state visit.  And she can answer anything.  She’s phenomenal, she’s smart, she knows a little bit about everything.  So she’s going to help you guys through that.

And we also have one of my dear friends, Cris Comerford, who’s the Executive Chef for the White House.  So she is responsible for what we eat — she designs the menu, she works with her staff.  And let me tell you, we have hundreds of guests coming tonight, and it is a complete production for them to put together this meal.

And the White House is a big place, but the kitchen is really teeny.  You wouldn’t believe it; it’s a little-bitty kitchen.  So they have to really man the engines to make it happen.  But actually, because we’re in a tent tonight, you probably have more space than you usually do when we have the dinner here.

But Cris will talk about the menu; she’ll talk about what they think about in pulling together an event like this.  And again, you can ask her any questions as well.  She is one of the first female executive White House chefs that the White House has ever had.  And she cooks for our family, she does all the special occasions, she feeds the nation as they come through the White House.  And she is very good at what she does.

So we have two wonderful people here today who will lead you through a presentation.  So you guys, as I always say to the young women who come — speak up.  Ask questions.  This is — it’s only formal because we wanted you to see what it’s going to feel like.  But other than that, you guys enjoy yourselves.  Learn as much as you can.  Don’t be hesitant.

And then, to top it off, we’re going to let you guys try some of the dessert — (laughter) — that we’re going to have.  And you’ll be the first — after me.  I think me and Grandma and a couple of people, we’ve tasted the desserts, but you guys will be the first to taste the desserts tonight.

So we are just excited to have you.  We’re very proud of all of you, because all of you have shown a level of dedication to your school and your community, a level of leadership.  And I’m sure that’s why your school selected you to be here.  We are very proud of you.  And hopefully, you’ll be on the other end of some state dinner — maybe you’ll be doing what Brooke is doing, or doing what Cris is doing, or maybe you’ll be doing what I’m doing or what President Obama is doing.  But you’ll get a taste of what you might do when you get into these high posts, because we expect very big things from all of you.  All right?

So I’m going to go, because I have to go look at the tent.  I’m going to see what’s going on there.  And I will hand it over to Brooke, who will take good care of you.  It’s great to see you all.  Love you guys.  Have fun.

All right, take care.  (Applause.)

END
2:02 P.M. EDT

UK State Dinner: What’s On The Menu?

Source: WH, 3-14-12
Guests at tonight’s State Dinner honoring David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his wife Samantha, will enjoy a meal that represents the best of American hospitality and includes playful references to classic British traditions. First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford have put together a menu that features produce harvested yesterday from the White House’s Kitchen Garden, including baby lettuces, spring onions and  fresh herbs. The dinner will be served in a tent on the White House’s South Lawn.

The first course, Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust, will be served on a bed of braised baby kale fresh from the White House garden. The salad features spring garden lettuces with shallot dressing and includes a variety of greens, which are also from the Kitchen Garden.

Comerford says the main course, Bison Wellington, is a “great marriage of the two countries”  and features a uniquely American protein prepared in a quintessentially British style. For dessert, White House pastry chef William Yosses and his team have prepared a lemon sponge pudding in the British style, which they are serving with Newtown Pippin Apples, a variety that was grown by some of our founding fathers, and was even sent as a gift to Queen Victoria in 1838….MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2012: President Barack Obama & UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Bridging the Pond: President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron Hold a Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-14-12

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom hold a press conference (March 14, 2012)
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom hold a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
After the morning’s State Arrival ceremony and a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office, President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron took advantage of a beautiful spring day to hold a joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

The two leaders answered questions about the global economy, Iran’s nuclear program, and the war in Afghanistan. They also touched on a potential cross-cultural-sports exchange — offering the President an introduction to cricket in exchange for the Prime Minister’s crash course in bracketology.

Both men emphasized the open communiation and strong relationship between the two countries, with President Obama saying:

“The alliance between our countries is a foundation — not only for the security and prosperity of our two nations, but for international peace and security as well.  David shares my belief that, in a time of rapid change, the leadership of the United States and the United Kingdom is more important than ever.  …The future we seek is only possible if the rights and responsibilities of nations and people are upheld.  And that’s a cause that we advanced today.”

Prime Minister Cameron echoed these sentiments:

“There are some countries whose alliance is a matter of convenience, but ours is a matter of conviction.  Two states… united for freedom and enterprise; working together, day in, day out, to defend those values and advance our shared interests.” Later emphasizing that: “the relationship between Britain and America is the strongest that it has ever been.  And I believe that’s because we’re working together as closely as at any point in our history.  And together, I’m confident that we can help secure the future of our nations and the world for generations to come.”

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (1331MB) | mp3 (85MB)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in a Joint Press Conference

Rose Garden

12:27 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Please have a seat.  Again, it is a great honor to welcome my friend and partner, Prime Minister David Cameron, back to the White House for this official visit.

I know there’s been a lot of focus on last night’s game.  Some have asked how it came about.  So I want to set the record straight.  During my visit to London last year, David arranged for us to play some local students — table tennis.  As they would say in Britain, we got thrashed.  So when it came to sports on this visit, I thought it would be better if we just watched.  That said, I’m still trying to get David to fill out his bracket.

We’ve just finished up a very good discussion, and it was a reminder of why I value David’s leadership and partnership so much.  He appreciates how the alliance between our countries is a foundation — not only for the security and prosperity of our two nations, but for international peace and security as well.  David shares my belief that, in a time of rapid change, the leadership of the United States and the United Kingdom is more important than ever.  And we share the view that the future we seek is only possible if the rights and responsibilities of nations and people are upheld.  And that’s a cause that we advanced today.

At a time when too many of our people are still out of work, we agree that we’ve got to stay focused on creating the growth and jobs that put our people back to work, even as both our countries make difficult choices to put our fiscal houses in order.  Between us, we have the largest investment relationship in the world, and we’ve instructed our teams to continue to explore ways to increase transatlantic trade and investment.  And I very much appreciate David’s perspective on the fiscal situation in the eurozone, where both our countries — our economies, our businesses, our banks — are deeply connected.

We moved on to discuss Afghanistan, where we are the two largest contributors of forces to the international mission and where our forces continue to make extraordinary sacrifices.  The tragic events of recent days are a reminder that this continues to be a very difficult mission.  And obviously we both have lost a number of extraordinary young men and women in theater.  What’s also undeniable, though — and what we can never forget — is that our forces are making very real progress:  dismantling al Qaeda; breaking the Taliban’s momentum; and training Afghan forces so that they can take the lead and our troops can come home.

That transition is already underway, and about half of all Afghans currently live in areas where Afghan security forces are taking responsibility.  Today, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the transition plan that we agreed to with our coalition partners in Lisbon.  Specifically, at the upcoming NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago, we’ll determine the next phase of transition.  This includes shifting to a support role next year, in 2013, in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014.  We’re going to complete this mission, and we’re going to do it responsibly.  And NATO will maintain an enduring commitment so that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for al Qaeda to attack our countries.

We also discussed the continuing threat posed by Iran’s failure to meet its international obligations.  On this we are fully united.  We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  We believe there is still time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution, and we’re going to keep coordinating closely with our P5-plus-1 partners.  At the same time, we’re going to keep up the pressure, with the strongest U.S. sanctions to date and the European Union preparing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.  Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it — meet your international obligations or face the consequences.

We reaffirmed our commitment to support the democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa.  British forces played a critical role in the mission to protect the Libyan people, and I want to commend David personally for the leadership role he plays in mobilizing international support for the transition in Libya.

We also discussed the horrific violence that the Assad regime continues to inflict on the people of Syria.  Right now, we’re focused on getting humanitarian aid to those in need.  We agreed to keep increasing the pressure on the regime — mobilizing the international community; tightening sanctions; cutting the regime’s revenues; isolating it politically, diplomatically, and economically.

Just as the regime and security forces continue to suffer defections, the opposition is growing stronger.  I’ll say it again:  Assad will leave power.  It’s not a question of if, but when.  And to prepare for that day, we’ll continue to support plans for a transition to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.  More broadly, we recommitted ourselves and our leadership to the goal of global development.

Along with our international partners, we’ve saved countless lives from the famine in the Horn of Africa.  David, you’ve done an outstanding job in bringing the international community to support progress in Somalia, including lifesaving aid.  At the same time, we’re renewing our commitment to improve maternal health and preventable deaths of children, and supporting the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria so that we can realize our goal, and that’s the beginning of the end of AIDS.  And let me say that it’s a tribute to David’s leadership that the UK will be playing a leading role in the global partnership to strengthen the open government upon which human rights and development depend.

Finally, I’m very pleased that we’re bringing our two militaries, the backbone of our alliance, even closer.  As I told David, I can announce that next month, we intend to start implementing our long-awaited defense trade treaty with the UK.  This will put advanced technologies in the hands of our troops, and it will mean more jobs for workers in both our countries.  And we’re moving ahead with our joint initiative to care for our men and women in uniform.

For decades, our troops have stood together on the battlefield.  Now we’re working together for them when they come home — with new partnerships to help our wounded warriors recover, assist our veterans transition back to civilian life, and to support our remarkable military families.

So, David, thank you, as always, for being such an outstanding ally, partner and friend.  As I said this morning, because of our efforts, our alliance is as strong as it has ever been.  And Michelle and I are very much looking forward to hosting you and Samantha at tonight’s state dinner.  I look forward, as well, to welcoming you to Camp David and my hometown of Chicago in May, to carry on the work upon which both our nations and the world depend.

So, David, welcome, and thank you.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Well, thank you very much for that, Barack.  And thank you for last night’s sporting event.  I thought there was a link between that and the table tennis.  I remember it well.  And because I know America doesn’t like being on the losing side, I’m trying to make up to you with the gift of a table tennis table, which I hope will be there in the White House —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We should practice this afternoon.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  I think — well, I certainly need the practice.  One of these days I’ll get my own back by getting you to a cricket match and explaining the rules to you and some of the terminology that you’ll have to try and get straight, as I tried last night.  But thank you.

We’ve had excellent discussions today, and it was great that our teams had time to join those talks as well.  And, Barack, thank you, because there are some countries whose alliance is a matter of convenience, but ours is a matter of conviction.  Two states, as I said this morning, united for freedom and enterprise; working together, day in, day out, to defend those values and advance our shared interests.

That has been the fundamental business of this visit and we’ve just made important progress on four vital areas:  Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and economic growth.  And I want to take each in turn.

First, Afghanistan.  Recent days have reminded us just how difficult our mission is and how high the cost of this war has been for Britain, for America, and for Afghans themselves.  Britain has fought alongside America every day since the start.  We have 9,500 men and women still serving there.  More than 400 have given their lives.  And today, again, we commemorate each and every one of them.

But we will not give up on this mission because Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks against us.  We won’t build a perfect Afghanistan, although let’s be clear, we are making some tangible progress with more markets open, more health centers working, more children going to school, more people able to achieve a basic standard of living and security.  But we can help ensure that Afghanistan is capable of delivering its own security without the need for large numbers of foreign troops.

We are now in the final phases of our military mission.  That means completing the training of the Afghan forces so that they can take over the tasks of maintaining security themselves. That transition to Afghan control, as agreed at Lisbon, is now well underway.  And next year, as the President said, in 2013, this includes shifting to a support role as Afghans take the lead.  This is an advance of Afghan forces taking full responsibility for security in 2014.  And as we’ve always said, we won’t be in a combat role after 2014.  At the same time, we will also back President Karzai in working towards an Afghan-led political settlement.

Second, a year on from the United Nations Security Council resolution on Libya, we agreed we must maintain our support for the people of the Arab world as they seek a better future.  And let me just say, in response to what you said, Mr. President — Barack — about Libya, that I’m very proud of the action that Britain and France and others took, but let us be absolutely clear.  None of that would have been possible without the overwhelming support and overwhelming force that the United States provided in the early stages of that campaign — exactly what you promised you would do — that actually made that intervention possible and has given that chance — that country a chance at prosperity and stability and some measure of democracy.

Most urgently now in Syria, we are working to get humanitarian aid to those who need it.  And Britain is today pledging an additional £2 million in food and medical care.  At the same time, we must properly document the evidence so that those guilty of crimes can be held to account, no matter how long it takes.

Above all, we must do everything we can to achieve a political transition that will stop the killing.  So we must maintain the strongest pressure on all those who are resisting change at all costs.  We’ll give our support to Kofi Annan, as he makes the case for the transition.  And we are ready to work with Russia and China for the same goal, including through a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

But we should be clear.  What we want is the quickest way to stop the killing.  That is through transition rather than revolution or civil war.  But if Assad continues, then civil war or revolution is the inevitable consequence.  So we will work with anyone who is ready to build a stable, inclusive, and democratic Syria for all Syrians.

Third, we’ve discussed Iran’s nuclear program.  The President’s tough, reasonable approach has united the world behind unprecedented sanctions pressure on Iran.  And Britain has played a leading role in helping to deliver an EU-wide oil embargo.  Alongside the financial sanctions being led by America, this embargo is dramatically increasing the pressure on the regime.

Now, we are serious about the talks that are set to resume, but the regime has to meet its international obligations.  If it refuses to do so, then Britain and America, along with our international partners, will continue to increase the political and economic pressure to achieve a peaceful outcome to this crisis.  The President and I have said nothing is off the table. That is essential for the safety of the region and the wider world.

Fourth, growth.  Both Britain and America are dealing with massive debts and deficits.  Of course, the measures we take in our domestic economies reflect different national circumstances, but we share the same goals — delivering significant deficit reduction over the medium term and stimulating growth.

One of the keys to growth is trade.  The EU and the U.S. together account for more than half of all global trade.  Foreign direct investment between Britain and America is the largest in the world.  It creates and sustains around a million jobs each side of the Atlantic, and it provides a strong foundation for bilateral trade worth nearly $200 billion a year.  So deepening trade and investment between us is crucial and can really help to stimulate growth.  Barack and I have agreed to prioritize work ahead of the G8 on liberalizing transatlantic trade and investment flows.

So we’ve had some very important discussions this morning, and I’m looking forward to continuing our talks at the G8 and the NATO summit, and to visiting you, Barack, at Camp David and in your hometown of Chicago.  Who knows what sport we will be able to go and see there?

As Barack has said, the relationship between Britain and America is the strongest that it has ever been.  And I believe that’s because we’re working together as closely as at any point in our history.  And together, I’m confident that we can help secure the future of our nations and the world for generations to come.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, David.

So we’ve got questions from each respective press corps.  We’re going to start with Ari Shapiro of NPR.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Given the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in Afghanistan from the last few weeks, I wonder what makes you confident that two years from now when the last troops leave it will be better than it is today.  And I wonder if you could also talk about the pace of withdrawal, whether you see something more gradual or speedier.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, you and the President take very different approaches to economic growth — whereas you emphasize more austerity measures, the President focuses more on stimulative measures.  And I wonder whether you could explain why you believe that your approach is likely to create more jobs than President Obama’s approach.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, on Afghanistan, I think both David and I understand how difficult this mission is because we’ve met with families whose sons or daughters or husbands or wives made the ultimate sacrifice.  We visit our wounded warriors and we understand the sacrifices that they’ve made there.

But as I indicated, we have made progress.  We’re seeing an Afghan national security force that is getting stronger and more robust and more capable of operating on its own.  And our goal, set in Lisbon, is to make sure that over the next two years, that Afghan security force continues to improve, enhance its capabilities, and so we’ll be prepared to provide for that country’s security when we leave.

We also think it’s important that there is a political aspect to this — that all the various factions and ethnic groups inside of Afghanistan recognize that it’s time to end 30 years of war.  And President Karzai has committed to a political reconciliation process.  We are doing what we can to help facilitate that.  Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Afghans to work together to try to arrive at a path to peace.  And we can’t be naïve about the difficulties that are going to be involved in getting there.

But if we maintain a steady, responsible transition process, which is what we’ve designed, then I am confident that we can put Afghans in a position where they can deal with their own security.  And we’re also underscoring, through what we anticipate to be a strategic partnership that’s been signed before we get to Chicago, that the United States, along with many other countries, will sustain a relationship with Afghanistan.  We will not have combat troops there, but we will be working with them both to ensure their security but also to ensure that their economy continues to improve.

There are going to be multiple challenges along the way.  In terms of pace, I don’t anticipate, at this stage, that we’re going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have.  We have already taken out 10,000 of our troops.  We’re slated to draw down an additional 23,000 by this summer.  There will be a robust coalition presence inside of Afghanistan during this fighting season to make sure that the Taliban understand that they’re not going to be able to regain momentum.

After the fighting season, in conjunction with all our allies, we will continue to look at how do we effectuate this transition in a way that doesn’t result in a steep cliff at the end of 2014, but rather is a gradual pace that accommodates the developing capacities of the Afghan national security forces.

Although you asked it to David, I want to make sure that I just comment quickly on the economic issues because this is a question that David and I have been getting for the last two years.  We always give the same answer, but I figure it’s worth repeating.  The United States and Great Britain are two different economies in two different positions.  Their banking sector was much larger than ours.  Their capacity to sustain debt was different than ours.  And so, as a consequence, each of us are going to be taking different strategies and employing different timing.

But our objectives are common, which is we want to make sure that we have a — we have governments that are lean, that are effective, that are efficient, that are providing opportunity to our people, that are properly paid for so that we’re not leaving it to the next generation.  And we want to make sure that ultimately our citizens in both our countries are able to pursue their dreams and opportunities by getting a good education and being able to start a small business, being able to find a job that supports their families and allows them to retire with dignity and respect.

And so this notion that somehow two different countries are going to have identical economic programs doesn’t take into account profound differences in position.  But the objectives, the goals, the values I think are the same.  And I’m confident that because of the resilience of our people and our businesses and our workers, our systems of higher education, that we are both countries that are incredibly well positioned to succeed in this knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  I very much agree with that.  I mean, there are differences because we’re not a reserve currency, so we have to take a different path.  But I think it would be wrong to think that Britain is just taking measures to reduce its deficit.  We’re also taking a series of measures to help promote growth.

Just before coming here, we took a series of steps to try and unblock and get moving our housing market, where we’ve cut corporation tax in our country to show that it’s a great destination for investment.  We’re investing in apprenticeships. So a series of steps have been taken.

But there are differences, as Barack has said, between the states of the two economy and the circumstances we face.  But we’re both trying to head in the same direction of growth and low deficits.  And actually, if you look at the U.S. plans for reducing the deficit over coming years, in many ways they are actually steeper than what we’re going to be doing in the UK.

So different starting points, different measures on occasions, but the same destination, and a very good shared understanding as we try to get there.

I’ve got Joey Jones, from Sky News.

Q    And to Mr. President, can I ask you both whether you have any information about an apparent car bombing at Camp Bastion this afternoon?  And on the general Afghan question, why do you think it is that people feel that you talk a good game but they don’t buy it?  Why do you think it is that the British and American people look at a situation that they think is, frankly, a mess — they see terrible sacrifice, they see two men who are unable to impose their wills — and they just are not persuaded by your arguments?

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Well, first of all, on what has happened at Camp Bastion, it is very early, details still coming through.  Obviously, we’ll want to examine and investigate exactly what has happened before making clear anything about it.

But the security of our people, of our troops, security of both our nation’s forces is absolutely the priority.  And if there are things that need to be done in the coming hours and days to keep them safer, be in no doubt we will do them.

On the broader issue of Afghanistan, I would make this point — if you compare where we are today with where we’ve been two, three years ago, the situation is considerably improved.  I think the U.S. surge and the additional UK troops we put in, particularly into Helmand Province, had a transformative effect. The level of insurgent attacks are right down.  The level of security is right up.  The capital of Helmand Province, Lashkar Gah, is now fully transitioned over to Afghan lead control.  The markets are open.  You’re able to do — take part in economic activity in that town, which simply wasn’t possible when I first visited it several years ago.

So, look, it’s still a very difficult situation.  There are many challenges we have to overcome.  But what’s happening in Afghanistan today is quite different to the situation we had three, four, five years ago.

Do I think we can get to a situation by the end of 2014 where we have a large Afghan national army, a large Afghan police force, both of which are pretty much on track — and that with the Afghan government, they’re capable of taking care of their own security in a way that doesn’t require large numbers of foreign troops, and that country isn’t a threat in the way that it was in the past in terms of a base for terrorism?  Yes, I think we can achieve that.

Now, it’s been very hard work.  The sacrifices have been very great.  But we have to keep reminding ourselves and everybody why we are there, what we are doing.  You have to go back and remember that the vast majority of terrorist plots that were affecting people in the UK, people in the U.S., came out of that country and that region.  That’s why we went in there; that’s why we’re there today.

It’s not some selfish, long-term strategic interest.  It’s simply that we want Afghanistan to be able to look after its own security with its own security forces so we are safe at home.  That’s the key.  That’s the message we need to keep explaining to people.  But I think what we’re trying to do by the end of 2014 is achievable and doable.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I concur with everything David said.  The only thing I would add — you asked why is it that poll numbers indicate people are interested in ending the war in Afghanistan. It’s because we’ve been there for 10 years, and people get weary, and they know friends and neighbors who have lost loved ones as a consequence of war.  No one wants war.  Anybody who answers a poll question about war saying enthusiastically, we want war, probably hasn’t been involved in a war.

But as David said, I think the vast majority of the American people and British understand why we went there.  There is a reason why al Qaeda is on its heels and has been decimated.  There’s a reason why Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants are not in a position to be able to execute plots against the United States or Great Britain.  There is a reason why it is increasingly difficult for those who are interested in carrying out transnational operations directed against our interests, our friends, our allies, to be able to do that — is because the space has shrunk and their capacity to operate is greatly diminished.

Now, as David indicated, this is a hard slog, this is hard work.  When I came into office there has been drift in the Afghanistan strategy, in part because we had spent a lot of time focusing on Iraq instead.  Over the last three years we have refocused attention on getting Afghanistan right.  Would my preference had been that we started some of that earlier?  Absolutely.  But that’s not the cards that were dealt.  We’re now in a position where, given our starting point, we’re making progress.  And I believe that we’re going to be able to make our — achieve our objectives in 2014.

Alister Bull.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister.  Mr. President, switching to Iran —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Can I just point out that somehow Alister gets to ask a question on behalf of the U.S. press corps — (laughter) — but he sounds like —

Q    It’s the special relationship.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Were you upset about that, Chuck?  (Laughter.)  Yes, what’s going on with that, Jay?  Come on, man. (Laughter.)  It’s a special relationship.

Q    It is a special relationship.  On Iran, do you believe that the six-power talks represent a last chance for the country to diffuse concerns over its nuclear program and avert military action?

And, Prime Minister, on Syria, how are you approaching the Russians to get them on board for a fresh Security Council resolution?  And do you believe President Bashar al-Assad ought to be tried as a war crime — a war criminal?

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As David said, we have applied the toughest sanctions ever on Iran, and we’ve mobilized the international community with greater unity than we’ve ever seen. Those sanctions are going to begin to bite even harder this summer.  And we’re seeing significant effects on the Iranian economy.

So they understand the seriousness with which we take this issue.  They understand that there are consequences to them continuing to flout the international community.  And I have sent a message very directly to them publicly that they need to seize this opportunity of negotiations with the P5-plus-1 to avert even worse consequences for Iran in the future.

Do I have a guarantee that Iran will walk through this door that we’re offering them?  No.  In the past there has been a tendency for Iran in these negotiations with the P5-plus-1 to delay, to stall, to do a lot of talking but not actually move the ball forward.

I think they should understand that because the international community has applied so many sanctions, because we have employed so many of the options that are available to us to persuade Iran to take a different course, that the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.

And as I said in a speech just a couple of weeks ago, I am determined not simply to contain Iran that is in possession of a nuclear weapon; I am determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — in part for the reasons that David mentioned.  It would trigger a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the world.  It would raise nonproliferation issues that would carry significant risks to our national security interests.  It would embolden terrorists in the region who might believe that they could act with more impunity if they were operating under the protection of Iran.

And so this is not an issue that is simply in one country’s interests or two countries’ interests.  This is an issue that is important to the entire international community.  We will do everything we can to resolve this diplomatically, but ultimately, we’ve got to have somebody on the other side of the table who’s taking this seriously.  And I hope that the Iranian regime understands that; that this is their best bet for resolving this in a way that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations and to prosper and feel secure themselves.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Thank you.  On Syria, when you see what is happening in Homs and elsewhere, I think we need to appeal to people’s humanity to stop this slaughter, to get aid and assistance to those who’ve been affected, and to ratchet up the pressure on this dreadful regime.

But in the case of Russia, I think we should also appeal to their own interest.  It’s not in their interest to have this bloodied, broken, brutal regime butchering people nightly on the television screens.  The irony is that people in Syria often felt that the Russians were their friends, and many in the West they were more suspicious of.  Now they can see people in the West wanting to help them, raising their issues, calling for the world to act on their problems.  And we need to make sure that Russia joins with that.

So it’s going to take a lot of hard work.  It’s going to take a lot of patient diplomacy.  But I think it’s actually in Russia’s interest that we deal with this problem, that we achieve transition, and that we get peace and stability in Syria.  And that’s the appeal that we should make.

On the issue of holding people responsible — I do.  They’re not a signatory to the ICC, but what is being done in Homs — and I’ve spoken personally to one of the photographers who was stuck in Homs, when he got out to the UK — what he witnessed, what he saw is simply appalling and shouldn’t be allowed to stand in our world.

And that’s why Britain and others have sent monitors to the Turkish border and elsewhere to make sure we document these crimes, we write down what has been done so that no matter how long it takes — people should always remember that international law has got a long reach and a long memory, and the people who are leading Syria at the moment and committing these crimes need to know that.

Tom Bradby from ITN.

Q    MR. President, it’s great you’ve agreed to learn about cricket.  I noticed the Prime Minister neglected to tell you that a test match usually takes five days.  (Laughter.)  So it’s going to be a long trip.  (Laughter.)

On the serious subject of Syria. you say you want Assad to go.  You wanted Qaddafi to go, and he didn’t for a long, long time.  So could you just answer specifically, have you discussed today the possibility of a no-fly zone?  Have you discussed how you might implement it?  Have you discussed how you would degrade the Syrian defenses?  Have you discussed time scales on any of those issues?

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  What I’d say, Tom, is that our teams work incredibly closely together on this issue, and the focus right now is, as I said, on trying to achieve transition, not trying to foment revolution.  We think that the fastest way to end the killing, which is what we all want to see, is for Assad to go.  So the way we should try to help bring that about is through diplomatic pressure, sanctions pressure, political pressure, the pressure that Kofi Annan can bring to bear.  That is where our focus is.

Of course, our teams, all the time, as I put it, kick the tires, push the system, ask the difficult questions — what are the other options, what are the other things that we could do?  And it’s right that we do that.  But they’re not without their difficulties and complications, as everybody knows.  So the focus is transition and all the things that we can to do bring that pressure to bear.  And that has been the focus of our discussions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’d echo everything that David said.  Our military plans for everything.  That’s part of what they do.  But I was very clear during the Libya situation that this was unique. We had a clear international mandate; there was unity around the world on that.  We were able to execute a plan in a relatively short timeframe that resulted in a good outcome.

But each country is different.  As David just mentioned with respect to Syria, it is a extremely complicated situation.  The best thing that we can do right now is to make sure that the  international community continues to unify around the fact that what the Syrian regime is doing is unacceptable.  It is contrary to every international norm that we believe in.

And for us to provide strong support to Kofi Annan, to continue to talk to the Russians, the Chinese and others about why it is that they need to stand up on behalf of people who are being shelled mercilessly, and to describe to them why it is in their interest to join us in a unified international coalition — that’s the most important work that we can do right now.

There may be some immediate steps that we’ve discussed just to make sure that humanitarian aid is being provided in a robust way, and to make sure that a opposition unifies along principles that ultimately would provide a clear platform for the Syrian people to be able to transition to a better form of government.

But when we see what’s happening on television, our natural instinct is to act.  One of the things that I think both of us have learned in every one of these crises — including in Libya  — is that it’s very important for us to make sure that we have thought through all of our actions before we take those steps.  And that’s not just important for us; it’s also important for the Syrian people — because, ultimately, the way the international community mobilizes itself, the signals we send, the degree to which we can facilitate a more peaceful transition or a soft landing, rather than a hard landing that results in civil war and, potentially, even more deaths — the people who are going to ultimately be most affected by those decisions are the people in Syria itself.  All right?

Thank you very much, everybody.  Enjoy the day.  See some of you tonight.

END
1:03 P.M. EDT

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Obama’s Speeches with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron & France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy & Japan’s PM Yoshihiko Noda

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Luncheon Toasts

U.N. Secretary General's Luncheon
September 21, 2011 8:18 PM

U.N. Secretary General’s Luncheon

United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

1:54 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN:  President Obama, Excellencies, distinguished heads of state and government, Your Highnesses, Your Majesties, distinguished ministers, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to the United Nations. Welcome to our common house.

We are off to a flying start today, I must say. Thank you, President Obama, for your inspiring oratory, and more, for its vital importance.

As ever, we thank the United States and its generous people for hosting United Nations during last 66 years. This is the 66th session. Let me offer a special word of thanks to New Yorkers. In the last month, they have faced an earthquake, then a hurricane, now a perfect storm of the world’s leaders, creating a lot of traffic jams. And we are very much grateful for their patience.

Let me say straight off, this is my fifth lunch with the distinguished leaders of the world, and I’m very much grateful for your strong support.  In that regard, I am very glad that it is not my last lunch, and we will have five more lunches in the coming five years. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Taking this opportunity, I would like to really sincerely express my appreciation and thanks to all of the heads of state and government for your strong support. You can count on me. And it’s a great and extraordinary honor to serve this great organization.

Mr. President, 50 years ago this week, your predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, addressed the General Assembly. He came, he said to join with other world leaders — and I quote, “to look across this world of threats to a world of peace.” Looking out upon the world we see no shortages of threats.  And closer to home, wherever we might live, we see the familiar struggles of political life — left versus right, rich versus poor, and up versus down.  Seldom, however, has the debate been more emotional or strident; yet, seldom has the need for unity been greater.

We know the challenges. I won’t reprise my speech except to say that we do, indeed, have a rare and generational opportunity to make a lasting difference in people’s lives. If there is a theme in all that has been said today by the leaders, it would be the imperative of unity, solidarity, in realizing that opportunity. We must act together. There is no opt-out clause for global problem-solving.  Every country has something to give in and to gain.

Excellencies, let me close with a question. By any chance, do you ever feel that you have become a slave, you have become a slave to this machine?  (Laughter.) Somehow, I sense that I’m not alone.  I have seen so many leaders having, and speaking over the phone, even while at the summit meetings. Thanks to device like this, the world has been more connected. But let us not misunderstand that with being united and being connected depends on technology. Being united depends on us — on leaders, on institutions, and on the decisions you make.

We have come a long way since last year. Outside this building, the new flags of Southern Sudan and Libya proudly wave in the September breeze. And today I am very pleased to recognize the President of Southern Sudan — his Excellency Salva Kiir — who came to New York for the first time after their independence; and President of National Transitional Council of Libya, his Excellency Abdul Jalil — who received very strong support yesterday.  And they will continue to receive such support. Let us give them a big applause.  (Applause.)

We can be proud of the firm stand we took for freedom and democracy in Côte d’Ivoire, North Africa, and elsewhere. We can be proud of the many lives we saved, the hungry people we fed, the children we helped to grow up healthy and strong. And we can do more to make the Arab Spring a season of hope for all, to put the sustainable back into development, to prevent the crises before they explode.

And so, distinguished heads of state and government, Excellencies, Your Majesties, let us raise a glass to clarity of vision, to unity of purpose, to a common resolve for action, to the United Nations, and to continued success of each and every heads of state and government present here.

Thank you very much. Cheers. (Applause.) Cheers. Thank you. Cheers. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone. These lunches come right after my remarks to the General Assembly, so I’ve already spoken too long.  (Laughter.)  As the host of the United Nations, I want to welcome all of you. In particular, though, I want to cite Secretary General Ban for his extraordinary leadership. As you begin your second term, I want to take this opportunity to thank you — not just for your leadership, but also for your lessons in life.

As we all know, the Secretary General is a very modest man, but he’s led a remarkable life. Born into World War II, as a young boy in the middle of the Korean War, having to flee the fighting with his family — just as his home country has risen, so he has risen to leadership on the world stage.

A lot of us are envious of him, because, in running for a second term, he ran unopposed — (laughter) — and he won, unanimously. (Laughter.) I’m still trying to learn what his trick is.  (Laughter.)

But, Secretary General, that fact reflects the high esteem with which all of us hold you and your leadership.  And I want to quote something that you said when you began your new term: “We live in a new era where no country can solve all challenges and where every country could be part of the solution.”  I could not agree more. Today, we see the difference you’ve made in Cote d’Ivoire, in Sudan, in Libya, in confronting climate change and nuclear safety, in peacekeeping missions that save lives every single day.

So we want to salute you. We want to salute those who serve in U.N. missions around the world, at times at great risk to themselves.  We give them their mandate, but it is they who risk their lives — and give their lives — so people can live in peace and dignity.

So I want to propose a toast. To the leader who, every day, has to work hard to try to unite nations, and to all the men and women who sustain it, especially those brave humanitarians in blue helmets. In an era of great tumult and great change, let all of us be part of the solution. Cheers. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.)

END                                                 2:03 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Clinton at Clinton Global Initiative

President Obama at Clinton Global Initiative
September 22, 2011 9:02 AM

President Obama at Clinton Global Initiative

Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

New York, New York

2:43 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON:  For three years, now, and every year he has been in the White House, President Obama has come to CGI.  He believes in what we’re trying to do.  In his former life, he was a walking NGO.  (Laughter.)  He also is one of those Americans who believes climate change is real and deserves a real response. (Applause.)

And he recently proposed to Congress a plan that even the Republican analysts who looked at the evidence, as opposed to the rhetoric, say will add between 1.5 and 2 percent to our GDP and help us to get out of this mess we’re in and enable America to help the world again.

So I’m gratified that he found the time to come here.  I appreciate the work that he’s involved with at the United Nations.  I think he has a brilliant Secretary of State.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I am profoundly gratified that he is here with us today.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.) It is wonderful to be here today.  It is wonderful to see so many do-gooders all in one room.  (Laughter.)  And our do-gooder-in-chief, Bill Clinton, thank you for not only the gracious introduction, but the extraordinary work that he has been doing each and every day.  You are tireless, and we are proud of what you’ve been doing.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the outstanding team here at CGI:  CEO Bob Harrison, Deputy Director Ed Hughes, all the dedicated staff.  And although she is not part of CGI, she’s certainly part of what makes Bill so successful — someone who he does not get to see enough because of me — (laughter) — but I’m grateful that he’s not bitter about it.  (Laughter.)  She’s one of the best Secretaries of State that we’ve ever had — Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)

Now, this is the third time that I’ve been here.  Last year, I was the warm-up act for Michelle.  (Laughter.)  I just gave a big speech at the U.N. this morning, and so I will not subject you to another one.  I wanted to stop by for two reasons.

First, I want to express my appreciation for the extraordinary work that has been done by CGI.  It’s been said that “no power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” And as you know, when Bill Clinton sees an idea out there, there’s no stopping him.  CGI was an idea whose time had come.  And thanks to his relentless determination — but also, I think he’d agree, thanks to, most importantly, your commitments — you’ve created new hope and opportunity for hundreds of millions of people in nearly 200 countries.  Think about that — hundreds of millions of people have been touched by what you’ve done.  That doesn’t happen very often.

That’s the other thing I want to talk about.  Around the world, people are still reeling from the financial crisis that unfolded three years ago and the economic pain that followed.  And this morning at the United Nations, I talked about the concerted action that the world needs to take right now to right our economic ship.

But we have to remember America is still the biggest economy in the world.  So the single most important thing we could do for the global economy is to get our own economy moving again.  When America is growing the world is more likely to grow.  And obviously that’s the number-one issue on the minds of every American that I meet.  If they haven’t been out of work since the recession began, odds are they know somebody who has.  They feel as if the decks have been stacked against them.  They don’t feel as if hard work and responsibility pay off anymore, and they don’t see that hard work and responsibility reflected either in Washington or, all too often, on Wall Street.  They just want to know that their leaders are willing to step up and do something about it.

So, as President Clinton mentioned, that’s why I put forward the American Jobs Act.  Not as a silver bullet that will solve all our problems, but it will put more people back to work.  It will put more money into the pockets of working people.  And that’s what our economy needs right now.

It hires teachers, and puts them back in the classroom.  It hires construction workers, puts them out rebuilding an infrastructure that has deteriorated, and we know that that’s part of our economic success historically.  It puts our veterans back to work — after having served overseas, then coming home and not being able to find a job, when they sacrificed immeasurably on behalf of our security?

That’s what we need right now — we need more good teachers in front of our kids.  I was just having lunch over at the General Assembly with the President of South Korea.  And I still remember the first time I met him, in South Korea, and I asked him, “Well, what are your biggest challenges right now?”  He says, “Education — it’s a big challenge.”  I said, “Well, I understand.  We’ve got a big challenge in the United States, as well.”  He said, “No, you have to understand, my big challenge is, the parents are too demanding.”  (Laughter.)  “They’re coming into my office, they’re saying, our children have to learn English in first grade.  So we’re having to import teachers from other countries and pay them a premium to meet the educational demands that parents are placing on us, because they know that if their children are to succeed in the 21st century economy, they’d better know some foreign languages.”  Well, think about that.  That’s what’s happening in South Korea.  Here, we’re laying off teachers in droves?

Now is the time to upgrade our roads and our bridges and our schools.  We used to have the best airports, the best roads, the best bridges, the best ports.  I’ve been asking people recently  — I’ve taken a poll in New York — how do you find LaGuardia compared to the Beijing airport?  (Laughter.)  We laugh, but that says something.  That’s not inevitable; that’s a choice that we’re making.

We talk about climate change — something that, obviously, people here are deeply concerned about.  Talking to the CEO of Southwest Airlines, they estimate that if we put in the new generation of GPS air traffic control, we would save 15 percent in fuel costs.  “Reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent, Mr. President.”  And think about what that would do, not only to potentially lower the cost of a ticket — maybe they could start giving out peanuts again.  (Laughter .)  But think what it would do in terms of taking those pollutants out of our air.

So we know what to do.  We know that an American should — who puts his life on the line, her life on the line, should never have to fight for a job when they come home.  We know that.  We know what our values are.

So this jobs bill addresses the terrible toll that unemployment inflicts on people.  It helps long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp.  It says to young people who are underprivileged, we’re going to give you a chance at a summer job that helps to establish the kind of work habits that carry on for generations.  Because part of what happens in this kind of recession environment — the disadvantage of this generation coming in and not being able to get fully employed, that lingers for a lifetime.  It affects their lifetime earnings.  That’s contrary to our values.

This jobs bill cuts taxes for every working family and every small business owner in America to boost demand and to boost hiring.  And if you’re a small business owner who hires a new worker or raises workers’ wages, you get an extra tax cut.

So this bill answers the urgent need to create jobs right away.  And I appreciate President Clinton’s strong support of this plan over the weekend.  And the reason that that’s important is because he knows a good jobs plan when he sees it.  He created more jobs in his tenure than just about anybody.  And I’m fighting hard to make sure that we get this bill passed through Congress.

As President Clinton said, every idea in there has been supported in the past by both parties, and everything is paid for.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t pass it right away.  And for those of you who are concerned about the international economy and development, keep this in mind:  If the economy is not growing, if Americans aren’t getting back to work, it becomes that much harder for us to sustain the critical development assistance and the partnerships that help to undergird development strategies that you care dearly about all across the world.

So this is important, again, not just to the United States; this is important to the world.  It will help determine how well we can support what you are doing in the non-for-profit sector.  I’m going to be doing everything I can, everything in my power, to get this economy moving again that requires congressional support but also those things that don’t require congressional support.

Consider one of the ideas that we’re working on together.  Earlier this year, I announced a Better Buildings Initiative to rehire construction workers to make our buildings more energy-efficient.  And I asked President Clinton and my Jobs Council to challenge private companies to join us.  In June, at CGI America, we announced a commitment to upgrade 300 million square feet of space, from military housing to college campuses.  Some of these projects are breaking ground this month, putting people to work right now.  Later this year, we’ll announce more commitments that will create jobs, while saving billions for businesses on energy bills and cutting down on our pollution.

And it’s a good example of what CGI is all about:  Everybody working together — government, business, the non-for-profit sector — to create opportunities today, while ensuring those opportunities for the future.  We just need that kind of cooperation in Washington.

I have to say that I do envy President Clinton because when you’re out of Washington, it turns out that you’re just dealing with people who are reasonable all the time.  (Laughter and applause.)  Nobody is looking to score points.  Nobody is looking at the polls on any particular issue.  You’re just trying to solve problems.  And that’s the ethic that people are looking for in Washington.

We’ve got enough challenges.  It is technically difficult to figure out how we are going to deal with climate change — not impossible, but difficult.  There are technical challenges to making sure that we’re providing enough safe drinking water around the world, or making sure that preventable diseases are eradicated in countries that don’t yet have a public health infrastructure.  These things are all tough stuff.  But they’re solvable, if everybody’s attitude is that we’re working together, as opposed to trying to work at odds with each other.

And our future depends on fighting this downturn with everything that we’ve got right now.  And it demands that we invest in ourselves, even as we’re making commitments in investments around the world.  It demands we invest in research and technology, so the great ideas of tomorrow are born in our labs and our classrooms.  It demands we invest in faster transportation and communications networks, so that our businesses can compete.  It demands that we give every child the skills and education they need to succeed.

And I thank you for the commitment that you’ve made to recruit and train tens of thousands of new science, technology, engineering and math teachers.  Nothing could be more important.

We can do all this.  We can create jobs now and invest in our future, and still tackle our long-term debt problems.  Don’t tell Bill Clinton it can’t be done.  He did it.  When he was President, he did not cut our way out of prosperity; he grew our way to prosperity.  We didn’t shortchange essential investments, or balance the budget on the backs of the middle class or the poor.  We were able to live within our means, invest in our future, and ask everyone to pay their fair share.

And what happened?  The private sector thrived.  The rich got richer.  The middle class grew.  Millions rose out of poverty.  America ran a surplus that was on track to be debt-free by next year.  We were a nation firing on all cylinders.

That’s the kind of nation that we’ve got to work to build again.  It will take time after the kind of crisis that we’ve endured.  And this is a once-in-a-generation crisis.  But we can get through it.  But our politics right now is not doing us any favors.

Nevertheless, I believe we can and we will get there, by remembering what made us great — by building an economy where innovation is encouraged, education is a national mission, new jobs and businesses choose to take root right here in the United States.  And that’s what CGI reflects.  It reflects the American spirit, which is big and bold and generous, and doesn’t shy away from challenges, and says that we’re all in it together.

And when I think about the contributions that all of you have made, that makes me confident.  Those of us who have been most blessed by this nation, we are ready to give back.  But we’ve got to be asked.  And that’s what I’m hoping members of Congress recognize.  I don’t want a small, cramped vision of what America can be.  We want a big and generous vision of what America can be.  And the world is inspired when we have that vision.

And, by the way, that vision is not a Democratic vision or a Republican idea.  These are not ideas that belong to one political party or another.  They are the things a rising nation does, and the thing that retreating nations don’t do.  And we are not a retreating nation.

So despite the many challenges we face right now, I believe America must continue to be a rising nation, with rising fortunes.  And that makes — that means making sure that everybody is participating and everybody is getting a shot, because when all of our people do well, America does well.  And when America does well, that’s good for the rest of the world.  That’s what President Clinton has always understood.

So, Mr. President, thank you for all the opportunities that you help to create every day.  Thank you to all of you who are participating in CGI.  You are doing the Lord’s work.  And I can assure you that you will continue to have a partner in the Obama administration for what I expect to be years to come.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
2:57 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom
September 21, 2011 8:45 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York
3:55 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me welcome Prime Minister Cameron to the United States and New York.  Obviously, there is an extraordinary special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, and I am very fortunate that over the last year or two, David and I have been able to, I think, establish an excellent friendship as well.

And that’s part of what makes the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom so important, is that it’s grounded not only in shared values and broad-based agreement on policy, but it’s also based on the individual relationships that we have and the friendships and joint traditions that we have.

We’ve got a lot to talk about.  We have worked closely together to help bring about freedom and peace in Libya.  We are coordinating closely in managing a very difficult time for the global economy.  We are keenly interested in finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  On all these issues, I’ve always found Prime Minister Cameron to be an outstanding partner.

And so I’m very grateful for his friendship, his hard work, and his dedication and his leadership on the global stage, and I look forward to a very productive discussion today.

Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Thank you.  If I may say thank you, Barack, for that warm welcome.  It’s great to be back — great to be back in New York, and particularly on this, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a reminder of how our countries always work together in defeating terror and trying to make our world a safer place.

As you say, we worked very closely together on Libya, and I think we’re getting to a good conclusion there, with a real chance of freedom and democracy for those people.  We’re working closely together on Afghanistan; also the Middle East peace process, where we’re desperate to get that moving again.  And I’m looking forward to discussions on the world economy, which we will follow up in Cannes at the G20, where we’ve got to get the world economy moving.

So these are very important times.  I think the relationship is as strong as it’s ever been, and it’s been a pleasure working with you these last 16 months.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Excellent.  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q: Can you give us your reaction to the hikers being released?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We are thrilled that the hikers were released, and we are thrilled for the families.  It was the right thing to do.  They shouldn’t have been held in the first place, but we’re glad they’re now home.

END
3:58 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Sarkozy of France

 

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Sarkozy of France
September 21, 2011 9:07 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with President Sarkozy of France

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

4:53 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  On the anniversary of September 11th, President Sarkozy gave a speech at our embassy in Paris, and he reminded the people of France, but also the world, of the extraordinary friendship that had developed, in part, because of the great sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made over the decades to preserve freedom and democracy.  And so, not only am I grateful for the expression of deep friendship that President Sarkozy expressed, but I want to affirm the mutuality of feeling that we have towards the French people.

That partnership has been evidenced by the extraordinary work that we’ve done together in Libya.  And I want to thank President Sarkozy for his leadership, as a coalition helped the Libyan people achieve the kind of freedom and opportunity that they’re looking for.  That partnership is evidenced in the work we did together in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure that the rightfully elected leader of that country was put in place.  And our partnership and our mutual leadership will be required to deal with a range of international issues that have been discussed here at the United Nations and are going to be critical in the months and years to come, including trying to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also trying to find a coordinated world strategy, global strategy, to deal with a economy that is still far too fragile.

And, of course, we still have the joint project to bring stability and transition to Afghan governance.  And we are extraordinarily grateful for the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform from France have made in that effort.

On a personal note, I consider Nicolas a friend as well as a colleague.  Thank you for your leadership.  Welcome.  And I look forward to a very productive discussion.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY:  (As translated.)  I should like to say just how delighted we are to be here in the United States, in New York, alongside Barack Obama.

Now, for we, the people of France, I must say, it’s actually easy to work with Barack Obama.  Whatever the crises we’ve had to face together, whatever the initiatives we have taken jointly, on every single occasion we have found a listening, open-minded attitude on the part of our friend, Barack Obama.  In particular, when tackling the crisis, which is still upon us today, the leadership that President Obama has shown, and showed at the time, have been of a special value to us all.

There is still much to do, in particular in paving the way to the G20 summit in Cannes.  This is our priority; our number-one priority — let me make this very clear — is to find the path to growth worldwide.

Lastly, I wish to say to what extent I am sensitive to the boldness, the courage, the intelligence, and the sensitivity of President Obama, my friend.  I liked him before his election; I liked him once he was elected; and I especially appreciate him now, when the tough times are upon us.

And there’s one thing I want to say, perhaps on a more personal note, and that I really mean from the bottom of my heart.  When things are as tough as they are right now, when the going gets as tough as it is right now, it is especially precious and important to be able to speak to what is the world’s number-one power — to someone who listens; someone who is sensitive to others; someone who is respectful and aware of other people’s redlines and prepared to take them into account, especially at a time when, as I said, we are facing fresh difficulties, and we really need, together, to go forward.

(Speaking in English.)  She speaks like me.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

END
5:02 P.M. EDT

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan before Bilateral Meeting

United Nations
New York, New York

12:20 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I want to welcome Prime Minister Noda and his delegation to New York City and to the United States.  As all of you are aware, we have an extraordinary alliance with Japan.  They are one of our closest friends, our closest allies.  We have worked cooperatively on a range of issues related to security, related to economics, and the bonds of friendship between our peoples is equally strong.

Prime Minister Noda and I have had the opportunity to speak by phone, although this is the first time that we’ve had a meeting face to face.  I know that he, like all of us, has some extraordinary challenges that we have to address.  And I know that at the top of his list is rebuilding Japan in the aftermath of the horrific tsunami that occurred.  I’ve repeatedly stressed that America will do everything that we can to make sure that that rebuilding is a success.

At the same time, obviously, we have other important work to do together.  As the two largest economies in the world, we have to continue to promote growth that can help put our people to work and improve standards of living.  We have to modernize our alliance to meet the needs of the 21st century.  And so I’m looking forward to a very productive discussion, and what I’m sure will be an excellent working relationship with the Prime Minister, as well as his team.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:  (As translated.)  The biggest priority and the immediate challenge for the Japan government is the recovery from the great East Japan earthquake and the situation with the economy.  But, at the same time, even from before the earthquake took place, we had a lot of challenges both domestically and in foreign policy areas.  And those must be dealt with one by one, thereby creating a stable (inaudible.)  That’s the challenge for my government.

Our top priority is the reconstruction from the disaster of the earthquake in Japan, the great East Japan earthquake.  The United States has provided enormous amount of support, including Operation Tomodachi and a lot of efforts made by Ambassador Roos. And on behalf of all Japanese nationals, I thank you.  And thank you for your support.

I have a firm belief that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the key pillar of our foreign policy.  Through the assistance that we received after the earthquake this has become an even more unwavering one.  And the Japanese public also were assured, and we recognize the significance and importance of our alliance.

It was reported that the meeting between our Foreign Minister Gemba and Secretary of State Clinton was a very fruitful one, and we would like to further deepen and enhance the bilateral alliance between our two countries in the three major fields of security, economy, and also the cultural and the people-to–people exchange.

One worry that I’ve have is that there is a emerging concern that once recovering the economy we might be drawn back into another recession, and Japan and the United States must work on the economic growth and the fiscal situation at the same time.  And you have the presence of Secretary Geithner here, and we have to work together at the forums — the G20 and other market forum — to coordinate with each other.  And I’m looking forward to having such discussions with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

END
12:29 P.M. EDT

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Barack Obama Meets with World Leaders on Day Two at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Meets with World Leaders on Day Two at the U.N General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-21-11
UNGA: potus shakes hands with Clinton at Global Initiative

President Barack Obama shakes hands with former President Bill Clinton after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 21, 2011.

President Obama marked the 19th anniversary of the International Day of Peace with a series of meetings and events as he participated in the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The President began his day with an address to the General Assembly, where he spoke about the remarkable changes that have occurred throughout the world since the last gathering of this group:

This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Following the address, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and pledged America’s commitment to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. The Prime Minister agreed with President Obama’s assertion that direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine are the only way to achieve that goal:

I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.  And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations — in fact, to avoid them. Because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for peace.

The President had his first face to face meeting with Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda. The two leaders discussed the ongoing recovery from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated that country earlier this year, and the importance of the strong Japan-U.S. relationship. The Prime Minister echoed the President’s desire to maintain this vital partnership:

I have a firm belief that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the key pillar of our foreign policy. Through the assistance that we received after the earthquake this has become an even more unwavering one.  And the Japanese public also were assured, and we recognize the significance and importance of our alliance.

The President also spoke at the annual luncheon hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for world leaders, where he saluted the work of those who served in U.N. missions all over the world,  “who risk their lives– and give their lives — so people can live in peace and dignity.”

UNGA: potus toasts with Ban Ki-Moon

President Barack Obama delivers a toast during the luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 21, 2011.

During a stop at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama discussed the the international implications of our onging economic woes. “The single most important thing we could do for the global economy is to get our own economy moving again. When America is growing the world is more likely to grow.”

Late in the day, the President and his senior foreign policy advisors met with some of our closest European allies. In a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, both men stressed the importance of the U.S.-U.K. relationship. The two countries have  worked closely together on the fight for freedom in Libya, the war in Afghanistan and the ongoing Middle East peace process.

In his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Obama said he would be relying on France to help deal with numerous pressing international issues, ” including trying to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also trying to find a coordinated world strategy, global strategy, to deal with a economy that is still far too fragile.”

President Barack Obama greets President Nicolas Sarkozy of France

President Barack Obama greets President Nicolas Sarkozy of France during a bilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Political Highlights May 30, 2011: The Obamas Take Europe on State Trip — The G8 Summit – Memorial after Joplin Tornado Devastation

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/25/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Obama gains foothold; GOP autumn surge behind him: Six months after Republicans alarmed Democrats with a midterm election wave, President Barack Obama has shaken off the jitters and found his political footing despite sluggish economic growth and deep public anxiety about the direction of the country.
    The White House now displays an air of confidence, bolstered in part by achievements such as the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos and the financial success of an auto industry that Obama bailed out over the objections of many.
    Obama is also benefiting from the absence of negatives. The economy, while lethargic, is growing. The private sector is creating jobs. Natural disasters, while deadly and plentiful, have not developed into governmental crises. Skyrocketing gas prices, which fed the public’s economic fears, are now subsiding. And the GOP’s signature budget plan, ambitious in its spending reductions, has lost its luster with the public. “It is likely he will be re-elected, in my opinion,” veteran Republican pollster Wes Anderson says.
    What’s more, the president appears to be enjoying the still lingering but more intangible effects of his election in 2008, a watershed for the nation. Polls show Obama with strong favorability and likability ratings even as he faces ambivalence over his handling of the presidency…. – AP, 5-31-11
  • New poll shows Obama with a bump in Florida: A new poll gives President Barack Obama a bump in Florida after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows voters approve of Obama’s job performance by 51 percent to 43 percent. That’s a turnaround from a 52 percent to 44 percent negative rating in a poll on April 7.
    Florida voters also prefer the Democratic president 44 percent to 37 percent when matched against an unnamed Republican…. – AP, 5-26-11

IN FOCUS

  • Poll: Israelis back Netanyahu’s tough stance in US: An Israeli poll indicates that support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has surged following his contentious visit to the United States.
    Netanyahu had a a tense meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama over the nature of a future Palestinian state. In an address before Congress, he insisted Israel would not return to its pre-1967 war borders.
    The survey has 51 percent of those polled supporting Netanyahu — a 13 percent increase from the Dialog Institute’s previous poll published five weeks ago. The latest poll results were published Thursday in the Haaretz daily.
    Forty-seven percent of Israelis surveyed believe Netanyahu’s U.S. trip was a success while only 10 percent see it as a failure. The poll surveyed 477 people and had a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Israeli officials fret over opening of Gaza border: Israeli and American officials on Thursday said they were pressing Egypt to ensure that the opening of its border with Gaza does not enable the Hamas militant group to move weapons and militants into the Palestinian territory.
    The diplomatic efforts were underway after Egypt announced it was permanently opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza. The Rafah terminal, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world, has functioned only at limited capacity, with frequent closures, for the past four years.
    Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas violently seized power four years ago. But since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February, the country’s caretaker government has distanced itself from Israel and moved closer to the Palestinians…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Are pre-1967 borders indefensible for Israel?: During a swing through Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly said his country’s pre-1967 lines are “indefensible.”
    A total withdrawal from the West Bank, a strategic highland looming over central Israel, would certainly leave the Israeli heartland more vulnerable to attack or invasion. But some experts say that long-range missiles, weapons of mass destruction and cyber-warfare mean that in the modern world the greater risks lie elsewhere — especially if a future Palestine is demilitarized.
    The border issue is now at the heart of the latest tensions in Mideast peace efforts. Seeking to break an eight-month deadlock, President Barack Obama last week proposed that Israel commit to establishing a Palestinian state based on its frontiers before the 1967 Middle East war, when it captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim all three areas for their state.
    Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. But Netanyahu says a similar pullout from the other areas, even as part of a negotiated peace deal, would jeopardize his country’s security on a different scale.
    A return to those lines would leave Israel with a waistline just nine miles (15 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point, Jerusalem surrounded on three sides by Palestinian land and the country’s main international airport just a few miles (kilometers) away from the border. If hostilities break out, Israel’s largest cities could be vulnerable to rocket fire and other attacks…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel ready for painful compromises: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to make “painful compromises” for peace with the Palestinians but said he would not agree to any deal that threatens Israel’s security or its identity as a Jewish state.
    Speaking before a wildly receptive joint meeting of Congress that showered him with more than two dozen sustained standing ovations, Netanyahu said Israel wants and needs peace but repeated his flat rejection of a return to what he called the “indefensible” borders that existed before the 1967 Mideast war. He also restated Israel’s refusal to entertain the return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their families to land in Israel. And, he maintained that Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as their capital, could not be divided.
    “Israel will never give up its quest for peace,” Netanyahu said, adding that he is “willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.”
    But he said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists and urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to rip up a power-sharing agreement that his moderate Fatah faction has signed with the militant group Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    “We must take calls for our destruction seriously,” Netanyahu said, recalling the Holocaust and the absolute imperative not to allow the Jewish people to suffer new massacres. “When we say ‘never again, we mean ‘never again,’ ” he said…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Army arrests Israeli activists in West Bank: Israel’s army says it has arrested several Israeli activists who broke into a disputed West Bank building to protest speeches by President Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.
    A military spokeswoman says the troops arrested about eight activists early on Tuesday after they holed themselves up in Beit Shapira, a building in the contentious city of Hebron. Israel sealed the building in 2006.
    Army radio broadcast one activist at the site yelling: “Tell Obama and (Netanyahu) that Israel won’t give up its land.”… – AP, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel cannot return to 1967 borders: Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
    Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
    The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues.
    His planned address on Tuesday to a joint meeting of Congress, where Israel enjoys strong bipartisan backing, could similarly remind Obama, ahead of his re-election bid, of the political price he might pay if he tries to push Netanyahu too hard.
    In that speech, Netanyahu said, he will “outline a vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
    But in language that suggested he was not going to take a conciliatory pose, he promised to “speak the unvarnished truth.”
    “This conflict has raged for 100 years because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept a Jewish state.”… – AP, 5-23-11
  • Parties See Obama’s Israel Policy as Wedge for 2012: Few issues in American politics are as bipartisan as support for Israel. Yet the question of whether President Obama is supportive enough is behind some of the most partisan maneuvering since the Middle East ally was born six decades ago, and that angling has potential ramifications for the 2012 elections.
    The visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the past week captured just how aggressively Republicans are stoking doubts about Mr. Obama. Republican Congressional leaders and presidential aspirants lavished praise on Mr. Netanyahu as quickly as they had condemned Mr. Obama for proposing that Israel’s 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, should be a basis for negotiating peace with the Palestinians.
    Republicans do not suggest that they can soon break the Democratic Party’s long hold on the loyalty of Jewish-American voters; Mr. Obama got nearly 8 of 10 such voters in 2008. But what Republicans do see is the potential in 2012 to diminish the millions of dollars, volunteer activism and ultimately the votes that Mr. Obama and his party typically get from American Jews — support that is disproportionate to their numbers.
    While Jewish Americans are just 2 percent of the electorate nationally, they are “strategically concentrated,” as Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, put it, in several swing states that are critical in presidential elections. Those states include Florida — which in 2000 illustrated the potentially decisive power of one state — Ohio and Nevada.
    A test of Mr. Obama’s support will come June 20, when he will hold a fund-raiser for about 80 Jewish donors at a private dinner…. – NYT, 5-26-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  • Analysis: No end in sight for NATO in Libya: The military campaign in Libya began with what seemed a narrowly defined mission: to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians from attack.
    Two months later, the campaign has evolved into a ferocious pounding of the country’s capital, Tripoli, in what appears an all-out effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But that goal remains elusive, raising the prospect of a quagmire in the desert. And the political will of the countries involved is being sorely tested.
    The Libyan opposition remains weak. NATO, the North Atlantic military alliance which took over command of the campaign from the U.S. on March 31, appears to have no clear exit strategy. Two of the allies, Britain and France, have descended into public squabbling over bringing the fight closer to Gadhafi with attack helicopters. And the French foreign minister said Tuesday his country’s willingness to continue the campaign was not endless.
    Part of the challenge lies in the original U.N. resolution: It authorized the use of air power but forbade ground troops, even as it authorized “all necessary means” to protect civilians following Gadhafi’s brutal suppression of the popular uprising against his rule…. – AP, 5-24-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Hillary Clinton calls on Pakistan to take ‘decisive steps’ against terrorists: Meeting with Pakistani leaders, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US-Pakistan relationship is at a ‘turning point’ and that Islamabad needs to ramp up its cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda militants…. – LAT, 5-27-11
  • Gates: Big budget cuts will diminish US influence: Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday warned that shrinking defense budgets will mean a smaller military and a diminished U.S. role in the world.
    He said that barring a catastrophic world conflict or a new threat to the very existence of the U.S., there will be no foreseeable return to the booming Pentagon budgets of the past decade. “The money and the political support simply aren’t there,” he said.
    This means the Obama administration and Congress must now decide how much military power the U.S. should give up, how that fits U.S. goals for maintaining global influence, and how to pay for it, Gates said.
    “A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things,” he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank that is generally hostile to defense cuts… – AP, 5-24-11
  • Gates urges Iraqis to ask for US troop extension: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he hopes Baghdad asks U.S. troops to stay beyond their scheduled Dec. 31 departure in order to preserve the relative peace in a country where Americans have such an enormous investment in money and lives.
    “I hope they figure out a way to ask, and I think that the United States will be willing to say ‘yes’ when that time comes,” Gates said in response to a question about Iraq after delivering a speech on Pentagon budget cuts.
    Gates said a longer U.S. military presence could help sustain the security and other gains Iraq has made in recent years. Iraq could become a model for a multisectarian society in the Arab world “that shows that democracy works,” he said…. – AP, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

West Wing Week
  • Memorial Day marked by parades, flyovers, flags: Americans from the nation’s capital to Alaska marked Memorial Day with parades, somber reflection and even a climbing expedition in a holiday infused with fresh meaning by the approaching 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    The National Memorial Day Parade in Washington honored veterans and America’s war dead but also included special tributes to Sept. 11 first responders, victims and their families. Also fresh in the minds of parade participants and watchers was the killing less than a month ago of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks.
    Elsewhere, military jets thundered through the sky above New York after a wreath-laying ceremony aboard an aircraft carrier that’s been turned into a museum, while hundreds of volunteers put small flags on the 25,000 graves at a sprawling military cemetery near Las Vegas. U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan also took time out to remember fallen comrades… – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obamas honor America’s veterans on Memorial Day: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will spend Memorial Day paying tribute to the military. The Obamas will visit Arlington National Cemetery where the president will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
    Following the ceremony, the president will participate in the Memorial Day Service at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery along with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The Obamas will start the day by hosting a breakfast for families who have lost loved ones in combat…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obama tours twister-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin: President Barack Obama toured the apocalyptic landscape left by Missouri’s killer tornado, consoled the bereaved and homeless, and committed the government to helping rebuild shattered lives.
    “We’re not going to stop ’til Joplin’s back on its feet,” Obama vowed. A memorial service where Obama spoke punctuated a day of remembrance one week after the disaster, as authorities pressed on with the task of identifying the victims and volunteers combed through wreckage of neighborhoods where nothing was left whole.
    The service erupted in cheers when Obama said, “I promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way,” a pledge he extended to all parts of the nation raked by violent storms this season…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Joint Chiefs pick is soldier-scholar _ and singer: Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wears four stars on his shoulders, holds three master’s degrees, fought two wars against Iraq, and survived one bout with cancer.
    And he has one catchy hobby: singing. He’ll belt out Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at the drop of a hat.
    Crooning is not among the qualities that pushed Dempsey to the top of Obama’s list in searching for a successor to Adm. Mike Mullen, whose term as Joint Chiefs chairman began under President George W. Bush and ends Sept. 30. But Dempsey’s singing singles him out in a field of Army generals who are usually less publicly playful, and more rigidly aligned with a military culture of caution…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Gen. Dempsey chosen to head Joint Chiefs of Staff: President Barack Obama moved Monday to seal an overhaul of his national security team, selecting Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman amid protracted battle in Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in the NATO-led effort against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and a winding down of the war in Iraq.
    Obama announced a new lineup of his top military leadership group in the Rose Garden of the White House just before venturing across the Potomac to pay tribute to the nation’s war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial Day announcements had been expected, although there was no immediate indication what the military leadership moves might imply for possible changes in military strategy…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obama Expected to Name Army’s Leader to Head Joint Chiefs: Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s peers call him a “pentathlete,” the kind of post-Sept. 11 commander who not only knows the art of combat but is also adept at marshaling the power of diplomacy, money, allied cooperation and information.
    He will need all those skills if, as expected, President Obama nominates him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a move that could come as early as Monday.
    As the military’s highest-ranking officer and a crucial member of the president’s revamped national security team, General Dempsey would face a complex and consequential set of challenges against the backdrop of both rapid change abroad and intensive political pressures at home: how fast to withdraw from Afghanistan, how to reshape the military and how to cope with an era of fiscal austerity…. – NYT, 5-29-11
  • Policy Adviser Tapped to Become U.S. Ambassador to Russia: President Obama has decided to send the architect of his so-called Russia reset policy to Moscow as the next United States ambassador there, seeking to further bolster an improved relationship as both countries head into a potentially volatile election season.
    Mr. Obama plans to nominate Michael McFaul, his top White House adviser on Russia policy, for the post, according to administration officials who declined to be identified before the formal announcement. Mr. Obama told the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, of his choice during a meeting in France last week, officials said.
    In selecting Mr. McFaul, Mr. Obama is breaking with recent tradition in Moscow, where all but one of eight American ambassadors over the last 30 years have been career diplomats. But in choosing someone from his own inner circle, Mr. Obama underscored his determination to keep Russian-American relations a centerpiece of his foreign policy after his early push to reset the relationship following years of growing tension…. – NYT, 5-29-11
  • Obama going to Missouri to offer help in healing: President Barack Obama is pivoting from diplomacy on the world stage to the intimate and delicate domestic task of acting as healer-in-chief to a Missouri community devasted by a massive tornado.
    The president travels to tornado-wrecked Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, a day after returning from a six-day European tour of Ireland, Britain, France and Poland.
    The president will visit with survivors and family members of the worst tornado in decades, a monster storm that tore through Joplin a week ago leaving more than 130 dead and hundreds more injured. More than 40 people remain unaccounted for, and the damage is massive.
    The president will tour destroyed neighborhoods in the city of 50,000 in southwestern Missouri, and speak at a memorial service being held by local clergy and Gov. Jay Nixon for those who lost their lives. He’ll offer federal assistance, and his own condolences…. – AP, 5-29-11
  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.
    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.
    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote.
    A short-term expiration would not have interrupted ongoing operations but would have barred the government from seeking warrants for new investigations…. – CBS News, 5-27-11
  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: The Patriot Act is here to stay. Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said.
    The nail-biting finish was in large part due to Republican freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Tea Party favorite held up the legislation, arguing the Patriot Act is an invasion of privacy and gives the government too much power to monitor people’s lives.
    The Senate passed the bill 72-23, and the House voted in favor of it 250-153.
    The extension allows law enforcement officials to continue the use of roving wiretaps – those authorized for a person versus a communications line or device.
    It also allows for court-ordered searches of business records relevant to terrorist investigations and permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-Americans without confirmed ties to terrorist groups…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11
  • Obama Uses Autopen to Sign Patriot Act Extension: Where in the world is President Obama? Turns out it doesn’t matter. For the first time in United States history, a bill has been signed into law by a mechanical autopen, which affixed the president’s signature at the direction of Mr. Obama, who is in Europe.
    Congress on Thursday passed legislation extending the Patriot Act for four years. (House vote | Senate vote) But with Mr. Obama abroad and the existing legal authorities set to expire, the White House concluded that a mechanical signature would do.
    “Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security,” Nick Shapiro, an assistant press secretary in the White House, said before the vote on Thursday. “As long as Congress approves the extension, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it.”
    With that declaration, Mr. Obama turned a machine that is ubiquitous in government and business for routine transactions — letters, ceremonial photos, promotional materials — into the ultimate stand-in replacement for the leader of the free world…. – USA Today, 5-27-11
  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.
    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.
    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline. “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11
  • Obama Cites Poland as Model for Arab Shift: President Obama held up Poland on Saturday as a model for Arab nations undergoing political change, saying its peaceful overthrow of Communism held lessons for Tunisia and other Arab countries grappling with the chaotic aftermath of popular revolts.
    President Obama visited the Warsaw memorial to those who died in the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski.
    Mr. Obama’s stop came at the end of a busy, six-day tour of Europe that served both as a reaffirmation of the trans-Atlantic alliance and a call for those European allies to advance the cause of those rallying for political change in the Middle East and North Africa.
    From Britain and France, Mr. Obama asked mainly for money to shore up the teetering economies of Egypt and Tunisia. But from Poland, the president sought something less tangible: inspiration, a kind of how-to manual from people who had taken a similar journey.
    “It has gone through what so many countries want to now go through,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with Prime Minister Donald Tusk. “Poland can play an extraordinary role precisely because they have they have traveled so far so rapidly over the last 25 years.”… – NYT, 5-28-11
  • Obama arrives in Warsaw; Polish Jews urge him to support Israel: Within hours of arriving Friday in this once-occupied capital, President Obama encountered the enduring emotion surrounding the state of Israel, founded as a sanctuary from the virulent anti-Semitism that wiped out much of this nation’s Jewish population during World War II.
    As his first stop in a two-day visit, Obama visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, then traveled to the Ghetto Heroes Memorial, where he laid a wreath at the base of the stark bronze relief commemorating the tens of thousands of Jews killed in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943.
    About two dozen members of the city’s Jewish community gathered to watch the ceremony, and Obama greeted them afterward. Taking his extended hand, a woman told him, “It’s the only Jewish state we have and we trust you.”
    He made clear a final agreement over territory would likely include land exchanges to accommodate Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But his proposal angered Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called those prewar lines “indefensible.” “I will always be there for Israel,” Obama told the woman.
    To a man in a kipa, the Jewish skullcap, Obama also said, “We will always be there,” another likely reference to U.S. support for Israel. “I promise.”
    The White House said the visit to the memorial, which concluded with a group photograph of Obama with the Jewish audience, had been planned well before the State Department speech. Obama promised to get the photo to all of those in it with him…. – WaPo, 5-27-11
  • Obama exhorts US, allies to bolster Arab spring: Holding out Poland’s transformation to democracy as a model for the world, President Barack Obama on Saturday exhorted Western allies and the American public alike to extend their support, energy and vision to those now reaching for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.
    Obama wound up his six-day trip to Europe with a message aimed squarely at the people of the United States, saying that in a time of tight budgets, “I want the American people to understand we’ve got to leave room for us to continue our tradition of providing leadership when it comes to freedom, democracy, human rights.”
    Obama, in a brief news conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, assured Americans that he spends the bulk of each day worrying about the U.S. economy and how to strengthen it and create jobs. But he coupled that with the message that it is a U.S. obligation to support democracy around the globe, one that pays dividends in the form of a safer and more prosperous world.
    Speaking with urgency in his voice, Obama said that while no outside country can “impose change” on another, “We can really help. We can facilitate. We can make a difference.”… – AP, 5-27-11
  • G-8: Nations, banks to give $40B for Arab Spring: Rich countries and international lenders are aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish true democracies, officials said at a Group of Eight summit Friday.
    Officials didn’t fully detail the sources of the money, or how it would be used, but the thrust was clearly to underpin democracy in Egypt and Tunisia — where huge public uprisings ousted autocratic regimes this year — and put pressure on repressive rulers in Syria and Libya.
    The overall message from President Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders meeting in this Normandy resort appeared to be warning autocratic regimes in the Arab world that they will be shut out of rich-country aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Obama in Poland to honor history, boost ties: President Barack Obama on Friday honored the memories of those slain in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis, telling one elderly man that the memorial was a “reminder of the nightmare” of the Holocaust in which 6 millions Jews were killed.
    The president also helped placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to all unidentified soldiers who have given their lives to Poland in past wars. By paying homage to Poles who fell in World War II at two symbolically potent sites, Obama’s gestures were sure to carry great weight in a country whose identity is still profoundly shaped by the death and destruction inflicted on it by Nazi Germany.
    In the final phase of his European trip, the president greeted Holocaust survivors and leaders of Poland’s Jewish community at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. He smiled, shook hands and hugged those gathered under a light rain, including some who shared memories of having met Obama at earlier times.
    “What a wonderful visit. I’ll have to bring my daughters,” Obama said as he exited the memorial. The monument in the former Jewish ghetto commemorates the tens of thousands of Jews killed in a 1943 uprising against the Nazis during Germany’s brutal occupation of Poland during World War II…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • After Obama’s European tour, challenges at home: Hope you’ve enjoyed your European trip, Mr. President. A lot’s awaiting your attention on your return Saturday…
    Obama has kept a watchful eye on events at home as he’s devoted the week to the business of strengthening relationships with Western allies and marshaling support for democratic stirrings in the Middle East and North Africa. On Friday he arrived in Poland, the final stop on his itinerary, to connect with an ally that has sometimes felt slighted and to underscore the growing importance of Central and Eastern Europe in world affairs.
    Obama will hold two days of political meetings focusing on security, energy and joint U.S.-Polish efforts to promote democracy in North Africa, Belarus and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. But unlike past U.S. presidents who visited this nation of 38 million, Obama will not meet or address the Polish public directly. He opened the visit by spending time at a memorial to those slain in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis, meeting Holocaust survivors and leaders of Poland’s Jewish community…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • 45 senators urge Obama to sell F-16s to Taiwan: Nearly half the Senate urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.
    Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China’s communist-led government and would set back improved U.S.-China relations.
    “Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
    Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments. AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama Seeks Aid for Egypt and Tunisia at Meeting: President Obama tried to marshal global economic support for Egypt and Tunisia at a gathering of industrialized countries on Thursday, even as some European allies were privately urging him to increase the United States’ role in the military campaign in Libya.
    These crosscutting pressures show the complexity of the Arab upheaval and the responses it is drawing from major powers. While the United States is emphasizing the need to stabilize the economy of Egypt, its major Arab ally, France and Britain are eager to intensify the NATO airstrikes on Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
    These goals are not mutually exclusive, American and European officials said. The United States said it expected the Group of 8 countries — France and Britain, among them — to express strong support for efforts to generate jobs and revive growth in Arab countries…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • World press has trackside view of G8 summit: Reporters covering this year’s G8 summit got a trackside view for the event. Organizers have set the thousand-seat press center smack along the rail of Deauville’s tres chic La Touques thoroughbred racecourse. The track hosts race meetings year-round but the summer season won’t kick off until late June.
    This weekend’s meeting will, however, see thundering stampedes of reporters chasing the latest scoop on the leaders’ talks. Odds say the heads of France, Britain, United States and the other G8 countries will seek to rally behind a common European candidate to take over the International Monetary Fund…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Ambassador nominee: China must lean on North Korea: President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to China says the Chinese can and must do more to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
    Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington state, would be the first Chinese-American to serve as ambassador to China if confirmed…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama: Japan will emerge stronger after earthquake: President Barack Obama is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of an international summit in France.
    As the meeting got under way, Obama told reporters that Japan will emerge “stronger than ever” after a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands in March and sparked fears of a meltdown at a nuclear plant. Kan thanked the U.S. for its assistance after the disaster…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • G-8: Nations, banks to give $40B for Arab Spring: Rich countries and international lenders are aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish free democracies, officials said at a Group of Eight summit Friday.
    The officials didn’t provide a breakdown of where the money would come from or when, or what it would be for.
    But the overall message from President Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders meeting in this Normandy resort appeared to be warning autocratic regimes in the Arab world that they will be shut out of rich-country aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Missile issue a sticking point for Obama, Medvedev: It is no simple thing to push the “reset” button on U.S.-Russian relations. Trying to move beyond years of inherited mistrust, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed progress Thursday but achieved no breakthrough on a U.S. missile defense plan that Moscow is concerned could threaten its security.
    The two leaders went out of their way to stress — four times over — that their relationship was good But Medvedev also acknowledged: “It does not mean that we’ll have common views and coinciding views on all the issues. It’s impossible.”
    And a White House aide acknowledged that on the missile defense question, for years the single most confrontational issue in the U.S.-Russian relationship, both sides still were trying to overcome “old thinking,” and the Russians, in short, “don’t believe us.”… – AP, 5-26-11
  • White House unveiling plans to curb regulations: The White House would eliminate requirements for trapping polluting vapors at gasoline stations and let employers and hospitals file fewer reports as part of a plan announced Thursday to ease regulatory burdens on business.
    The proposals would help reduce costs for companies and state and local governments while “maintaining the critical health and safety protections that Americans deserve,” the statement said. Cass Sunstein, the White House regulatory chief, planned to describe the changes later Thursday morning in remarks to the conservative American Enterprise Institute…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Arab uprisings top agenda as Obama attends G-8: President Barack Obama prepared to press allies from the Group of Eight industrial nations for commitments in the Middle East and North Africa during two days of meetings in France that were getting under way Thursday.
    Air Force One touched down in the seaside resort of Deauville after a flight from London Thursday morning for the summit’s opening meetings. The world’s leading economic powers are seeking ways to support fledgling democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, while also creating incentives to encourage other countries in the region to pursue greater political freedoms.
    The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s sweeping address at London’s Westminster Hall Wednesday, where he cast the U.S., Britain and other like-minded allies in Europe as the world’s “greatest catalysts for global action.” He will echo a similar theme in his discussions with G-8 partners on the recent Arab uprisings and argue that the political protesters in the Middle East and North Africa share their democratic values.
    On the sidelines of the summit, Obama will hold one-on-one meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama, Cameron hold news conference in London: President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are holding a joint news conference on the lawn at London’s Lancaster House. Topics on their agenda: NATO’s mission in Libya and the unrest and violence across the Middle East and North Africa, the stalled Mideast peace process and the war in Afghanistan…. – USA Today, 5-25-11
  • Obama Says World Needs U.S.-British Leadership: In a rare address to both houses of the British Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, President Obama said Wednesday that the United States and Britain remained “indispensable” nations for peace and stability and the “greatest catalysts for global action” in a time of war, terrorism and economic insecurity.
    Highlighting the need for a “new era of cooperation” between the nations that already enjoy a special relationship, Mr. Obama stressed their shared values in a speech that drew a straight line from the beaches of Normandy to the NATO bombing mission in Libya.
    “It is wrong to conclude that the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil means the end of American and European leadership,” he said. “Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.”
    Mr. Obama’s speech came hours after a joint news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in which the two leaders renewed their calls for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to leave office. Mr. Cameron said the two allies “should be turning up the heat” on the Libyan leader.
    After the pomp and ceremony of the previous day, with Queen Elizabeth II welcoming Mr. Obama to Britain and showing him around Buckingham Palace herself, the second day of Mr. Obama’s trip turned to geopolitics in meetings with Mr. Cameron, and his address to Parliament…. – NYT, 5-25-11

Doug Mills/The New York Times

  • Text of Obama, Cameron news conference: The text of the news conference Wednesday in London with President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as provided by the White House…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • AP sources: Army chief picked to head Joint Chiefs: A general installed just last month as the Army’s top officer is President Barack Obama’s surprise choice to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.
    Gen. Martin Dempsey, an accomplished veteran of the Iraq war, would succeed Navy Adm. Mike Mullen as the president’s top military adviser when Mullen’s term as chairman ends Sept. 30. Dempsey would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
    Two people familiar with the choice, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been announced by the White House, said it is scheduled to be made public on Tuesday.
    Dempsey is a surprise choice because he just began a four-year term as Army chief of staff on April 11…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Michelle Obama seeks to inspire London students: First Lady Michelle Obama used her own life as an example of how hard work and perseverance can prevail Wednesday as she spoke with students from a multiethnic school in an economically deprived area.
    She told the girls touring the University of Oxford for the day that they have to battle low self-esteem and learn to stand up for themselves with confidence. The message to the 35 students was that even elite universities like Oxford are within their grasp.
    “We passionately believe that you have the talent within you, you have the drive, and you have the experience to succeed here at Oxford and at universities just like it across the country and across the world,” she said. “By overcoming challenges you have gained strength, courage and maturity far beyond your years. And those qualities will help you succeed in school and in life.”
    The first lady, on the second day of a presidential state visit to Britain, traveled to the sun-drenched campus to meet with the students from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London. The school, which the first lady visited in 2009, serves one of the most economically deprived areas in Britain and has a high rate of scholastic success despite the hardships its students face…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • G-8 leaders eye Arab world with hope and worry: Leaders of the world’s rich democracies meeting Thursday are looking at tumult in the Arab world with both hope and fear.
    They hope the new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia flourish and their economies rebound. And they fear that the war in Libya and uprisings in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain may entrench autocrats instead of defeating them.
    At a two-day summit in this moneyed Normandy resort, President Barack Obama and the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations will seek to marshal their combined economic might behind the grass-roots democracy movements that have swept the Arab world but have also driven away tourists and investors…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama: Mideast peace takes ‘wrenching compromise’: President Barack Obama says achieving a peaceful Middle East will require “wrenching compromise” by the Israelis and Palestinians, but an accord will never be reached unless both sides come back to the table.
    Obama says he recently proposed that the two sides rekindle the process by first working on the borders of a future Palestinian state and Israel’s security before moving to more emotional issues, such as the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.
    He says a peace deal will be on the horizon if they resolve those issues…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama: No ‘let up’ against Libya’s Gadhafi: President Barack Obama says there will be no “let up” in the pressure that the U.S.-backed NATO coalition is applying to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya.
    The coalition launched a withering bombardment on Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli on Tuesday. Gadhafi remains in power two months after an air campaign began, but Obama insists that Gadhafi will eventually have no choice but to step down…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Cameron: No time to turn away from Pakistan: British Prime Minister David Cameron is supporting Western alliances with Pakistan amid questions about how terrorist Osama bin Laden lived for so long there before he was hunted down and killed by U.S. commandos.
    In a news conference with President Barack Obama, Cameron said that allies must work with Pakistan more closely than ever, not turn away. He said Pakistan has suffered mightily in the fight against extremism. Said Cameron: “Their enemy is our enemy.”… – AP, 5-25-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama mocks toast blooper: A musical miscue cut into his toast to Queen Elizabeth II but President Barack Obama didn’t miss a beat.
    The president had just raised his glass and had begun offering a toast at a lavish state dinner at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night when the band, apparently thinking he was through, struck up “God Save the Queen” a tad too soon.
    Without missing a beat, Obama kept talking over the music. He praised the relationship between the U.S. and Britain and even quoted Shakespeare…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama to world: West leadership role still strong: President Barack Obama stood in the historic grandeur of Westminster Hall and served notice to England and the world that the growing influence of countries like China, India and Brazil does not mean a diminished global role for America and its European allies.
    “The time for our leadership is now,” Obama declared to members of Parliament, who for the first time gave an American president the honor of addressing them from the 900-year-old hall where great and gruesome moments in British history have played out.
    “If we fail to meet that responsibility, who would take our place, and what kind of world would we pass on?” the president asked…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Biden: Revenues needed as part of debt limit bill: Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that new revenues need to be part of any agreement with Republicans on legislation to raise the limit on how much money the government can borrow to continue to meet its obligations.
    The vice president also said talks were on pace to produce deficit cuts exceeding $1 trillion and that the talks would extend to procedural mechanisms known as “triggers” to force further automatic deficit cuts to bring the total to $4 trillion if lawmakers were unable to come up with the savings in future legislation.
    “I’ve made it clear today … revenues have to be in the deal,” Biden told reporters after meeting with GOP negotiators.
    “Tax increases are not going to be something that we’ll support,” said Majority Leader Eric Canter of Virginia, who’s representing House Republicans in the talks. But he concurred that “progress is being made.”… – AP, 5-24-11
  • UK palace goes all-out for Obama state dinner: For President Barack Obama, a state dinner hosted by the British queen is much more than a chance to dine on Windsor lamb washed down with 50-year-old port. It’s also an opportunity to bask in the grandeur of Britain’s monarchy, still glowing from the success of a princely wedding watched around the world.
    Large British and American flags lined the Mall, where, less than a month before, Prince William and his new bride, the Duchess of Cambridge, rode to Buckingham Palace. The nearby Green Park still bore large bare patches where the world’s media had camped out for the marriage.
    Inside the palace, the crimson-carpeted ballroom was laid out with 19th-century silverware, Louis XVI porcelain and fragrant floral arrangements more than 12 feet (four meters) tall. Every gilded ornament had its own rich history — the Rockingham dessert service, for example, was first used for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838.
    The 170 or so guests joining the Obamas for dinner include Britain’s prime minister, senior royalty, ambassadors, business leaders, top brass, leading academics, prominent nobility and even the archbishop of Canterbury — who officiated at William’s April 29 wedding…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama mocks toast blooper: President Barack Obama has made light of a musical mishap that threatened to cut short his toast at Tuesday night’s state dinner in London.
    Obama had just toasted the Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace when the band, apparently deciding that he had finished his speech, struck up “God Save the Queen.”… – AP, 5-24-11
  • Queen: US, England eye to eye on world challenges: Queen Elizabeth II has used her speech at a state dinner honoring Barack and Michelle Obama to celebrate common bonds between the United States and Britain that she says go beyond military and diplomatic ties.
    The queen opened the lavish state dinner at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday by recalling fond memories of her earlier meetings with the Obamas. And she said that the U.S. and Britain in most cases see world problems in the same light.
    The queen said the U.S.-U.K relationship is — in her words — “tried, tested and, yes, special.”… – AP, 5-24-11
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace in London, England, May 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace in London, England, May 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Michelle Obama lights London with bright colors: Michelle Obama packed a wardrobe of cheerful, colorful clothes to accompany her husband on a state visit to England. She made quick changes from one dress to another on Tuesday, wearing designer labels that stretch from Los Angeles to London…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • White House threatens to veto defense bill: The White House threatened on Tuesday to veto a defense bill, fiercely objecting to provisions limiting President Barack Obama’s authority to reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal and decide the fate of terror suspects.
    In a statement, the Obama administration said it generally supported passage of the legislation, which would provide $553 billion for the Defense Department in next year’s budget and an additional $118 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the administration identified three provisions that would prompt the president’s advisers to recommend that Obama veto the bill.
    “The administration has serious concerns with several provisions that constrain the ability of the armed forces to carry out their missions (and) impede the secretary of defense’s ability to make and implement management decisions that eliminate unnecessary overhead or programs to ensure scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities for the warfighter.”
    The House began work on the bill on Tuesday and is scheduled to vote on the legislation later in the week…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama: Chrysler loan repayment a ‘milestone’: President Barack Obama says Chrysler’s repayment of the government loans that helped it emerge from bankruptcy is a “significant milestone” for the auto industry.
    Chrysler took $10.5 billion from the U.S. government to survive two years ago. On Tuesday, it will retire a $5.9 billion balance on the U.S. loans and $1.6 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario.
    Obama said the announcement comes six years ahead of schedule. Obama, in London as part of a week-long European tour, made his comments in a statement delivered by White House press secretary Jay Carney…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama, Cameron try pingpong: For a couple steadfast allies, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron aren’t always in sync.
    The two leaders, both lefties, had their hands full playing table tennis with a couple of London school boys Tuesday. The game was part of a visit to a school in the Southwark neighborhood of London that specializes in math and performing arts.
    Both leaders doffed their jackets and rolled up their sleeves. Obama, playing the diplomat, offered a defense for Cameron’s play: “Tennis is his sport.” Then, reacting to an aggressively missed shot by the prime minister, he suggested not so helpfully: “You just don’t know your own strength.”
    Their competitors, two students in their early teens, used a variety of spin serves to unnerve their opponents…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama: Midwest storms devastating, heartbreaking: President Barack Obama says he will travel to Missouri on Sunday to meet with people affected by the devastating tornadoes there.
    The president said Tuesday he wants Midwesterners whose lives were upended by the deadly storms last weekend to know that the federal government will use all the resources at its disposal to help them recover and rebuild.
    “I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you,” the president said in London on day two of his four-country tour.
    “The American people are by your side. We’re going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.”… – AP, 5-24-11
The President & First Lady join a massive crowd in Dublin
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/23/11
  • Michelle Obama wows Britain with her style: There weren’t any hugs, like last time, but U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama shared a warm handshake with the British queen and gained more fans during her state visit to the U.K.
    Mrs. Obama captured the nation’s attention in 2009 when she affectionately put her arm on Queen Elizabeth II’s back in a minor breach of protocol.
    On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama started the day off when she briefly shook the queen’s hand at a Buckingham Palace ceremony. Her three dress changes throughout the day were closely watched by the British media — the BBC, among others, spent much of its air time before the evening’s white-tie state dinner excitedly speculating on what she might wear for the occasion….- AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama aims to reassure Europe it still matters: President Barack Obama is plunging back into the complex security debates over Afghanistan, Libya and uprisings in the Middle East, while trying to reassure European allies that they still are valued partners in U.S. foreign policy.
    After the two days of celebration and ceremony that opened his European tour, Obama was to hold bilateral meetings Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron and deliver a speech to both houses of Parliament, an address that the White House billed as the centerpiece of the president’s four-country, six-day trip.
    Obama’s message to allies across Europe, and Britain in particular, will be that their long-standing partnerships remain the cornerstone of America’s engagement with the world, even as the president seeks to strengthen U.S. ties with emerging powers such as China and India.
    “There is no other alliance that assumes the burdens that we assume on behalf of peace and security and that, again, invests as much as we do in enforcement of international law and in global development,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications…. – AP, 5-24-11
President Obama in London

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/24/11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Republican Legislators Push to Tighten Voting Rules: Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.
    Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.
    Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed laws last week that would require each voter to show an official, valid photo ID to cast a ballot, joining Kansas and South Carolina.
    In Florida, which already had a photo law, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this month to tighten restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations — prompting the League of Women Voters to say it would cease registering voters in the state — and to shorten the number of early voting days. Twelve states now require photo identification to vote…. – NYT, 5-28-11
  • War-weary lawmakers send Obama a message: War-weary Republicans and Democrats on Thursday sent the strongest message yet to President Barack Obama to end the war in Afghanistan as the commander in chief decides how many U.S. troops to withdraw this summer.
    A measure requiring an accelerated timetable for pulling out the 100,000 troops from Afghanistan and an exit strategy for the nearly 10-year-old conflict secured 204 votes in the House, falling just short of passage but boosting the hopes of its surprised proponents.
    “It sends a strong signal to the president that the U.S. House of Representatives and the American people want change,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said shortly after the vote…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Dems propose new Ill. congressional district map: Republicans rejoiced in November after picking up a handful of Democratic congressional districts in President Barack Obama’s home state. Now Democrats are getting their revenge by proposing a new map of Illinois districts that could erase those GOP gains.
    The GOP scrambled Friday to decipher the proposed map that lumps at least four freshman Republicans and one veteran into districts where they would have to run against other incumbents for the next election.
    Illinois must adopt a congressional map with 18, instead of 19, U.S. House seats because of slowing population growth in the latest census — and Democrats are in charge of the process because they control the state Legislature and governor’s office.
    “This proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to undo the results of the elections held just six months ago and we will take whatever steps necessary to achieve a map that more fairly represents the people of Illinois – they deserve nothing less,” the Republican members of Illinois’ congressional delegation said in a joint statement…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • GOP repackages agenda: Top House Republicans called for tax reform, an easing of government regulations and increased domestic energy production on Thursday in what officials said was an attempt to show that spending cuts are not their sole emphasis for creating jobs.
    The plan also backs a tax holiday for multinational companies that hold profits overseas, designed as an incentive for them to return the money to the United States rather than invest it abroad.
    “Our concern is America’s economy. And getting our economy going again is going to require us to reduce the spending, reduce the debt, to get the regulations out of the way, to let American job creators create jobs,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference.
    Boehner conceded there were few if any new initiatives in the package, which officials said had been assembled by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • US Senate votes to extend terror-fighting bill: The Senate has voted decisively to extend the legal life of three contentious terrorism-fighting powers that were set to have expired at midnight without congressional action.
    The 72-23 Senate vote sends the legislation to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass it quickly and transmit it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
    It extends two provisions of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, one allowing roving wiretaps, the other allowing searches of business records in the pursuit of terror threats. A third provision gives the government power to watch non-American “lone wolf” suspects with no certain ties to terrorist groups…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Congress has midnight deadline on anti-terror bill: Congress is rushing to extend the life of three anti-terror tools, including the use of roving wiretaps, before they expire at midnight Thursday.
    The Senate was set to start voting on the legislation, including possible amendments, Thursday morning. Final passage during the day would send it to the House for quick approval and then onward to President Barack Obama in Europe for his signature.
    The rapid-fire action on key elements of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act comes after several days of impasse in the Senate and results in part from the prodding of senior intelligence officials, who warned of the consequences of disrupting surveillance operations.
    “Should the authority to use these critical tools expire, our nation’s intelligence and law enforcement professionals will have less capability than they have today to detect terrorist plots,” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, wrote congressional leaders…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • New RNC chairman says NC will be 2012 battleground: The Republican National Committee’s new chairman is pleading with party leaders in the Tar Heel State for more money to help candidates heading into the 2012 campaign. But some activists are telling him the national party needs to better embrace the conservative values of the tea party movement…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?: Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on Wednesday after casting a House race in upstate New York as a referendum on the popular program and emerging victorious.
    “The top three reasons for the election of a Democrat in one of the most conservative Republican districts in America are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” declared New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the party’s congressional campaign committee…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Senators unveil bipartisan transportation plan: A bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday they have agreed to the outlines of a long-term transportation spending bill, boosting prospects for ending a stalemate that has kept highway and transit construction programs in limbo since 2008.
    The bill would spend about $56 billion a year on highway and transit construction, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It has the support of Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the committee; David Vitter of Louisiana, the senior Republican on the highway subcommittee, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., the subcommittee’s chairman…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • House bans funds for teaching abortion techniques: The House voted Wednesday to ban teaching health centers from using federal money to train doctors on how to perform abortions, the latest in a series of anti-abortion measures pushed by the Republican majority.
    The author of the measure, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said she wanted to make it “crystal clear that taxpayer money is not being used to train health care providers to perform abortion procedures.”
    The proposal was presented as an amendment to the latest of several GOP bills to restrict funding for the health care act that was enacted last year. This bill gives Congress control over spending for a program to encourage health centers to provide training to medical residents. The amendment applies to funding in that grant program.
    The Foxx amendment passed 234-182 despite the objections of some Democrats that it would prevent health centers from teaching a basic medical technique that can be critical to saving a woman’s life during emergencies…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Senate votes down controversial House budget: Joined by several moderate Republicans, Democrats controlling the Senate rejected a controversial House budget plan for turning Medicare into a voucher-like program for future beneficiaries.
    Five Republicans joined every Democrat in the 57-40 vote killing the measure, which calls for transforming Medicare into a program in which future beneficiaries — people now 54 years old and younger — would be given a subsidy to purchase health insurance rather than have the government directly pay hospital and doctor bills.
    Democrats said the GOP plan would “end Medicare as we know it,” and they made it the central issue in a special election Tuesday in which Democrats seized a longtime GOP district in western New York, rattling Republicans…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Medicare overhaul proposal causing GOP stress: Little more than a month after they backed sweeping changes to Medicare, Republicans are on the political defensive, losing a House seat long in their possession and exhibiting significant internal strains for the first time since last fall’s election gains.
    “We’ve got to get beyond this,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said recently after several days of back and forth over the proposal he authored and included in the budget that cleared on a party line vote. “And we’ve got to get onto a serious conversation about what it takes to fix the fiscal problems in this country.”
    Under Ryan’s proposal, Medicare would remain unchanged for those 55 or older, including the millions who now receive health care under the program. Anyone younger would be required to obtain coverage from a private insurer, with the government providing a subsidy to cover part of the cost of premiums…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • McCain, King resolution calls for pardoning boxer: Sen. John McCain and Rep. Peter King, who lost their last attempt to win a presidential pardon for the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, are looking for a rematch.
    The two GOP lawmakers reintroduced a congressional resolution Tuesday urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson, who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman….
    In a statement, McCain, R-Ariz., said that he and King, R-N.Y., were reintroducing the resolution “to send a clear message to rectify this unacceptable historical injustice.”
    “A full pardon would not only shed light on the achievements of an athlete who was forced into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, but also allow future generations to grasp fully what Jack Johnson accomplished against great odds,” McCain said…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • House GOP to advance $1B disaster aid package: Republicans controlling the House began advancing a $1 billion aid package on Tuesday to make sure that disaster relief accounts don’t run dry after massive flooding along the Mississippi River and devastating tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.
    The House Appropriations Committee approved the disaster aid cash along with two spending bills, one funding the Homeland Security Department and the other veterans programs…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Senate considers Patriot Act despite concerns: The tortoise-like Senate is under uncommon pressure to pass a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act before key provisions expire Friday. But the deadline is even tighter, because President Barack Obama is in Europe.
    Any extension passed by the Senate must be sent to the House and passed there, then flown overseas to be signed into law.
    So the Senate’s deadline for passage is more like midweek. And that’s no accident.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who not long ago vowed to have a full week of debate on the Patriot Act extension, has instead backed up the vote against a tighter deadline to limit debate over legislation some say is less necessary now that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is dead.
    Another motivator: The Senate’s weeklong Memorial Day break begins just after the Patriot Act deadline.
    The White House urged the Senate to do what it typically does not: work quickly. “It is essential to avoid any hiatus” in the law’s powers, the Obama administration said in a statement.
    But the Senate does not rush, even when it’s clear that there probably isn’t time for changes. Senators voted 74-8 Monday to begin debate on the bill…. – AP, 5-24-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: SCOTUS UPHOLDS ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts: The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking…

  • Chief Justice John Robert’s Opinion — CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ET AL. v. WHITING ET AL.
  • High court sustains Ariz. employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers in the country illegally, buoying the hopes of supporters of state crackdowns on illegal immigration.
    They predicted the ruling would lead to many other states passing laws that require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check that workers aren’t illegal immigrants. And some said the ruling bodes well for the prospects of a much broader and more controversial immigration law in Arizona, known as SB1070, to be found constitutional.
    The state is appealing a ruling blocking portions of that law from taking effect…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, rejecting a challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations, our court correspondent Joan Biskupic reports.
    U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement supporting the ruling: “Not only is this law constitutional, it is common sense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.”
    The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate because she worked on it while serving as President Obama’s solicitor general.
    The law permits the state to take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers. It requires employers to use an otherwise optional federal verification program, known as the E-Verify system, which collects data on workers from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
    The ruling, by a 5-3 vote, comes off oral arguments presented in December. Reporting on those arguments, Biskupic had noted that the court “appeared poised … to uphold” the law.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration had opposed the law…. – USA Today, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court today backed an Arizona law that sanctions businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    On a 5-3 vote, the court held that federal immigration law does not preempt Arizona from suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that violate state immigration law.
    Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 27-page opinion, which can be found here. And here’s a report from WSJ.
    Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Arizona law in 2007, saying that while immigration is a federal responsibility, Arizona had been forced to deal with the issue because the demand for cheap, undocumented labor in the state was contributing to illegal immigration…. – WSJ, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court sustains Arizona employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.
    By a 5-3 vote, the court said Thursday that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.
    The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general
    Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.
    Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.
    The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.
    The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.
    The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” unauthorized aliens…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Arizona may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, rejecting arguments that the state’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to control immigration.
    The court ruled 5 to 3 that Congress specifically allowed states such an option, and dismissed the objections of an unusual coalition that challenged the state law: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration.
    The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act generally preempts states from using employer sanctions to control immigration. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to go after companies that knowingly and intentionally hired undocumented workers.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
    “It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” he wrote.
    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome.
    The law at issue — the Legal Arizona Workers Act — is different from a more recent Arizona law that the Obama administration is battling in lower courts…. – WaPo, 5-26-11
  • SCOTUS upholds Arizona immigrant hiring law: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    In a 5-3 vote, the court concluded that federal immigration law doesn’t prevent the state from revoking the business licenses of companies that violate state law.
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the court had come to its decision because “the state’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”
    The Arizona law also requires employers to use the federal government’s web-based E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work within the United States. The court upheld this provision, saying it is “entirely consistent” with federal law…. – Politico, 5-26-11
  • US states can shut firms with illegals: Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state has the right to revoke the license of a business that knowingly employs illegal immigrants, in a case watched for implications on related judicial battles.
    The top US court in a 5-3 decision upheld Arizona’s 2007 law, saying the state was within its rights under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure.
    The ruling comes amid a legal battle on another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.
    In Thursday’s decision, the court cited the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.
    The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
    “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking employee status.”… – AFP, 5-26-11
  • ‘Business death penalty’ for hiring illegal workers is upheld by Supreme Court: The 5-3 decision gives states more authority to act against illegal immigrants. Justices rule that states can take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Arizona and other states more authority to take action against illegal immigrants and the companies that hire them, ruling that employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can lose their license to do business.
    The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
    The court’s decision did not deal with the more controversial Arizona law passed last year that gave police more authority to stop and question those who are suspected of being in the state illegally. But the ruling is likely to encourage the state and its supporters because the court majority said states remained free to take action involving immigrants…. – LAT, 5-26-11
  • Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions: Ruling that Republicans in the State Senate had violated the state’s open meetings law, a judge in Wisconsin dealt a blow to them and to Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday by granting a permanent injunction striking down a new law curbing collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.
    Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court said the Senate vote on March 9, coming after 13 Democratic state senators had fled the state, failed to comply with an open meetings law requiring at least two hours notice to the public.
    The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on June 6 , and Republican lawmakers are hoping that the court overturns Judge Sumi’s ruling and reinstates the law.
    The State Senate could choose simply to pass the bill again while assuring proper notice. But some political experts say there might be some obstacles to re-enacting the vote because some Democrats could conceivably flee the state again, and some Republican Senators are frightened about pending recall elections…. – NYT, 5-26-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS — ELECTIONS

Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat in Closely Watched Upstate New York Race: The Associated Press has declared Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, the winner in a closely watched Congressional race in upstate New York that is being seen as a test of a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare.
On Tuesday, she captured 47 percent of the vote to Ms. Corwin’s 43 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 9 percent

  • Medicare key to shocking Dem win in NY House race: Kathy Hochul told her supporters they had picked the right issue to fight a Republican on long-held Republican turf.
    The Democrat rode a wave of voter discontent over the national GOP’s plan to change Medicare and overcame decades of GOP dominance here to capture Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District.
    Hochul defeated Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin on Tuesday night, capturing 47 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Corwin, to win the seat vacated by disgraced Republican Chris Lee. A wealthy tea party candidate, Jack Davis, took 9 percent.
    The special election that became a referendum on the health care plan for the nation’s seniors may serve as a warning shot to further GOP efforts to cut popular entitlement programs…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party’s commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up…. – NYT, 5-25-11
  • What lessons will GOP take from losing New York-26 House seat?: Medicare is indeed a perilous issue for Republicans, Tuesday’s House race in New York’s 26th District showed. But so are third-party candidates and tepid campaigns.
    A Democratic upset on GOP turf in upstate New York signals that Medicare reform is a perilous issue for Republicans – but so are tea party candidates in a three-way race, tepid campaigns, and a flood of outside money.
    That’s the mixed message from Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, a special election that drew national attention and funding as a bellwether for the 2012 campaign cycle.
    Democrat Kathy Hochul came from behind in the campaign’s last weeks to defeat GOP nominee Jane Corwin, 48 percent to 42 percent. Tea party candidate Jack Davis took 8 percent of the vote…. – CS Monitor, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins Upstate New York Congressional Race: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    With 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Ms. Hochul led with 48 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for the Republican candidate, Jane L. Corwin…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • GOP loss a Medicare message?: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, a Republican, had 42 percent, while independent candidate Jack Davis ran a distant third with 9 percent.
    The seat in New York’s 26th District became vacant when Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., resigned after revelations that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to a woman with whom he had been corresponding on Craigslist. Seattle Times, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins U.S. House Race That Focused on Medicare, AP Says: Kathy Hochul was elected to a vacant U.S. House seat in western New York, the Associated Press said, following a campaign that became a referendum on a Republican plan to privatize Medicare.
    With 84 percent of the vote counted in the special election, the AP tally showed Hochul with 48 percent to 42 percent for Republican Jane Corwin and 8 percent for Buffalo- area industrialist Jack Davis, running on the Tea Party ballot line.
    The race was closely watched for its implications on national politics, including the 2012 presidential campaign. The campaign provided the first electoral test on the Medicare issue and, in a sign of its potential importance, national party groups and their independent allies helped finance a barrage of local television ads and automated telephone calls to households…. – Bloomberg, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Kathy Hochul wins upstate New York race: Democrat Kathy Hochul drew on voter discontent over Republican plans to revamp Medicare to score an upset win on Tuesday in a special election to represent a conservative upstate New York congressional district.
    Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a three-way race that also included self-described Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. The outcome did not affect Republican control of the House of Representatives.
    “Tonight the voters were willing to look beyond the political labels and vote for a person, and vote for message that they believe in,” Hochul told cheering supporters minutes after taking a phone call from Corwin, a state assemblywoman. “We can balance the budget the right way, and not on the backs of our seniors,” said Hochul, the Erie County clerk. “We had the issues on our side.”
    President Barack Obama, who is visiting Britain, issued a statement congratulating Hochul on her victory. “Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future,” Obama said…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins House Seat Third Candidate Roils New York Race in Traditionally GOP Area; Medicare Issue Studied as Factor:A Democrat on Tuesday won election to a congressional seat from a traditionally Republican district in western New York, according to Associated Press tallies, an outcome that will be studied for clues to how voters are viewing the budget battles in Washington.
    Republican candidate Jane Corwin had endorsed a plan passed by House Republicans last month to overhaul Medicare, drawing sharp criticism from her Democratic rival, Kathy Hochul.
    Ms. Hochul was leading Ms. Corwin, 48% to 43%, with 66% of the vote tallied shortly after 10 p.m. eastern time, AP reported.
    The news service declared the winner to be Ms. Hochul. She is currently the Erie County clerk.
    Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, and voters gave former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican, 68% of the vote in November.
    The district also supported Republicans John McCain for president in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2004.
    While the outcome was complicated by a third-party candidate, members of Congress are sure to study the results for the role that the Medicare proposal may have played in the race…. – WSJ, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Hochul wins N.Y. special election: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday night, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With three-quarters of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) had 42 percent, with independent candidate Jack Davis running a distant third with 8 percent.
    Democrats contended that the race in New York’s 26th Congressional District — which the GOP had held since the 1960s — became competitive through their efforts linking Corwin to the House Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
    That plan, spearheaded by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), has already been the subject of plenty of debate in Washington, where Republicans seek deep cuts and debt-reduction measures…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Kathy Hochul wins NY congressional race: Democrat Kathy Hochul scored an upset and won a special election to represent New York’s 26th congressional district on Tuesday, defeating Republican Jane Corwin.
    Hochul, the Erie County clerk, declared victory in the conservative upstate district with just over 70 percent of the vote tallied.
    The election was held to fill the seat vacated in February by Republican Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he met on Craigslist were published on the Internet…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Barack Obama: Congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory tonight in New York’s 26th Congressional District. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington. –
  • Julian E. Zelizer: N.Y. race for House seat a preview of 2012?: Next week voters in New York’s 26th Congressional District will go to the ballot box to replace Rep. Christopher Lee, who resigned after a scandal involving a photo of himself shirtless that he sent to a woman he met online.
    Like other special elections in the last two years, the rumble in the 26th has drawn the attention and resources of both national political parties. What would have ordinarily been a local race is seen as having big implications for 2012.
    Until April, few Democrats thought this race was worth contesting. The 26th is one of the most conservative districts in New York, presumably a safe Republican seat. But then something happened. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released his budget plan, which included a drastic overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid. Many of his GOP colleagues, fearing trouble on the campaign trail, distanced themselves from the plan as soon as the details were released.
    In New York, Democrats pounced. The party has been able to generate substantial support for its candidate, Kathy Hochul, by connecting the dots between New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. Her ads have hammered away at her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, for endorsing Ryan’s proposal and supporting “a budget that essentially ends Medicare.” She also supports, they add, reductions in Social Security benefits.
    The National Republican Congressional Committee has responded with a familiar refrain, calling Hochul a champion of the kind of big government liberalism that it says has run rampant in Washington. A recent television spot argued that Hochul, as well as independent Jack Davis, was on the same page as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
    The race is allowing both parties to test their arguments for 2012. Republicans are counting on Americans to share the party’s antipathy to the federal government and support proposals to lower the federal deficit. This anti-government ethos has been a guiding ideal for GOP candidates since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980….
    The results in the special election may help the parties determine what their strategy should be in the 2012 elections. If Hochul wins, we can expect Democrats to focus on specifics in the upcoming months, telling voters what Democrats’ programs provide them and what Republicans hope to take away.
    If Republicans can hold this seat, they may be emboldened to continue calling for radical cuts in the federal budget and warning of the dangerous road on which Democrats have embarked. Which argument sticks in this special election will give both parties some sense of where voters stand after the heated budget battles of the past few months…. – CNN, 5-23-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Vt. governor signs universal health care bill: Vermont still has “a few challenges” ahead to meet its goal of a universal health care system this decade, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday as he signed into law the bill designed to make the state the nation’s first with fully publicly funded health care.
    More than 150 people, including legislators, administration officials, advocates who pushed for the bill and a handful of opponents gathered on the Statehouse steps as storm clouds threatened but gave way to humid sunshine.
    “We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long — have a health care system that is the best in the world, that treats health care as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual, isn’t required by an employer — that’s a huge jobs creator,” Shumlin said.
    Among Vermont’s challenges: getting waivers from the federal government at a time when the U.S. House has come out strongly against the less ambitious federal health care bill passed last year…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • John Edwards: his path from golden boy to persona non grata in North Carolina: Reports that the US Justice Department is moving ahead with a potential indictment against John Edwards underscore how much his political ascent was dashed on the rocks by an affair, a love child, and, allegedly, a $1 million payoff…. – CS Monitor, 5-25-11
  • AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days: The Justice Department plans to bring criminal charges against John Edwards after a two-year investigation into whether the former presidential candidate illegally used money from some of his political backers to cover up his extramarital affair, a person familiar with the case said Wednesday.
    An indictment could come within days unless the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee reaches an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a negotiated charge, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case’s sensitivity.
    It was not immediately clear what charges prosecutors planned to bring…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Puerto Rico governor says Obama to visit island: President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to visit Puerto Rico next month, a trip that would make him the first sitting president to come to the U.S. territory in decades, the island’s governor said Tuesday.
    The president, who campaigned in Puerto Rico for the Democratic primary, will visit the island June 14, Gov. Luis Fortuno said, without disclosing details of his itinerary.
    “With his visit, the president makes good on the promise he made during the presidential primaries in 2008 that he would return to Puerto Rico as president,” Fortuno said in a statement.
    The governor’s office described the Obama trip as the “the first official presidential visit” since December 1961, when President John F. Kennedy stopped on the island to a formal welcome on his way to Venezuela. But that was not the last time a U.S. president set foot in the territory: President Gerald Ford hosted an economic summit in Puerto Rico in June 1976…. – AP, 5-24-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Palin, Trump to meet in NYC Tuesday evening: Sarah Palin has scheduled a meeting with Donald Trump in New York City on Tuesday evening. The former GOP vice presidential nominee and her family are on a bus tour of East Coast sites this week as she considers running for the GOP nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year. A spokesman for Trump said the celebrity real estate mogul would meet with Palin at his Trump Tower residence and that the two families probably would go out to dinner…. – AP, 5-31-11
  • Palin bus tour leaves Washington _ but for where?: Sarah Palin said Monday she is “still kind of contemplating” a presidential campaign as she and her family set off from the U.S. capital on a bus tour of historical sites that left observers puzzled about what the former Alaska governor planned next — both for her schedule and her career.
    Palin and her aides refused to share basic details about the “One Nation” tour that was scheduled to take her from Washington to the northeastern New England states in the days ahead. The East Coast swing renewed questions about Palin’s next moves, including whether she would enter the still-forming Republican presidential field.
    “We’re still kind of contemplating that,” she said in brief comments to reporters who stumbled onto her Monday at the National Archives…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Palin Announces East Coast Bus Tour: Sarah Palin will begin a bus tour of the East Coast on Memorial Day weekend, the latest and most significant evidence that the former governor of Alaska is still seriously considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination this year. Ms. Palin will begin the series of high-profile public events in the Washington area, starting with the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally and continuing on through the Northeast, according to a statement on her Web site.
    The bus tour, which will extend beyond the weekend, will take Ms. Palin and her family through the Northeast in a decorated, red-white-and-blue charter bus, heightening comparisons to a campaign whistle-stop tour…. – NYT, 5-27-11
  • Palin to embark on East Coast bus tour: Sarah Palin will embark this weekend on a campaign-style bus tour along the East Coast, sending a jolt through the now-sleepy Republican presidential contest and thrusting a telegenic but divisive politician back into the nation’s spotlight.
    Palin’s tour announcement is the strongest signal yet that she is considering a presidential bid, despite her failure to take traditional steps such as organizing a campaign team in early primary states. The former Alaska governor’s approval ratings have fallen across the board — including among Republicans — in recent months. But many conservatives adore her, and she has enough name recognition and charisma to shake up a GOP contest that at this point seems to be focusing on three male former governors.
    Beginning Sunday, Palin plans to meet with veterans and visit historic sites that her political action committee calls key to the country’s formation, survival and growth. The tour follows reports that Palin has bought a house in Arizona and the disclosure that she’s authorized a feature-length film about her career, which could serve as a campaign centerpiece. She recently said she has “that fire in the belly” for a presidential bid.
    Palin said on the website for SarahPAC that the nation is at a “critical turning point,” and that her bus tour will serve as a reminder of “who we are and what Americans stand for.”… – AP, 5-26-11
  • Huntsman to skip New Hampshire debate: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman won’t participate in a June debate in New Hampshire. Huntsman’s advisers on Friday said he will not take part in the event scheduled for June 13 in Manchester. Huntsman strategist Paul Collins says Huntsman won’t compete in debates until he formally announces his intentions. He says that won’t happen before the CNN/ WMUR-TV/ New Hampshire Union Leader debate…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Romney, Bachmann to Formally Announce in June: Mitt Romney will formally announce he’s running for president June 2 at a barbecue in Stratham, New Hampshire, the Union-Leader’s John DiStaso reports. Romney is the first Republican candidate to make it official in New Hampshire, significant because unlike in 2008, Romney is considering running a scaled-back campaign in Iowa, where social conservatives are a bigger segment of the electorate. Last campaign, Romney, who once supported abortion and gay rights, had trouble convincing voters he was a true believer on social issues and not just adopting more conservative positions out of political expediency.
    Someone who’ll have a lot less trouble winning over conservative Iowans is Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite, who will announce her own candidacy in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, in June. Bachmann said she still might not run during a conference call with reporters Thursday, the Associated Press’ Brian Bakst reports. Bachmann had intended to speak at a Republican dinner in Des Moines, but had to stay in Washington for a vote, so she addressed the crowed through a video feed. That made for a “bizarre scene for an almost-campaign announcement,” Bakst writes, as reporters crowded around the podium in Des Moines to ask her video image questions. Being born in Waterloo gives her “every advantage a girl would want to have,” Bachmann said. As for fellow polarizer Sarah Palin’s potential campaign, Bachmann said, “I don’t believe that any two candidates are interchangeable. Each one of us brings our own unique skill sets into this race.”… – The Atlantic Wire, 5-27-11
  • GOP presidential hopefuls shift on global warming: One thing that Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have in common: These GOP presidential contenders all are running away from their past positions on global warming, driven by their party’s loud doubters who question the science and disdain government solutions.
    All four have stepped back from previous stances on the issue, either apologizing outright or softening what they said earlier. And those who haven’t fully recanted are under pressure to do so…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Texas Governor Hints at G.O.P. Run for White House: The ritual of reporters asking Gov. Rick Perry if he is running for president and getting a firm no has become so entrenched in Texas that jaws dropped Friday afternoon when Mr. Perry abruptly changed his tune — slightly — and hinted that he might run after all.
    Asked at a bill signing if he would think about a presidential run after Memorial Day, Mr. Perry, a staunch conservative and a Tea Party favorite, said without a hint of irony: “Yes, sir. I’m going to think about it.” Then a couple of beats later, he smiled and added, “But I think about a lot of things.”… – NYT, 5-27-11
  • McConnell: GOP, Dems should seek Medicare savings: The Senate’s top Republican said Friday that lawmakers should not fear voter backlash for trying to squeeze savings from Medicare to reduce federal debt, because it will take a bipartisan deal to tackle the popular program.
    The remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were noteworthy because they came three days after a Democrat won a special House election in a heavily Republican district in upstate New York after accusing the GOP of wanting to kill Medicare…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Signs Grow That Palin May Run: Sarah Palin is fortifying her small staff of advisers, buying a house in Arizona — where associates have said she could base a national campaign — and reviving her schedule of public appearances. The moves are the most concrete signals yet that Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, is seriously weighing a Republican presidential bid.
    While it is by no means clear that she would be willing to give up her lucrative speaking career and her perch as an analyst on Fox News to face the scrutiny and combat that would come with her entrance into the race, she is being pressed by supporters for a decision and has acknowledged that time is running out.
    Two people familiar with the details of the real estate transaction said that Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, had bought a $1.7 million house in Scottsdale, Ariz. Like others interviewed for this article, they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so as not to anger the Palins, who have become especially protective of their privacy in the maelstrom that has followed them since 2008. The Arizona Republic reported over the weekend on speculation in Scottsdale that the Palins were the buyers of the house, reporting the purchase was through a shell company that hid their identity.
    While Arizona would be a more convenient travel hub for a presidential campaign than Alaska, there are other reasons the Palins might want a house there. Their daughter Bristol recently bought a house in Maricopa, which is near Scottsdale.
    Ms. Palin has reshuffled her staff, rehiring two aides who have helped plan her political events. And she is expected to resume a schedule of public appearances soon — perhaps as early as this weekend — to raise her profile at a moment when the Republican presidential field appears to be taking final form…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Palin signals ambition, reluctance for White House: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has authorized a feature-length film about her rise, added staff and recently said she has “that fire in the belly” for a presidential bid — all steps that fuel speculation she’s inching toward a White House run.
    Her supporters are putting together a campaign-in-waiting in Iowa, the lead-off nominating caucus, in the hopes the Republicans’ 2008 vice presidential nominee decides to join the race.
    There are even reports she bought a home in Arizona, not far from her daughter’s, which aides have suggested could be a campaign headquarters if she goes forward…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Pawlenty: An economic pro or crafty budget setter?: A no-new-taxes philosophy guided Tim Pawlenty’s budget approach as Minnesota governor. Accounting tricks, a well-timed infusion of stimulus money from Washington and word games kept the Republican mostly on that course.
    The newly minted presidential candidate hopes Republican primary voters will see him as an economic pro accustomed to dealing with red ink and capable of confronting the nation’s colossal fiscal problems.
    “We balanced the budget every two years in my state without question,” Pawlenty said Wednesday at a conservative think tank in Washington. “We have a constitutional requirement, as almost every other state does. It must be balanced, it has to be balanced, it always will be balanced. In fact, the last budget that I finished ends this summer, here in about two months. And it’s going to end in the black.”… – AP, 5-25-11
  • In Florida, Pawlenty calls for entitlement reform: Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is calling for fundamental changes in Social Security and other entitlement programs during a visit to senior-rich Florida.
    The former Minnesota governor said Tuesday that entitlement programs are not sustainable.
    Pawlenty says if elected he would push to gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security and phase out cost-of-living increases for wealthier Social Security recipients…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Tim Pawlenty makes presidential bid, offering his story: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood in front of 200 supporters on a rooftop terrace Monday, with Iowa’s statehouse as the backdrop, and spoke the words he’s waited so long to say:
    “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States.”
    In formally launching his quest, Pawlenty told the crowd he would not be offering easy answers.
    “It’s time for America’s president — and anyone who wants to be president — to look you in the eye and tell you the truth,” he said. “So here it is.” He would, he said, tell Wall Street “that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts and carve-outs will be over.” In Florida on Wednesday, he said, he would “tell the truth to wealthy seniors, that we will means test Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment.”
    “The changes history is calling on America to make today,” he said, “cannot be shouldered only by people richer than us or poorer than us — but by us, too.”… – Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5-24-11
  • Pawlenty Officially Declares Candidacy for President: Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota formally opened his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday with a sharp critique of President Obama’s policies, leadership and character, presenting himself as a candidate who could unify his fractious party and win back the White House.
    “It’s time for a new approach,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “It’s time for America’s president – and anyone who wants to be president – to look you in the eye and tell you the truth.”
    One day after Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said he would not join the Republican race, Mr. Pawlenty used his announcement here as an opportunity to seize the spotlight in a Republican presidential campaign that is among the most wide open in decades. He sought to persuade donors and party leaders, who had been urging Mr. Daniels to run, to join his effort to win the nomination…. – NYT, 5-23-11
  • Pawlenty Announces Candidacy a Day Early: On the eve of his own planned campaign announcement, Tim Pawlenty released an Internet video declaring that he is running for president because he — unlike President Obama — has the courage to face America’s challenges.
    In another slickly produced video that has become a hallmark of his campaign, Mr. Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota, confirmed Sunday night that he would officially begin his bid for his party’s nomination in Iowa on Monday.
    “That’s where I am going to begin a campaign that tells the American people the truth,” Mr. Pawlenty says in the two-minute video, mincing no words about his intentions. “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States.”… – NYT, 5-22-11
  • CT CHECK: Not the whole truth in Pawlenty claims: “Truth” was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s buzzword Monday when he announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He said he will tell the truth about hard choices facing the nation while others — President Barack Obama notably among them — do not. A parsing of Pawlenty’s opening-day statements shows they were not the whole truth. Here is a sampling of his claims Monday and how they compare with the facts…. – Fox News, 5-23-11
  • Pawlenty to Announce 2012 Run on Monday: Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who has been exploring a presidential candidacy for months, will formally announce his intention to join the Republican field on Monday during a visit to Iowa, an adviser said.
    Mr. Pawlenty will open a weeklong campaign swing that includes stops in Florida, Washington, New York and New Hampshire. He is expected to present new policy ideas, introduce himself to voters and raise money, aides said, as he works to secure commitments from donors before the second fund-raising quarter ends on June 30.
    The decision to start his tour in Iowa underscores the importance of the state that will open the nominating context early next year with the caucuses. His strategy relies on a strong showing in Iowa, which he hopes will catapult him into the other early-voting states…. – NYT, 5-20-11

QUOTES

President Obama in Joplin, Missouri
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/29/11
  • Remarks by the President at a Personnel Announcement WH, 5-31-11
  • Remarks by the President at a Memorial Day Service WH, 5-30-11
  • Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service in Joplin, Missouri WH, 5-29-11
  • Remarks by the President after Touring Tornado Damage in Joplin, Missouri – WH, 5-28-11
  • Weekly Address: Biden on the American Auto Comeback: Vice President Joe Biden delivers the Weekly Address, celebrating the success of the American auto industry in the wake of Chrysler paying back their loans…. – WH, 5-28-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Tusk of Poland in Joint Press Conference in Warsaw, Poland – WH, 5-28-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France After Bilateral Meeting – WH, 5-27-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia after Bilateral Meeting in Deauville, France WH, 5-26-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Conference in London, United Kingdom – WH, 5-25-11
  • Remarks by the President to Parliament in London, United Kingdom WH, 5-25-11
  • Text of Obama, Cameron news conference: The text of the news conference Wednesday in London with President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as provided by the White House…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom in Dinner Toasts WH, 5-24-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland – WH, 5-23-11
  • John Boehner: Building on our efforts to help create jobs, today the House GOP unveiled a pro-growth jobs agenda that includes tax reforms, real spending cuts, stopping harmful regulations, more American energy production, and passing trade agreements to open up new markets to American products. We’re serious about keeping our Pledge to America and look forward to working with the President to turn this jobs plan into action.

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Is this any way to do a budget?: Senate Democrats crowd into an elevator after the Senate passed a two-week stopgap spending bill in early March.
    House Republicans are planning to hold a symbolic vote on the debt ceiling to demonstrate that Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the measure without accepting stringent spending cuts. The vote is part of a larger drama that has played out this year over the federal budget.
    Temporary budgets, threatened government shutdowns and debt ceiling crises are slowly becoming part of the normal vocabulary of Washington politics.
    The fact is that Congress has a major budgeting problem. We have entered into a period where crisis budgeting is becoming normalized. Congress makes decisions over spending and taxing through a temporary, ad hoc process and by constantly invoking draconian threats of bringing the government, and the economy, to a total standstill. This is no way to make major decisions over the future of our federal programs or the fiscal health of the government…. – CNN, 5-30-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: 2012: Obama vs. The GOP – Analysts Decide: Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley told Reuters that Obama will transform his 2008 message “Yes we can” into a “Yes we did,” adding, ”If you believe in your brand you don’t do a complete reconfiguration in midstream unless you are in desperation mode. … He has enough that he can showcase.” Strategists confirm that he will need to present the next four years as an extension necessary to reap the full benefits of his policies. Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg believes that, despite an economy that threatens to restrict his number of years in office to four, the President’s likability is a very strong asset; charisma is necessary for the contender nominated as the GOP candidate…. – US Election News, 5-27-11
  • GOP freshmen get a tough lesson in politics: For the House’s famous class of Republican freshmen, their first four months in office have brought a frustrating surprise. The divided, mistrustful bent of American politics — which brought them to power last fall — is now making that power maddeningly difficult to use.
    On Capitol Hill, the Democrats they bashed have turned the U.S. Senate into a black hole for GOP ideas. So the freshmen are left with political theater, voting for bills the Senate will ignore.
    And back home, the same hoarse-throat tactics that helped them bring down incumbents last year — attacks on a health-care plan, town-hall heckling — have now been used against them.
    On Tuesday in western New York, the freshmen saw what Democrats saw a year ago. These tactics work.
    “That is what we’re talking about,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University. “We’re talking about cutting things. And in that respect, [the freshmen] were victorious, even if they don’t feel that way.”… – WaPo, 5-27-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: GOP presidential field – looking Perry promising?”: “He sort of has the backing of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and the whole conservative movement,” said Doug Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Texas, who said Perry has other strengths that would make him an attractive candidate.
    He has never lost an election and is a skillful fund-raiser who could tap energy, chemical and mining industry money to pay for a campaign, and would benefit by being a fresh face even if he entered the Republican field relatively late.
    “If you know you can get the money to run, if you’re Rick Perry, you can wait until July, August or even September to announce and be completely viable for Iowa,” he said, referring to Iowa’s February 6, 2012, caucuses to vote for a Republican nominee…. – Reuters, 5-25-11
  • Obama gains as Republicans waver in 2012 race: “Any incumbent president is in a good position to begin with, and at the same time you have a Republican Party that is not at full strength, even with his weaknesses, like the approval ratings and the economy,” said Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer. “He has a big record. Like it or hate it, he’s done a lot. And I think there is something to be said for that as an asset on the campaign trail,” he said….
    “It’s a fairly simple message: We have accomplished a lot, the country is in a much stronger position than it was four years ago, but we still have a lot of work to do and here’s what we want to do,” said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington….
    “There will be no venom,” said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. “It will kind of be just how silly the opposition is … to kind of just treat the opposition as kind of a comical fringe element in a way.” Obama is using the “Yes we can” message of 2008, and transforming it into “Yes we did,” Brinkley said. “If you believe in your brand you don’t do a complete reconfiguration in midstream unless you are in desperation mode. … He has enough that he can showcase.”… – Reuters, 5-25-11
  • Senate Democrats shoot down GOP’s House budget plan. Now what?: Wary of the impact on Medicare, five Republicans joined Senate Democrats in defeating the Republican budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan. But the Democrats have no plan of their own, and this could hurt them…
    “Politically, it’s a problem for Democrats,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. “There are economic and budget problems that are very real, and the polls show that voters care about this.”
    “Democrats can try to avoid controversial votes but there’s a cost to that,” he adds. “You can avoid tough votes [on a Democrat budget plan], but it gives Republicans the opportunity to fill in the blanks and say what Democrats are about. It’s an unhappy electorate. Being quiet and just playing defense for the next year won’t necessarily work.”… CS Monitor, 5-25-11

Full Text May 25, 2011: President Barack Obama & British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Conference in London, United Kingdom

Lancaster House, London, United Kingdom

President Obama & Prime Minister Cameron Joint Press Availability
May 25, 2011 1:33 PM

President Obama & Prime Minister Cameron Joint Press Availability

12:56 P.M. BST

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you, and apologies for keeping you waiting. It’s a pleasure to welcome President Obama here today.

We’ve just been having a barbecue in the gardens of Number 10 Downing Street with some of our service — armed-service personnel from the United States and from the UK. And it was a great reminder of the incredible debt that we owe all of them and their families for their service, for their sacrifice, for all they do to keep us safe. It was a great event and it was wonderful to have Barack and Michelle there.

It was also probably the first time in history, as we stood behind that barbecue, that I can say a British Prime Minister has given an American President a bit of a grilling. So I’m going to hold onto that.

Over the past year I’ve got to know the President well. And whether it’s in routine situations like sitting round the G8 table, or the slightly less routine of getting a phone call in the middle of the night, I’ve come to value not just his leadership and courage, but the fact that to all the big international issues of our time, he brings thoughtful consideration and reason.

And I know that today, Mr. President, you’ll be thinking of the dreadful tornado in Missouri and all those who’ve lost livelihoods and lost their lives and loved ones. And our hearts in Britain go out to all those people, too.

Barack and I know well the shared history of our countries. From the beaches of Normandy to the Imjin River, our soldiers have fought together. From labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Cambridge, England, our scientists have decoded DNA and cured diseases together. And in millions of interactions every day, including our massive business relationship, our people forge friendships together.

That is what makes this relationship special. But what makes it essential is that it’s not just about history or sentiment; it is a living, working partnership. It is essential to our security and it’s essential for our prosperity.

And I feel every day just how important this partnership is. The President and I, together with my Deputy Prime Minister, have just had some excellent discussions. We’ve been talking today about the two things we care about most — getting our people jobs and keeping our people safe. Because every night millions of British and American people take the same worries to bed with them. They’re asking if they can find a good job, if they’re going to get a paycheck next month, and if there will be work for their children when they grow up.

The stark truth of the world today is that no country is owed a living. We’ve got to pay our way and we’ve got to earn our way. And that is what the President and I are determined to do. Barack and I did not come into politics to cut public spending, but neither did we seek office to see our great economies decline or to land our children with unsustainable debts. And that is why in the second half of this decade, we’re making sure that debt ratios will be falling on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the same time, we’re investing in our roads and railways, in science and innovation, and above all, in our young people. And down the line, the success of all this won’t be measured in export figures or trade flows; it will be in the feelings of the factory worker, whether they’re in Phoenix or the shopkeeper in Liverpool or the engineer in Ohio — the people who know if they work hard, then prosperity will be there for them and the promise of a better life there for their children.

As well as the economy, the President and I had some very good discussions on security. Now, Americans and Brits, you don’t need to explain terrorism to one another. Both our people have suffered at its hands, and indeed they have died together.

My wife Samantha was in Manhattan on 9/11, and I’ll never forget the five hours of trying to get hold of her. And she’ll never forget the New Yorkers that she met that day or the sense of solidarity that she felt that day and that we have felt ever since that day. And today, as we come up to its tenth anniversary, we should remember the spirit of that city and the sympathy we feel with those who lost their loved ones.

Now, there are those who say that this terrorist threat is beyond our control, and we passionately believe that is wrong. We can defeat al Qaeda, and the events of recent months give us an opportunity to turn the tide on their terror once and for all.

I believe there are three actions we must take. First, we must continue to destroy their terrorist network, and I congratulate the President on his operation against bin Laden. This was not just a victory for justice, but a strike right at the heart of international terrorism.

In this vital effort, we must continue to work with Pakistan. People are asking about our relationship, so we need to be clear. Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any country in the world. Their enemy is our enemy. So, far from walking away, we’ve got to work even more closely with them.

At the same time, this is a vital year in Afghanistan. British and American forces are fighting side by side in Helmand, right at the heart of this operation. We’ve broken the momentum of the insurgency, and even in the Taliban’s heartland, in Kandahar and central Helmand, they’re on the back foot. Now is the moment to step up our efforts to reach a political settlement. The Taliban must make a decisive split from al Qaeda, give up violence, and join a political process that will bring lasting peace to that country. We are agreed to give this the highest priority in the months ahead.

Second, we must reach a conclusion to the Arab-Israel peace process. Again, I congratulated the President on his recent speech on the Middle East, which was bold, it was visionary, and it set out what is needed in the clearest possible terms — an end to terror against Israelis and the restoration of dignity to the Palestinians; two states living side by side and in peace.

Yes, the road has been, and will be, long and arduous, but the prize is clear. Conclude the peace process and you don’t just bring security to the region; you deny extremists one of their most profound and enduring recruiting sergeants, weakening their calling and crippling their cause. That is why whatever the difficulties, we must continue to press for a solution.

Our third action must be to help elevate the changes in North Africa and the Arab world from a moment in history to a turning point in history. We’ve seen some extraordinary things — protesters braving bullets, bloggers toppling dictators, people taking to the streets and making their own history. If global politics is about spreading peace and prosperity, then this is a once-in-a-generation moment to grab hold of.

It is not a time for us to shrink back and think about our own issues and interests. This is our issue and this is massively in our interests. Those people in Tahrir Square and Tripoli just want what we have — a job and a voice. And we all share in their success or failure. If they succeed, there is new hope for those living there and there is the hope of a better and safer world for all of us. But if they fail, if that hunger is denied, then some young people in that region will continue to listen to the poisonous narrative of extremism.

So the President and I are agreed we will stand with those who work for freedom. This is the message we’ll take to the G8 tomorrow when we push for a major program of economic and political support for those countries seeking reform. And this is why we mobilized the international community to protect the Libyan people from Colonel Qaddafi’s regime, why we’ll continue to enforce U.N. resolutions with our allies, and why we restate our position once more: It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi still in power. He must go.

In all of these actions, we must be clear about our ambitions. Barack and I came of age in the 1980s and ‘90s. We saw the end of the Cold War and the victory over communism. We saw the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein and the world coming together to liberate that country. Throughout it all, we saw Presidents and Prime Ministers standing together for freedom.

Today, we feel just as passionately about extending freedom as those who came before us; but we also know that idealism without realism does no good for anyone. We have learned the lessons of history. Democracy is built from the ground up. You’ve got to work with the grain of other cultures, and not against them. Real change takes time.

And it’s because of this we share the view that our partnership will not just continue, but it will get stronger. And this is a partnership that goes beyond foreign affairs. At home, we have similar goals — to bring more responsibility to our societies, and to bring transparency and accountability to our governments. In all these ambitions, our countries will continue to learn from each other and work with each other.

And as ever, it has been a pleasure to talk to the President, and an honor to have him with us today.

Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, David. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. I am very pleased to be back in the United Kingdom. I note that you have arranged for typical London weather these past two days, and I am very grateful for that.

I want to thank Her Majesty the Queen, and the British people for the extraordinary welcome that has been extended to me and Michelle. It’s a shining example of the genuine warmth and affection that our two nations feel towards one another.

Since David took office last spring, I believe we’ve now met or spoken at least two dozen times. We may be leaders from different political traditions, but on a whole host of issues we see eye to eye. We even took the same side in a epic match of doubles table tennis against some local students yesterday, and we won’t rehash the results of that.

The relationship between our two countries is one that’s not just based on warm sentiment or common history, although those things exist. It’s built on shared ideals and shared values. As David said, it is a special relationship and an essential relationship. I believe that it is stronger than it has ever been, and I’m committed to making sure that it stays that way.

The successful meetings we’ve had and the joint initiatives we’re announcing today represent the depths and breadth of our relationship. We discussed our efforts to strengthen the global recovery and create good jobs for our people. The investment relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is the largest in the world, one that accounts for nearly 1 million jobs in each of our economies. We believe we can make that relationship even stronger with deeper cooperation in areas critical to our future prosperity, like higher education and science and innovation; areas critical to our national security like cyber crime; and areas vital to the stability of the world, including international development.

During our discussions today we reviewed our progress in Afghanistan, where our brave servicemen and women have fought side by side to break the Taliban’s momentum and where we are preparing to turn a corner. We reaffirmed the importance of beginning the transition to Afghan lead for security this year and completing that transition by 2014.

We discussed the opportunity that exists for promoting reconciliation and a political settlement, which must be an Afghan-led process. President Karzai has made it clear that he will talk to anyone who is willing to end the violence, split with al Qaeda, and accept the Afghan constitution. And we welcome the positive cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan on that front.

At the same time, the Prime Minister and I both agree that our nations have a long-term interest in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a launching pad for attacks against our people. So alongside our NATO allies and partners, we’re committed to a strong and enduring partnership with the people of Afghanistan.

As historic change unfolds across the Middle East and North Africa, we agree that the pursuit of self-determination must be driven by the peoples of the region and not imposed from the outside. But we are both committed to doing everything that we can to support peoples who reach for democracy and leaders who implement democratic reform.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss with our G8 partners how those of us in the wider international community can best support nations that make the reforms necessary to build a framework for democracy, freedom, and prosperity for their people.

At the same time, we will continue to strongly oppose the use of violence against protesters and any efforts to silence those who yearn for freedom and dignity and basic human rights. And that’s one of the reasons that we are working together in Libya, alongside with our NATO allies and partners, to protect the Libyan people. And we will continue those operations until Qaddafi’s attacks on civilians cease. Time is working against Qaddafi and he must step down from power and leave Libya to the Libyan people.

We also discussed the situation in Syria, where the Syrian people have shown great courage in their demands for a democratic transition. The United States welcomes the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on President Assad, and we’re increasing pressure on him and his regime in order to end his policy of oppression and begin the change that people seek.

We discussed Yemen, where the Yemeni people call for greater opportunity and prosperity and a nation that is more unified and more secure, and we expressed our joint concern of the deteriorating situation on the ground there. We applauded the leadership of the Gulf Cooperation Council in seeking an orderly and peaceful resolution to the crisis, and we call on President Saleh to move immediately on his commitment to transfer power.

And at a time when so many in the region are casting off the burdens of the past, we agree that the push for a lasting peace that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. I appreciate the Prime Minister’s support for the principles that I laid out last week on borders and security, which can provide a sound basis from which the two sides can negotiate.

As increasing tensions in the Abyei region threaten to derail Sudan’s comprehensive peace agreement, we’re working closely together to encourage the parties to recommit to a peaceful resolution to the crisis, and calling on the rapid reinforcement of the U.N.’s peacekeeping presence in the region.
We also reviewed our close cooperation when it comes to countering terrorist threats, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery to states like Iran, and our unrelenting efforts to keep our people safe.

And finally, we launched a joint initiative to exchange the best ideas and practices when it comes to supporting our veterans and our military families.

Today, before we came here, Michelle and I joined David and Samantha for a outstanding barbecue at Number 10 for active-duty members of our militaries, along with their spouses, who make extraordinary sacrifices as well. It was a wonderful event and a moving reminder of the long line of American and British service members who’ve made heavy and heroic sacrifices in the joint defense of our shared values that our people hold so dear.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you not only for the barbecue but for the opportunity to spend this very productive time at Number 10 with you and your team. I enjoy my visits here, as always, and I have confidence that our special relationship will continue to grow even stronger in the months and years ahead. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you, Barack. Thank you very much.

Nick Robinson from the BBC.

Q Thank you very much indeed. Prime Minister, can you confirm that you plan to escalate the war in Libya by sending ground attack helicopters? And, Mr. President, can you confirm that United States will sit that particular mission out?

And a general question for you, if I could. You’ve talked about an old war in Afghanistan and a new one in Libya. Is your partnership really that different than the one between Bush and Blair?

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Well, thank you for that. Lots of questions in there. First of all, the President and I agree that we should be turning up the heat in Libya. I believe the pressure is on that regime. You see it in the fact that the rebels have successfully liberated much of Misurata. You see it in the success in other parts of the country. You see it in the strength of the coalition. You see it in the growth of the National Transitional Council. So I believe we should be turning up that pressure.

And on Britain’s part, we will be looking at all of the options for turning up that pressure, obviously within the terms of U.N. Resolution 1973, because we believe we need to keep enforcing that resolution, protecting civilians, pressurizing that regime so that the Libyan people have a chance to decide their own future. And within that, those are the options we’ll look at.

You asked the question about this relationship and past relationships. I think every relationship between a President and a Prime Minister is different. I would say both of us strongly believe in the special relationship. We both called it an essential relationship. But we believe we have — as I said in my speech — we have to learn the lessons of history, about how best we promote the values that we share.

And that means, yes, going with the grain of other cultures; it means, yes, having a patient understanding that building democracy takes time and you have to work on the building blocks of democracy, and not believe this all can be done in an instant. But I believe in that partnership we’re extremely strong together in wanting to see the same outcomes, whether that’s in Afghanistan, where we want to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan that no longer requires the presence of foreign troops to keep it free from terrorism, and we want to see a Libya where people have the chance to decide their own future.

But we are doing things in a different way. We have ruled out occupying forces, invading armies. We are doing what we can to enforce Resolution 1973 and allowing the Libyan people to choose their own future. And we’re very committed to doing that work together.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I do think that we’ve made enormous progress in Libya. We have saved lives as a consequence of our concerted actions. I think it is important to note that we did so under a U.N. mandate and as part of a broad-based international coalition that includes Arab countries. And I absolutely agree that given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks, that Qaddafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a letup in the pressure that we are applying. And the United Kingdom, the United States, and our other partners are putting a wide range of resources within — consistent with the U.N. mandate — in order to achieve that pressure. And I think we will ultimately be successful.

The goal is to make sure that the Libyan people can make a determination about how they want to proceed, and that they’ll be finally free of 40 years of tyranny and they can start creating the institutions required for self-determination.

So in terms of historical analogies, I just want to underscore this is not the United Kingdom and the United States alone. We have a broad range of partners under an international mandate designed to save lives and ensure that we did not have the sort of massacre that would lead us then to look back and say to ourselves, why did we stand by and do nothing.

With respect to Afghanistan, similarly, we have a broad-based international mandate and a broad-based international coalition designed to make sure that Afghanistan does not serve as a base for attacks against our people. We’ve discussed, consistent with what we said in Lisbon during our NATO summit, that this will be a year of transition because of the work that we’ve done and the enormous sacrifices that both our militaries have given. We are in a position now to transition, to start transitioning to an Afghan-led security process. And at the same time, we’re going to be engaging in the sort of diplomatic work that is required for an ultimate political solution to the problems there. And I’m confident that we can achieve it.

I think that there’s no doubt that the United States and the United Kingdom have a unique relationship. And that is going to be consistent regardless of who the President and the Prime Minister is, and it’s going to be consistent regardless of what parties we come from. There’s so much that binds us together that it is not surprising that we are typically, on the international stage, going to be working together as opposed to at cross purposes.

But as David mentioned, I think that the one thing that we have learned is that even as we promote the values and ideals that we care about, even as we make sure that our security interests are met, that we are using military power in a strategic and careful way; that we are making sure that as we promote democracy and human rights, that we understand the limits of what the military alone can achieve; and that we’re mindful that ultimately these regions are going to be — that the fate of these regions are going to be determined by the people there themselves, and that we’re going to have to work in partnership with them.

And that I think is the best example of alliance leadership and it’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of.

Julie Pace.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve said that Muammar Qaddafi’s exit from Libya is inevitable and that the U.S. will continue with the campaign until his attacks stop. Does that also mean that you will commit the U.S. to that campaign until Qaddafi is removed from power? And would you be willing to commit additional U.S. resources if that meant speeding up Qaddafi’s exit?

And, Prime Minister Cameron, do you believe that the U.S. and other NATO allies should increase their role in the Libya campaign, as other British lawmakers have suggested? Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have said from the outset that our goal, the reason that we intervened in Libya, was to protect the people on the ground and to give the Libyan people the space that they needed in order to bring about a change towards democracy. And I also was very clear in terms of how we were going to participate.
We moved very heavily on the front end, disabling their air defense systems, carrying the lion’s share of the burden when it came to setting the stage for NATO operations; and then that — once the transfer took place to NATO command and control, that at that point our primary role would be a whole range of support that utilized America’s unique capabilities. That’s what we’re doing. I also ruled out us putting any ground forces in Libya.

We have proceeded consistent with that. There are times where, for example, with our Predator capabilities, we have a unique capacity that we’ve brought to bear, and we will continue to do that. And the Prime Minister and I consistently discuss on a regular basis what can we all do to make sure that that pressure continues to apply.

I do think that is it going to be difficult to meet the U.N. mandate of security for the Libyan people as long as Qaddafi and his regime are still attacking them. And so we are strongly committed to seeing the job through, making sure that, at minimum, Qaddafi doesn’t have the capacity to send in a bunch of thugs to murder innocent civilians and to threaten them.

I believe that we have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course that we’re on, that he is ultimately going to step down. And we will continue to work with our partners to achieve that.

So we have not put forward any artificial timeline in terms of how long this will take. My belief is, is that the more resolute that we are now, the more effective the coalition is in rallying all the resources that are available to it, that we’re going to be able to achieve our mission in a timely fashion.

One last point, and this speaks to the issue of whether there are other additional U.S. capabilities that could be brought to bear. David and I both agree that we cannot put boots on the ground in Libya. Once you rule out ground forces, then there are going to be some inherent limitations to our air strike operations. It means that the opposition on the ground in Libya is going to have to carry out its responsibilities. And we’re going to have to do effective coordination — and we are doing that — with the opposition on the ground.

But I think that there may be a false perception that there are a whole bunch of secret super-effective air assets that are in a warehouse somewhere that could just be pulled out and that would somehow immediately solve the situation in Libya. That’s not the case.

The enormous sacrifices that are being made by the British, by the French, by ourselves, by the Danes and others — we are bringing to bear an array of air power that has made a huge difference. But ultimately this is going to be a slow, steady process in which we’re able to wear down the regime forces and change the political calculations of the Qaddafi regime to the point where they finally realize that they’re not going to control this country; the Libyan people are going to control this country. And as long as we remain resolute, I think we’re going to be able to achieve that mission.

But there’s not a whole host of new and different assets that somehow could be applied — partly because we’ve been extraordinarily successful in avoiding significant civilian casualties. And that’s been part of our goal, that’s been part of our mission, is making sure that we are targeting regime forces in a way that does not result in enormous collateral damage. And that means we may have to sometimes be more patient than people would like. But ultimately I think it promises greater success, and it sustains our coalition and support for it, not just here but in the Arab world as well.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you. I so agree that the two key things here are patience and persistence. That is what the alliance is demonstrating and needs to go on demonstrating.

Julie, I’d just make two points. First of all, I think the President and I completely agree on this point of, of course, the U.N. resolution is not about regime change; the U.N. resolution is about protecting civilians from attack and taking all necessary measures to do so. With that said, most political leaders, including the two here, have said it’s hard to see how you implement U.N. Resolution 1973 with Qaddafi still in control of his country, which is why we’ve been so clear about Qaddafi needing to go and needing to leave Libya.

In terms of the U.S. role, I would make this point, which I’m not sure is widely understood in Britain or in Europe — is already a huge number of the sorties and the support and the air assets that are actually bringing the pressure to bear are U.S. assets. There was this enormous effort at the beginning, as the President said, but also a sustained amount of assets that have been used.

And as the President said, there are also the unique assets and capabilities that the U.S. has that others don’t have that are so vital. And as he said, we all have to ask what is it that we can all do to make sure the pressure is really brought to bear. That is what the British are doing, the French are doing, the Americans are doing. And I know we’ll discuss this in the margins of the G8.

But I’d just make this point, as well. As well as the military pressure, don’t underestimate the pressure of building up the opposition, the contacts we have with the National Transitional Council, the fact that they are opening offices and building support and strength from the allies. Don’t underestimate the extent to which we’re now cutting off oil products to the regime because they’re using them in their tanks and their other military equipment — and also the other steps that I know Americans and others are taking to try and release Libyan assets back into the hands of the National Transitional Council and recognizing them as the right interlocutor for us to speak to.

So in all those ways, we can keep this pressure up over the coming period while showing patience and persistence at the same time.

Tom Bradby from ITV.

Q Mr. President, you’ve talked about the need for robust action on your country’s deficit and debt positions. Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s supporters that he led the way on the issue, or do you feel that in fact he has traveled too far and too fast?

And could I just ask you both, as a sidebar, this time last year we talked about the case of computer hacker Gary McKinnon, on which the Prime Minister has expressed very clear views. You said you would work together to find a solution. So have you found one?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on your second question, Mr. McKinnon, we have proceeded through all the processes required under our extradition agreements. It is now in the hands of the British legal system. We have confidence in the British legal system coming to a just conclusion. And so we await resolution and will be respectful of that process.

With respect to how we deal with debt and deficits, I said two years ago, the first time I came here, in April of 2009, the first G20 summit that I attended, that each country is different and each country is going to have to make a range of decisions about how to — at that time — dig our way out of the worst recession that we’d experienced since the 1930s, at the same time that we put our countries on a path of sustainable growth that ultimately results in jobs and prosperity for our people and a growing middle class across the board.

And we’ve succeeded in the first part, which is to yank the world economy out of recession, and that was in large part due to concerted action between the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries.

Now we’ve got that other challenge, which is how do we sustain growth in a way that’s responsible and responsive to the needs of our people. That requires us to continue to make investments in education, science, technology, infrastructure — things that help our economies grow. But it also means governments that live within their means.

And obviously the nature and role of the public sector in the United Kingdom is different than it has been in the United States. The pressures that each country are under from world capital markets are different. The nature of the debt and deficits are different. And as a consequence, the sequencing or pace may end up being different.

But the one thing that I’m absolutely clear about is David and I want to arrive at the same point; a point in which we’re making sure that our governments are doing what they need to do to ensure broad-based prosperity, but doing so in a responsible way that doesn’t mortgage our futures and leave a mountain of debt to future generations.

And the other point I think David and I would agree on is that this is going to be a constant process of trying some things, making adjustments. There are going to be opportunities for us to make investments. There are going to be other areas where we think those were good ideas at the time, programs that were started with the best of intentions and it turns out they’re not working as well as they should. If a program is not working well, we should get rid of it and put that money into programs that are working well. It means that we’ve got to make sure that we take a balanced approach and that there’s a mix of cuts, but also thinking about how do we generate revenue so that there’s a match between money going out and money coming in.

And each country is going to have to go through what is a difficult and painful process. What I’m confident about is that we’re going to be able to come out of this stronger than we were before. And I think that both the people of the United Kingdom and the people of the United States want to see a government that’s reflective of their values — the fact that they take their responsibilities seriously, they pay their bills, they make sure that their families are cared for, they make sacrifices where necessary in order to ensure that their children and their grandchildren are succeeding. And they want those same values reflected in their government, and I think that both our countries are going to be able to achieve that.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you. First of all, in the case of Gary McKinnon, I understand the widespread concern about this case, and it’s not so much about the alleged offense, which everyone knows is a very serious offense; it’s about the issue of the individual and the way they’re treated and the operation of the legal system, and as the President said, making sure that legal system operates properly and carefully.

The case is currently in front of the Home Secretary, who has to consider reports about Gary’s health and his well-being, and it’s right that she does that in a proper and effectively quasi-judicial way.

I totally understand the anguish of his mother and his family about this issue. We must follow the proper processes and make sure this case is dealt with in the proper way. And I’m sure that that is the case.

On the issue of deficit reduction, I mean, I remember when we also spoke about this at the G20, but even before that, when you first came here when you were running as candidate. And I completely agree with Barack that each country is different and has different circumstances. I mean, Britain does not have a reserve currency. We’re not in the same position as the U.S. with the dollar. And I think it was necessary for us to set out on the path of deficit reduction without delay after the election.

And I would argue the proof of that for the UK has been what has happened in capital markets. And as the President just said, capital markets treat different countries differently. Well, in the European context, what you’ve seen since the election is actually market interest rates in the UK, bond yields effectively come down. Whereas you look at what’s happened in Greece or in Portugal or other European countries, you’ve often seen those bond rates increase. That, in my view, is the risk we would have run if we had not set out on the path of deficit reduction.

But each country is different, but when I look across now and see what the U.S. and the UK are currently contemplating for the future, it’s actually relatively similar program in terms of trying to get on top of our deficits and make sure that debt is falling as a share of GDP. Because as the President said, we in the end share a very similar set of values about not wanting to load responsibility for these debts on our children and not wanting to shuck our own responsibilities for straightening out our own public finances.

So as he said, we may take slightly different paths but we want to end up in the same place. It’s an extremely difficult thing to have to do — dealing with your public finances, getting on top of your deficit — but it’s absolutely essential. And we’ve talked a lot today about national security. In the end, there’s no national security unless you have economic security. And that’s an argument that we have to make and win every day here in the United Kingdom.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Christi Parsons, last question.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday in his speech before Congress, the Israeli Prime Minister referred to the Palestinian right of return as “fantasy.” And I wonder if that’s a sentiment you agree with in any way. And also, if you could outline for us a little bit how you — your views on that issue, as well the future of Jerusalem.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, if I may, you said at the top of this press conference that you consider the President’s principles outlined last week to be bold and visionary and, in fact, what needs to be done. And I wonder if that means it makes you less open to the Palestinian campaign for recognition of statehood before the U.N. this fall. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: My goal, as I set out in the speech I gave last week, is a Jewish state of Israel that is safe and secure and recognized by its neighbors, and a sovereign state of Palestine in which the Palestinian people are able to determine their own fate and their own future. I am confident that can be achieved. It is going to require wrenching compromise by both sides.

Over the last decade, when negotiators have talked about how to achieve that outcome, there have been typically four issues that have been raised. One is the issue of what would the territorial boundaries of a new Palestinian state look like? Number two, how could Israel feel confident that its security needs were being met? Number three, how would the issue of Palestinian refugees be resolved? And number four, the issue of Jerusalem.

The last two questions are extraordinarily emotional. They go deep into how both the Palestinians and the Jewish people think about their own identities. Ultimately they are going to be resolved by the two parties. I believe that those two issues can be resolved if there is the prospect and the promise that we can actually get to a Palestinian state and a secure Jewish state of Israel.

And what my speech did was to say, let’s begin the work with the very hard-nosed but transparent and less — perhaps less emotional issues of what would the territorial boundaries look like and what would Israeli security requirements entail.

And I believe that if the Palestinians and the Israelis begin talking about those two issues and get some resolution, they can start seeing on the horizon the possibility of a peace deal, they will then be in a position to have a — what would be a very difficult conversation about refugees and about Jerusalem.

That’s not something that any party from the outside is going to be able to impose on them. But what I am absolutely certain of is that if they’re not talking, we’re not going to make any progress, and neither the Israeli people or the Palestinian people will be well served.

Let me just make one more comment about the prospects for a serious peace negotiation. The Israelis are properly concerned about the agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas has not renounced violence. Hamas is an organization that has thus far rejected the recognition of Israel as a legitimate state. It is very difficult for Israelis to sit across the table and negotiate with a party that is denying your right to exist, and has not renounced the right to send missiles and rockets into your territory.

So, as much as it’s important for the United States, as Israel’s closest friend and partner, to remind them of the urgency of achieving peace, I don’t want the Palestinians to forget that they have obligations as well. And they are going to have to resolve in a credible way the meaning of this agreement between Fatah and Hamas if we’re going to have any prospect for peace moving forward.

As for the United Nations, I’ve already said — I said in the speech last week and I will repeat — the United Nations can achieve a lot of important work. What the United Nations is not going to be able to do is deliver a Palestinian state. The only way that we’re going to see a Palestinian state is if Israelis and Palestinians agree on a just peace.

And so I strongly believe that for the Palestinians to take the United Nations route rather than the path of sitting down and talking with the Israelis is a mistake; that it does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people, it will not achieve their stated goal of achieving a Palestinian state. And the United States will continue to make that argument both in the United Nations and in our various meetings around the world.

Q Do you agree with the comparison between Hamas and al Qaeda?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe that Hamas, in its own description of its agenda, has not renounced violence and has not recognized the state of Israel. And until they do, it is very difficult to expect Israelis to have a serious conversation, because ultimately they have to have confidence that a Palestinian state is one that is going to stick to its — to whatever bargain is struck; that if they make territorial compromises, if they arrive at a peace deal, that, in fact, that will mean the safety and security of the Jewish people and of Israel. And Hamas has not shown any willingess to make the kinds of concessions that Fatah has, and it’s going to be very difficult for us to get a Palestinian partner on the other side of the table that is not observing the basic Quartet principles that we both believe — that both David and I believe in — the need to renounce violence, recognize the state of Israel, abide by previous agreements.

That is I think going to be a critical aspect of us being able to jumpstart this process once again.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you. I described the President’s speech as bold and visionary because I think it did an absolutely vital thing, which was to talk about ’67 borders with land swaps. So as the President said, if you think about what both sides absolutely need to know to start this process, those two things are in place.

First, that the Israelis need to know that America and her allies like Britain will always stand up for Israel’s right to exist, right to defend herself, right to secure borders. That is absolutely vital that the Israelis know that their security is absolutely key to us. They need to know that.

But the second thing that needs to be done is the Palestinians need to know that we understand their need for dignity and for a Palestinian state, using the ’67 borders as land swaps as the start point. That is I think what is so key to the speech that’s been made. So neither side now has I believe the excuse to stand aside from talks.

On the specific issue of U.N. recognition, the President is entirely right that in the end the Palestinian state will only come about if the Palestinians and the Israelis can agree to it coming about. That is the vital process that has to take place.

As for Britain, we don’t believe the time for making a decision about the U.N. resolution — there isn’t even one there at the moment — is right yet. We want to discuss this within the European Union and try and maximize the leverage and pressure that the European Union can bring, frankly, on both sides to get this vital process moving.

Both of us in recent days have been to the Republic of Ireland. I went on part of the Queen’s historic trip, and I know Barack has just returned from a very successful trip. And when you look at what had to happen in Northern Ireland in order for peace to come about, is there has to be some recognition and understanding on each side of the other side.

And that is what I think is so crucial in what the President is saying about Hamas and Palestinian unity — which should in some ways be a welcome development if the Palestinians can have one group of people, but not unless those group of people are prepared to accept some of what the people they’re going to negotiate with desperately need.

And that, in the end, is why the peace process in Northern Ireland was successful, because both sides had some understanding of what the other side needed for some dignity and for some peace. And that is what we badly need right now in the Middle East. And I think the President’s speech has been a good step forward in really helping to make that happen. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let me just pick up on what David said about Ireland. It was inspiring to see, after hundreds of years of conflict, people so rapidly reorienting how they thought about themselves, how they thought about those who they thought once were enemies. Her Majesty’s visit had a profound effect on the entire country. And so it was an enormous source of hope. And I think it’s a reminder that as tough as these things are, if you stick to it, if people of goodwill remain engaged, that ultimately even the worst of conflicts can be resolved.

But it is going to take time. And I remain optimistic, but not naively so, that this is going to be hard work and each side is going to have to look inward to determine what is in their long-term interests, and not just what are in their short-term tactical interests, which tends to perpetuate a conflict as opposed to solving it.

And finally let me — also, David, just very briefly, thank you for expressing your condolences and concern about the people of Missouri. We have been battered by some storms not just this week but over the last several months, the largest death toll and devastation that we’ve ever seen from tornadoes in the United States of America. Knowing that we’ve got friends here in the United Kingdom who care deeply and who offer their thoughts and prayers makes all the difference in the world. So thank you very much for that.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you. And the Guinness wasn’t bad in Ireland, either.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It was very good.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.

END 1:48 P.M. BST

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