Full Text Political Transcripts November 14, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden at Joining Forces Capstone Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden at Joining Forces Capstone Reception

Source: WH, 11-14-17

East Room

5:17 P.M. EDT

DR. BIDEN:  So good afternoon.  It’s so wonderful to be here with all of you today.  And let me start by thanking Sheila Casey, a true friend and champion for all military families, including mine.  Thank you, Sheila, for your kind words and support over the years.  It’s been a pleasure working with you and your husband, General Casey.

Well, it’s hard to believe that after five years, this is our last Joining Forces event.  I remember the moment eight years ago, backstage in Springfield, Illinois, when Michelle and I decided we wanted to focus on this important issue together.  It was that exciting day when then-Senator Obama announced that my husband Joe would be his running mate.  Michelle turned to me and asked what would I like to work on if we won.  And I told her that I wanted to tackle the issues that our military families were facing, and she said, “Me too!”  (Laughter.)  For me, I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling than serving those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

One thing we say in the Biden family — and I know you all feel it in your hearts — is that our country has one sacred obligation — to equip those we send to war, and to care for them and their families during deployments and when they return.  (Applause.)

Back in 2008, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going strong.  Hundreds of thousands of our troops were deployed.  So I called the National Guard and said I wanted to help the families of military families whose loved ones were serving overseas.  They connected me with Delaware Boots on the Ground, which was helping to match the everyday needs of our military — they’re here, that’s why it’s making me so emotional — to match the everyday needs of military families with folks who could provide the service.  If you need a tire changed, Boots was there for you.  If you had a leaky roof, Boots was there.  If you needed diapers or a new crib, Boots was there again.

Delaware Boots on the Ground made such a big difference for military families in Delaware that Governor Ruth Ann Minner declared on July 4th, 2007, Delaware Boots on the Ground Day.  Remember guys?  And after we were elected to the White House, I wanted to keep going.  I wanted to keep doing all the things that I could for military families — not just in Delaware, but all across our nation.  Because, like Michelle, I had been so inspired by the military families, the incredible military families I had met and gotten to know over the years.

That’s why, when we called upon you to help us shine a light on our military families, we wanted to raise awareness of the challenges that they confront and still confront that most Americans never have to face or can even imagine.  Sending loved ones into harm’s way.  Enduring countless separations during training.  Starting over on different bases in different towns again and again.

All of you in this room, from the veterans and military spouses we met eight years ago on the campaign trail to the nonprofits, schools, foundations, businesses, associations, civil servants and Americans of every stripe, have been with us every step of the way since we launched Joining Forces.  You have been our lifeline to our military families.  You’ve helped us better understand the unique challenges that they face.  You’ve been critical in helping us find solutions to better support those amazing families.  You’ve helped us remind folks that we can all make a difference, not just in word on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but with good deeds and best efforts each and every day of the year, by doing what we do best.

As a lifelong educator and as a military mom, the way we reach out to our military children in our classrooms is especially close to my heart.  That’s why I’ve been so proud to work with organizations like the Military Child Education Coalition.  Together, we launched Operation Educate the Educators to encourage teaching colleges to recognize military children in their curriculum.  To date, more than 100 colleges and universities have signed up to train thousands of future teachers so that they are prepared to identify the challenges military kids face.  (Applause.)

And one of the first groups that Michelle and I partnered with to launch Joining Forces five years ago was the National Math and Science initiative.  Thanks to NMSI’s college readiness program, we’re helping to ensure that students at 200 military-connected schools in 33 states across the country are prepared for the rigors of college and a career.

I’d also like to thank the media, who has helped us share the story of the military family.  And that includes everyone from Elmo and “Sesame Street,” to “Reading Rainbow” with LeVar Burton, who have shined a light on military-connected children, as well as the History Channel, which has lifted up our veterans, servicemembers, and their families.  And I’d especially like to thank CEO of History Channel, Nancy Dubuc, for being here today.

All of you have stepped up for our military and their families in your own unique ways.  That’s what you do.  And that’s why you’re here today.  Because Michelle and I want you to know just how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done and everything that you will continue to do to support those who serve our country.

And we all need to keep doing this work, because our military families will continue to serve and sacrifice.  Our men and women in uniform will continue to deploy.  Their spouses and children will continue to move from base to base, and eventually they will transition to civilian life.  That’s why this work matters.  And we have to show them that we have their backs.

You know, I believe we couldn’t have asked for a better champion for our military families than Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)  I know you all feel this.  She is a woman like no other.  (Applause.)  Whip smart.  Passionate.  Loyal.  For our nation, she’s been a true role model, especially for young girls.  She’s raised two amazing girls on her — of her own whose potential has no bounds.  And she’s shown the same warmth and care for her girls that she has with our grandchildren.

And from day one, Michelle was determined to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of our military and their families — measurable action, not just words.  She has had the courage to take on veteran homelessness, making the seemingly impossible possible.  (Applause.)  Naturally, freely, warmly she brings joy and hope often simply through a hug to the deployed caregivers and wounded warriors.

As a military mom, I am grateful for her service.  I love her.  We’re family.  Our First Lady, Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my goodness.  (Laughter.)  This wasn’t supposed to be tearful.  (Laughter.)  Oh, wow, look at you all.  What an evening, what a day.

First of all, let me thank —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

MRS. OBAMA:  We love you all.  We love you all more than you can know.  (Applause.)  This community has kept us going through a lot.  So let me just start by, of course, recognizing my partner in crime, Jill Biden, for that introduction.  Oh, my goodness.  (Applause.)  Jill has been, by far, the best partner I could have ever imagined, not just for the work on Joining Forces, but our families have joined forces in so many ways.  I’m just grateful to have her by my side.  She’s been a devoted advocate for our military community long before she ever came to the White House.  This is her cause, as you can hear from her words.  This is her mission.  And her passion has really been at the heart and soul of Joining Forces from the beginning.

But Jill is much more than a partner.  She is one of my dearest friends.  And, as Jill said, we’re family.  This is my girl right here.  (Applause.)  We have laughed together.  We have been silly together.  We have cried a lot.  (Laughter.)   We’ve been there for each other as much as we can throughout this amazing journey.  And Jill is not just brilliant, but she is kind.  She is very funny.  And she is one of the strongest people I know.  I love and admire her with all my heart.  So thank you, Jill.  (Applause.)

And of course, thanks to all of you — my goodness — folks from every sector of our society who’ve come together through Joining Forces — CEOs and government officials, medical professionals and educators.  And most of all, our extraordinary servicemembers, our amazing veterans, oh, and our military families.  (Applause.)

Just looking out over this room, so many of you have been with us right from the very beginning, way back in those early days when Jill and I were just starting to figure out what Joining Forces would look like.  And back then, we’d get together with military spouses, and Blue and Gold Star families.  We’d talk to veterans, and of course we talked to troops.  And we’d ask the simple questions:  How are things going?  Do you have the support that you need?  What can we do to help?

And, as Jill said, we continue to be blown away by your honesty and your courage, your sacrifice, your service, moving your families across the country, across the globe every few years, enduring deployment after deployment, struggling to maintain your careers and care for your family — I could go on and on.  You keep us from complaining about anything.  And I know that some of you were probably a little skeptical of us at first.  Some may have wondered, how are these two with almost no budget going to make a difference?  (Laughter.)  And rightfully so, wondering would this just be another PR campaign?  Because you had seen plenty of tributes and parades and memorials, all of which are very important, but nowhere near enough.

As I said earlier today, talk simply is not enough.  So Jill and I knew it was time to act, and that’s why we decided that the only measure of our success would be whether you all could see and feel a concrete difference in your lives.  That was the only thing we cared about.

So in 2011, we issued a call to all Americans to step up and serve our military community as well as you all have served this country -– not just with kind words, but with real resources, with real support.  And as we told you, people answered that call time and again.  And that’s what you should know about this country.  Just when you wonder whether we’re crazy — (laughter) — we’re not.  We’re good people, all over the place.  Know that about this country.  (Applause.)  We are made up of good people.

Folks from every industry, every corner of this country, they raised their hand every time and they said, yeah, I can help.  And just think for a minute about everything we’ve achieved together.  I mean, you heard it in that beautiful video.  In just five and a half years — let’s just stop there — five and a half years, our businesses and companies have hired or trained more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses, and the unemployment rate for our veterans has been cut in half.  (Applause.)  That’s because of you.  (Applause.)

Governors and legislatures in 50 states, all 50 states, took action to help military spouses transfer their licenses and continue their careers as they move from state to state — simple ask.  I think there were only two when we first started.  And we were like, hey, can we get this done?  Folks were like, yeah!

We provided new training and tools for thousands of healthcare providers.  New networks and support for our caregivers.  New resources and educational opportunities for our amazing military kids who, by the way, really blow us away.  Those kids are some of the most amazing, poised — (applause) — those are our next leaders.  So another thing to know about this country, we’re in good hands, because our young people — we’ve got some good young people.  We do.  (Applause.)

And working with mayors and local officials, as we celebrated earlier today, we have ended veteran homelessness in cities and states across this country, housing 354,000 homeless veterans and their families.  (Applause.)  We did that.  We did that.  Through wonderful VA programs, we’ve worked to cut veterans’ homelessness nearly in half.  And we did that in just a couple of years.

That’s just some of what Joining Forces has been able to accomplish, and it’s because of you.  Jill and I, we just ask, and then we wait for the press conference.  We come in and we go, look what we did!  (Laughter.)  But we are so incredibly proud of you.  You want the country to see this.  This is America.  And Jill and I, we are so grateful for everything you all have done.
But what we do not feel is satisfied, because —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s right!

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s my hype man back there.  (Laughter.)  Because for everything we’ve accomplished, we also know that every day, people across America thankfully are signing up to put on our country’s uniform, and so many others hang it up for good and join the ranks of our veterans.

So our work is nowhere near finished.  And it never will be.  So my main message to all of you today is let’s just keep this going.  Let’s keep it going.  (Applause.)  Plain and simple.  (Applause.)  We don’t get all of this done in such a short period of time and just not keep pushing.

And to our servicemembers, our veterans, and to our military families, I urge you to never settle for anything less.  This effort, it hasn’t been perfect.  We haven’t achieved every goal.  We haven’t righted every wrong.  But believe me, from now on, this should be the baseline.  This should be the minimum level of support our military should feel from their White House all the way down to every community in this country.  (Applause.)  They should feel it from the President and the Vice President, from the First and Second spouses on down to the VA, to VSOs, to schools, to hospitals, to congregations, to citizens.  That’s true regardless of who is in charge or what party they belong to.

Because this issue has nothing to do with whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an independent.  It is so much bigger than that.  It’s about supporting our American heroes.  (Applause.)  And it’s about standing up for who we are as a nation.  And that’s something we can all agree on.  There should never ever be any daylight between any of us when it comes to that.

So you all need to work with the next administration to continue these efforts.  Whatever it is that you’re working on, I want you to find new partners in the next administration.  I want you to work with them just like you worked with us on the issues that matter most to our military community.  And I want you all to know that while today might be our last time together here as First Lady — and I hate to say Second Lady, because there’s nothing second about Jill — (laughter and applause) — but we are not saying goodbye.  This is not the end.

Jill and I intend to keep working on this issue for the rest of our lives.  (Applause.)  We will figure out a way to use whatever platforms we have next.  And with your help, we know that the spirit of this movement will live on.  We will continue to find ways to be supportive long after we leave the White House.

This movement will live on.  It will live on in every military spouse who steps up and says, I’m tough, but even I can’t do this alone, and every Governor who responds, you don’t have to.  It will live on in every veteran looking to bring their skills and their training to our workforce, and every CEO who gives them that chance.  It will live on in every servicemember who knows their spouse is being supported during their deployment, and every teacher who goes that extra mile to make sure their kids feel welcome in a new school.

This effort is going to live on because it belongs to each of us and to every American who joins forces to support America’s heroes.  So instead of saying goodbye, I want to end as I started — by once again saying thank you.  (Applause.)  This has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life, getting to know this community.  We are grateful.  We are grateful.  And we have so much to feel grateful for in this country.  Let us never forget that.

Let’s get to work.  Thank you all.  God bless.  (Applause.)

END
5:48 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 24, 2014: Bush highlights Military Service Initiative helping veterans reintegrate

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Former President George W. Bush appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday Feb. 23, 2014 speaking to Martha Raddatz about the Military Service Initiative at the Bush Institute geared especially towards veterans were served in the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPT

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

Source: WH, 12-25-13

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  They also thanked our brave troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and reminded everyone to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to give back to our military families this year.  Both the President and First Lady said that during this holiday season, we should all come together to find ways to support our communities, continue caring for each other and keep working to be the best parents, children, friends, neighbors, and citizens we can be.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2013

THE PRESIDENTHello everybody, and happy holidays.

THE FIRST LADY: We know how busy this time of year is for everyone, so we’re not going to take much of your time.

But we did want to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a season for millions of Americans to be together with family, to continue long-held holiday traditions, and to show our gratitude to those we love.  And along the way, some of us might even watch a little basketball or eat some Christmas cookies, too.

THE FIRST LADY: Here at the White House, over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit us and look at our holiday decorations.

This year’s theme was “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”

And in every room of the house, we tried to tell a story about who we are as Americans and how we celebrate the holidays together.

And we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know – the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans, and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays.  But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family.  They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened.  So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas.  In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than at any time in the last decade.

THE FIRST LADY: And that’s something we all can be thankful for.

And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much.

And that’s why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative – to rally all Americans to support our military families in ways large and small.

And again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s the same spirit of giving that connects all of us during the holidays.  So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors.  For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And for all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens.

THE FIRST LADY: So as we look to the New Year, let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up.

THE PRESIDENT:  So Merry Christmas, everyone.  And from the two of us, as well as Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo…

THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  We wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season.

THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays everybody, and God bless.

Inauguration 2013 January 19, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden’s Speeches Celebrating the Inauguration with Military Families at the Kids Inaugural Concert: Our Children, Our Future

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://politicsbuzz.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/inauguration.jpg?w=600

BARACK OBAMA — 57TH INAUGURATION:

THE HEADLINES….

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Celebrate the Inauguration with Military Families

Source: WH, 1-20-13 
The First and Second Ladies of the United States got an early start on the 2013 Inauguration celebrations at a concert honoring our military families.

The Kids Inaugural Concert: Our Children, Our Future was hosted by Nick Cannon and featured artists including Katy Perry, Usher, the cast of “Glee,” Far East Movement and Mindless Behavior. JR Martinez, the Army hero who won “Dancing with the Stars,” also joined Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden for the event, which was held at the Washington Convention Center.

Dr. Biden said the concert was a chance to show military kids how much the country appreciates the sacrifices they make while their parents are serving.

The First Lady told the crowd that while she loves “every single minute” of the inaugural celebrations, the Kids Concert was the true highlight:

 I have to tell you that my very favorite part of this entire weekend is being right here with all of you. Absolutely. Because for me, this is what inauguration is all about. It’s about celebrating who we are as Americans and all the things that make this country so great. And when I think about who we are, when I think about what makes America great, I think about all of you –our men and women in uniform, our military spouses, and our amazing military kids.

The concert was held in support of Joining Forces, the initiative launched by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at the Kids Inaugural Concert

Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.

7:45 P.M. EST

DR. BIDEN: Hello, everyone! (Applause.) Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Jaelen. I’m so proud of Jaelen, and I know you brought some other kids from Lee Hall Elementary. It’s so good to see all of you. (Applause.) Oh, they’re over there. And I want to thank your mom and your whole family for their service to our country.

J.R. Martinez, it is always wonderful to see you. Thank you for your service and all that you continue to do for our military families. The First Lady and I are so excited to be here with all these military kids.

I want to give a special welcome to some very brave kids from the Delaware Army National Guard 153rd Military Police Company. (Applause.) Just a few weeks ago, I was with them when their moms or dads were deployed to Afghanistan. I want you all to know that we are so proud of you and we will be here for you while your moms and dads are away.

The First Lady and I knew from the start that we wanted to celebrate the strength and service of our military families. That’s why we started Joining Forces — our effort to encourage all Americans to find ways to honor and support our troops, veterans and military families. Joining Forces is especially important to me because I know something about being a military mom. Our son Beau is a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, and he was deployed to Iraq for a year. Beau has two children, Natalie and Hunter, so I know — (applause) — thank you — so I know firsthand just how important it is for a child to have everyone’s support — their friends, their teachers, and their entire community — when mom or dad is away.

So we want tonight to be one special way that our country shows all of you just how much we appreciate everything you’re doing for our country. And we are so excited to be here with you tonight, here with everyone.

Now I would like to introduce someone else who is so proud of you and excited to be here. She’s been working so hard for military families. Please welcome my great friend and partner, First Lady Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Wow. Thank you so much. Thank you, Jill. Big hand to Jill, my partner. (Applause.) How is everybody doing? (Applause.) Are you guys having fun? (Applause.) Are you excited to be here for the inauguration? (Applause.) Well, we are all excited that you could join us tonight, both here in Washington and from all across the country and around the world by video.

We’ve got kids from Fort Hood that are here. (Applause.) We’ve got folks who have joined us from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. They’re in the house. (Applause.) We have folks from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base here. (Applause.) We’ve got folks from Camp Pendleton who are here with us. (Applause.) And we’ve got Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater here as well. (Applause.) Yes!

And for the wonderful kids from Naval Air Station Sigonella who led the Pledge of Allegiance — (applause) — yes! — we have some very special guests that are here as well — your parents! (Applause.) Those are your parents. So let’s give them a round of applause. We’ve beamed them in. (Applause.) They’re right there. Wave to them. They can see you. (Applause.)

Now, inauguration is a pretty big deal. The President and the Vice President are sworn in. There are all these inaugural balls, everybody dresses up and dances. We had a wonderful day of service today, and hundreds of thousands of people come from all 50 states to join in the celebration. And let me tell you, I love every single minute of it. Every single minute. But I have to tell you that my very favorite part of this entire weekend is being right here with all of you. (Applause.) Absolutely. Because for me, this is what inauguration is all about. It’s about celebrating who we are as Americans and all the things that make this country so great. And when I think about who we are, when I think about what makes America great, I think about all of you –our men and women in uniform, our military spouses, and our amazing military kids.

And that’s why Jill and I wanted to host this event. And we’re not the only ones that wanted to pay tribute to all of you today. You see, when we said we wanted to host a concert to honor our military kids, let me tell you, everyone wanted to be here. Usher wanted to be here. (Applause.) Katy Perry wanted to be here. (Applause.) Nick Cannon, the folks from Glee, and all the other amazing performers — they wanted to be here, too. (Applause.) And let me tell you, they’re not here for me. They’re not here for Dr. Biden. They are here for all of you. Because they know the kind of sacrifices that you all make every single day.

Let me just share something. Did you know that the — that a military kid attends an average of six to nine schools by the time he or she graduates from high school? I mean, just think about that. Just imagine how much courage it takes to always be the new kid — to walk through the doors of a new school every couple of years; to have to make new friends again and again. And did you know that our men and women in uniform often have to be away from their families for months, sometimes years.

Just think about the level of maturity that is required for military kids during those times, just think about that. Think about how they have to step up at home without even being asked — taking out the trash when dad’s not there; helping brothers and sisters with their homework when mom is away.

Think about how hard it is for military kids to be apart from the people they love most, how they miss their moms and dads every day and would do anything to have them back home. And that’s just a glimpse of what it means to be a military kid. It means always thinking about things that are so much bigger than yourself. It means growing up just a little faster and working just a little harder than other kids. And it means doing the greatest thing you can ever do with your life at such a young age, and that is to serve our country.

So to America’s military kids, let me tell you, make no mistake about it, you all are an important part of the greatest military on Earth. (Applause.) By supporting your families, you all are helping to protect this country and keep every single one of us safe. You’re doing that. And Dr. Biden and I are so incredibly proud of you all. Every day, we’re proud of you. Let me tell you, our husbands are proud — the Vice President, the President — they are proud of you.

And in the coming years, as these wars draw to an end and we draw down our troops, I want you all to know –(applause) — absolutely — but here’s the thing: I want you to know, you and your families to know that we will not be drawing down our work to support you. We will be doing just the opposite, because the fact is that today we have a greater obligation to serve you than ever before. And we will do everything in our power, everything to meet that obligation to make sure that our military families get the benefits they’ve earned and the support and recognition you all deserve.

So in the coming months and years through Joining Forces, Dr. Biden and I, we will keep calling on Americans to translate the love and pride that we all feel into action that makes a real difference for you and your families. Every single one of us has a role to play here. And I encourage everyone watching tonight to go to JoiningForces.gov and find out how you can give back to our military families. Because we cannot rest, no, we cannot be satisfied until we are serving all of you as well as you’ve served this country. You all deserve nothing less.

And with that, there is someone else here tonight who would like to show her appreciation for you all. She is our final performer for this evening. Should we bring her out? Are you ready? (Applause.) Are you really ready? (Applause.) All right, then. It is now my pleasure to introduce the fabulous Katy Perry!

Political Headlines December 22, 2012: Weekly Address: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama Wish Special Holiday Homecoming for Troops

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Weekly Address: Obamas Wish Special Holiday Homecoming for Troops

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-22-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

As the first holiday season with the U.S. military out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, President Obama wishes a special homecoming on American troops in his weekly address.

“This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college — and making room for all that laundry they bring with them. Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive, and uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit,” he said. “And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.”

Joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, the two waxed on Americans reuniting with their loved ones, including those coming from abroad….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 22, 2012: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Weekly Address Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

Source: WH, 12-21-12

In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thank our brave troops and their families for their service. The President and First Lady ask the American people to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families, and say that we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thanked our brave troops and their families for their service.  The President and First Lady asked the American people to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families, and said that we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 22, 2012

THE PRESIDENTHi everybody.  This weekend, as you gather with family and friends, Michelle and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.

THE FIRST LADY:  We both love this time of year.  And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House.  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible.

This month, more than 90,000 people have come through the White House to see the holiday decorations.  And our theme for this year’s holiday season was “Joy to All” – a reminder to appreciate the many joys of the holidays: the joy of giving…the joy of service…and, of course, the joy of homecomings. 

THE PRESIDENTThat’s right.  This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them.  Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive.  And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit.

THE FIRST LADY:  That’s what makes this season so special – getting to spend time with the people we love most.

THE PRESIDENTAnd this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.

So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear.

THE FIRST LADY:  And remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them.  Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments.  And let’s not forget about our military kids, moving from base to base – and school to school – every few years, and stepping up to help out at home when mom or dad is away.

Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country.  That’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces – an effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans and military families.  Just go to joiningforces.gov to find out how you can show your gratitude for their service.

THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s what this season is all about.  For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.  To give of ourselves.  To be our brother’s keeper.  To be our sister’s keeper.  But those ideas are not just part of our faith.  They’re part of all faiths.  And they unite us as Americans.

THE FIRST LADY:  In this country, we take care of each other.  And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need.

THE PRESIDENTThat’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation.  And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.

THE FIRST LADY:  So thank you for all that you’ve done this year on behalf of your fellow Americans.

THE PRESIDENT: And on behalf of my favorite Americans – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – Merry Christmas, everybody.

THE FIRST LADY:  Happy holidays.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces Recap

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that 60,000 servicemen and women and their spouses have been hired through Joining Forces employment initiatives

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at Kansas City Southern  Railroad duri

First Lady Michelle Obama at Kansas City Southern Railroad during a Joining Forces event, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson

On Board with the First Lady: Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces

Source: WH, 4-19-12

Go behind the scenes as First Lady Michelle Obama travels from Washington DC to Philadelphia, New York City, Shreveport and Jacksonville to honor our servicemen and women and their families. Join us on set at the Colbert Report, on stage with Ellen DeGeneres and on the ground with thousands of nurses and meet the 50,000 person to get a job through the Joining Forces hiring initiatives.

See more:

Michelle Obama’s Message to Military Families: You Do Live in a Grateful Nation

Source: WH, 4-11-12

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today marked the one year anniversary of the launch of Joining Forces with an event on the South Lawn of the White House, and Mrs. Obama used the occasion to renew her call of action, and challenged all Americans to keep finding new ways to show their support for military families.

The First Lady told the crowd that over the past year, as she and Dr. Biden reached out on behalf of our military families, “not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.

And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.”

And her message for all military families, is that “you do live in a grateful nation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama at the Joining Forces Community  Challenge event on the South Lawn

First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests following the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012. The event was a celebration for military families and organization leaders who have played key roles in supporting our nation’s troops, veterans and military families over the past year. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Today’s event also honored the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists, who Dr. Biden called “inspiring. These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways. That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.”

Later today, the First Lady and Dr. Biden will be in Philadelphia, where they will announce a commitment from more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.


Learn more:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at the Joining Forces Anniversary event

South Lawn

11:13 A.M. EDT

DR. BIDEN:  What a great day for a celebration.  Thank you, General Dempsey, for that kind introduction and for all that you have done to support the Joining Forces initiative over the past year.  I also want to thank Deanie Dempsey, who’s been a wonderful partner and a wonderful friend.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)

To the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists who are here, it was great to see you all yesterday, and we’re delighted to have you here at the White House this morning.

One of the best parts of my role as Second Lady is spending time with military veterans and families.  And I’ve traveled across the — as I’ve traveled across the country and the world, I’m always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families.

While the troops serving our nation may be only 1 percent of the population, we want to make sure that 100 percent of Americans are supporting them.  Our military families have done so much for our country and each of us can do something in return.  That’s why the First Lady and I created Joining Forces to encourage all Americans to support and honor our military families.

Since we launched Joining Forces a year ago, we have been so inspired by the many ways Americans all across the country are honoring, celebrating and supporting our military families.  Our partners in this effort are businesses, schools, churches, communities and individuals.  The Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists here today are shining examples of what we’ve seen.

Organizations like HeartsApart.org — photographers volunteer their time to take photos of soon-to-be deployed servicemembers and their families.  And so that they can carry their loved ones when they are serving us, these beautiful photographs are printed on waterproof, durable cards that fit perfectly in the pocket of a battle dress uniform.

Programs like GreenCare for Troops, which connects local green industry professionals with military families to provide free lawn and landscaping services while their loved ones are serving our country.

Or the city of Richfield, Utah, an entire community that has supported its local Army National Guard through four deployments since September 11, 2001.  They’ve organized a community-sponsored holiday party for the families of deployed troops.  The local newspaper delivers the hometown paper to deployed soldiers so that they can stay in touch with home.  And the community library ordered children’s books about deployment so that children will understand what their parents are doing while they are away.

These are just a few examples of what is happening all across our country.  If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be “inspiring.”  These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways.  That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.

So please, let’s give a round of applause for all the Challenge winners who are here with us today.  (Applause.)

I am also proud to announce that after the wonderful response this first year, we will start another challenge later this year.  We look forward to seeing more of the creative ways that Americans are giving back to our proud and brave military families.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce an amazing, young woman.  I met Moranda Hern two years ago when she came to my office to tell me what it was like for her when her dad was deployed to Afghanistan.  She was going through all the challenges of being a teenager with the added burden of worrying every day about her father’s safety.

Moranda’s dad is in the California National Guard, so she didn’t have the support of a military community and she felt disconnected from her peers.  When Moranda met another military teen, she realized she wasn’t alone.  The girls created a support network called The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs* — to make sure other military girls had a way to share their experiences with one another.  Today the Sisterhood connects military girls through an online community and is expanding nationwide.

Moranda is here today as a military daughter and the founder of an initiative that has made a real difference in the lives of military children.  Now, as you can see, she wears a uniform herself.  She is pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot as a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy.

I’m so proud to introduce Moranda Hern.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

* * * * *

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please be seated.  Welcome.  Welcome to the White House.  And happy anniversary.

I want to begin by thanking Moranda for that lovely introduction.  But she is the reason why we do this.  I mean, enough said.  There are thousands of amazing kids like her all over this country that need to have this light shined on them.  So we are so proud of you, so very proud of you — and the others like you.  So keep it up.

I also want to recognize Tom Brokaw, who has been such an advocate for our men and women in uniform.  He has been amazing. And we are privileged to have him with us today and have his voice out there so passionately on behalf of families and troops.

Of course, I want to thank General Dempsey and Deanie.  They have just been amazing partners.  I think I spend more time with you all than I do my husband — (laughter) — which isn’t bad, isn’t bad, not too bad.  But they have just been tremendous.  And I can’t thank you both enough for what you have done for this country, what you are doing and I know you will continue to do for the rest of your lives.  So we wouldn’t be here without you.

And of course, I want to thank my partner in crime, Dr. Jill Biden.  She is, as you know, a proud military mom, very passionate.  She is really just a tremendous friend, just a true inspiration for me.  This would not be as much fun if I didn’t have her by my side.  And she has done just an amazing job, and we need to give her another round of applause.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to join Jill in congratulating the winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge.  We are so happy that all of you have been able to come and travel here to D.C.  And you’ve been spending a little time in the city.  I understand that there was a wonderful reception and roundtable yesterday that I missed, but I hear was just wonderful.  And you’ve been able to get some tours around town.  I hope everybody has been nice.  And there’s going to be a luncheon for you all today.  So, hopefully, the food will be good.

But we are just thrilled to have you in our nation’s backyard to congratulate and honor all that you’re doing.  So thank you again.

I also want to recognize Congressman Al Green who is here. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is here as well.  Thank you both for being here.  And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here this morning.

We have many people in the audience.  We have our troops and military families here, but we also have government and military leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, leaders from our faith communities, our schools, our hospitals, our veterans’ service organizations and so many others.  And I am thrilled that all of you could be here today as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces.

Now, I have to tell you that when Jill and I first started talking about launching this initiative to honor and support our veterans and military families, we knew that we were going to get a pretty good amount of support, because after all, every American is proud of our men and women in uniform.  So we knew that the emotion was there; we knew that the feelings were there.  So we knew we were going to get some support, because we all want to show our gratitude for their service.

But the outpouring of support that we have seen over this last year — I mean, the hours logged, the services donated, the love and devotion and offers to help that have poured in from every corner of the country — all of that has far surpassed even our wildest expectations.  And that’s a good thing.

And I tell military families all around, that’s really what we want you to know, is that you do live in a grateful nation, and when people are asked on your behalf they are stepping up and they are doing it gladly.  Over the past year, more than 1,600 businesses have hired more than 50,000 veterans and spouses, and they pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.  And I know they’re going to do even more than that — that’s just the pledges that we’ve gotten.

Technology and employment companies like Google, Monster and LinkedIn, they have stepped up to help connect veterans with good jobs.  We’ve had state leaders that are passing legislation to make it easier for military spouses to renew their professional licenses and get back to work as their families move from state to state.  And we hope that we’re going to see that kind of initiative throughout the country.

Medical schools are training our next generation of health care providers so that they can better care for our military families.  The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Labor, they have all made groundbreaking announcements to support our nation’s veterans, our wounded warriors, our caregivers and our military spouses.

Associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers, they’re working to improve the treatment that they provide for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

School professionals are reaching out to our military kids in ways that are so important.  High schools have — with high numbers of military students — are adding more Advanced Placement courses so that these kids have the opportunities they deserve to compete for college.

If you watch TV, you’ve seen all of the activity on the airwaves.  TV shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Sesame Street” — our favorites — (laughter) — and organizations like NASCAR, AOL, Disney, they’re all sharing stories of military families and using those stories not just to shine a light, but to encourage others to serve.

You’ve got wonderful people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Steven Spielberg — they starred in a series of very powerful PSAs.  And then, of course, the episode that has made me a fan favorite in every household — I am now more popular than the President  — because I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  There are kids who probably didn’t know I was First Lady, but they know I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  And that episode — they focused the entire episode on the experience of military children.  It was wonderful.  It really got the message out to young people in a way that we could never do on our own.

So over the past year, not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.
And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.

A wonderful example is Operation Honor Cards.  It’s a wonderful initiative that asks Americans to honor our military families by pledging service of their own.  And when we first sat down with this organization last year, they set a goal of getting 3 million hours of pledge service from people all across the country.  But then what happened was that by June, they had already doubled that number; and then by November, they hit 10 million hours — just by November.  And today, we can announce that we’re at 21 million hours pledged — 21 million hours pledged — with already 30 million total hours served.  (Applause.)

Now, that’s really the story of Joining Forces.  That’s what we are celebrating today.  That’s truly what is going on through Joining Forces.  It is the story of a wave of support that spreads across this country, and it’s reaching more communities every single day.

But the real impact of Joining Forces over this past year truly cannot be measured just by a list of accomplishments.  It can’t be explained with numbers or hours or dollar amounts.  The true measure of our success lies in the lives that we’ve helped to change — all of us, everyone here — those lives, all those moms and dads out there, all of those sons and daughters, like Moranda, all the grandparents who have felt the love and the support of a grateful nation.

They are heroes like my good buddy, Johnny Agbi — Sergeant Agbi.  He’s quite a character; got to spend some time with him.  He was wounded in Afghanistan, and he’s here with us today.  And thanks to Sears and Rebuild Together, who worked together to refit his house for his wheelchair — and Jill and I got to write on his wall — I hope our signatures are still there.  Are they there?  (Laughter.)  All right, that’s good.  We got to write on his wall.  But thanks to their efforts, Sergeant Agbi can now more easily get in his front door — something as simple as that.  He can now move around his home more freely.  And hopefully, everything feels just a little bit more like home again.

They are spouses like Ann Wells, who Jill and I got to meet.  She’s a nurse who, because of the licensing portability efforts in the states may not have to deal with so much bureaucracy the next time her family moves and she needs to recertify before she can get a job.

They are veterans like Joshua Rassi, from Beaverton, Oregon.  Now, in 2007, Sergeant Rassi joined the Army and was trained as a geospatial analyst — you guys probably know what that is, right?  You Joint Chief types, right?  He was deployed to Iraq, where he was in charge of securing convoys, checking roads for IEDs.  He managed many, many soldiers, communicating detailed information throughout his unit.  But when he left active duty in May of 2010, he couldn’t find consistent work.  He couldn’t find consistent work back home.  For more than a year he was out of consistent work.  This highly trained soldier applied everywhere, but his searches ended in frustration.

Then last September, he went to one of the Chamber of Commerce’s hiring fairs in Portland.  And the Red Cross liked what they saw at this fair.  And within a week, Sergeant Rassi had started a new job with the Red Cross as a lab technician.  And he has been working for six months.  And he is thankful not just for the income, not just because his skills are no longer idle, but because it gives him an opportunity to keep giving back to the country that he loves.

And, as he said — and these are his words — he said, “Part of the reason I joined the military was getting to serve, and at the Red Cross I’m doing the same thing.  My big thing in life is making a difference.”  And that’s how deeply ingrained service is to our men and women in uniform.  That is the greatness that we all feel when we travel the country.  That’s why you guys hook us in.  It is that ethic of service.  It’s that commitment to this country that we want to honor through Joining Forces.

I always say if all of our young people could just get a little dose of what you all have, then they would be just fine.  Just fine.  This effort is about making an impact.  It is about repaying our debt to our veterans and military families.  It’s about giving these heroes the opportunities they deserve.

But I want to be clear that we are not here to pat ourselves on the back.  We’re not here just to throw a nice party or to list our accomplishments.  We’re here to really, truly make a difference for these families who have put everything on the line for all of us.  So while today is certainly a time for celebration, it’s also a time to renew our call of action.  That’s why we’d like to mark the sand with an anniversary, because it’s time to say this is what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.  It’s time for us to redouble our efforts.

So today, I want to challenge all of you here, and I want to challenge Americans all across the country, to keep raising the bar, just keep raising the bar.  Keep bringing more people into the fold — the fold of Joining Forces, the fold of whatever it is you are doing, keep bringing people in.  Keep coming up with new ideas.

And one message to all of the military families here today and watching around the country:  I want you to know that these are not just words.  We are not giving out empty promises — not on my watch, not on Jill’s watch.  We’re going to keep working until all of our veterans know that when they hit the job market, their skills be rewarded.  We’re not stopping until every military student gets an educational experience that honors their service.  We’re not calling it a day until all of our military spouses can rest assured that the next time their family is transferred, they won’t have to leave their job behind.

And we’re going to keep working.  We’re going to keep persuading.  We’re going to keep driving forward until all of our nation’s military families feel in real and concrete ways the love and support and gratitude that we all hold in our hearts.  That is our simple promise to you.  And it is one of the best things that we all do with our time.

And as Tom said, this is a forever proposition.  This is not a blue state or red state proposition.  This is something that we want to make a part of the culture of the United States of America, that every citizen feels this level of gratitude and finds some way to give something back.  And if we can do our part by shining a light on this effort, then we will continue to do that.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you have done, for leading the way in your communities across this country.  Keep it going.  We are so proud of all of you.  We are grateful.  So God bless you all.  And God bless the United States of America.  Enjoy the rest of your time here in Washington.  (Applause.)

END
11:39 A.M. EDT

60,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Have Been Hired Through Joining Forces Employment Initiatives

Source: WH, 4-13-12

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas  City Southern Railroad

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas City Southern Railroad after delivering remarks during a Joining Forces Event in Shreveport, La., April 12, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

It was a great day in Shreveport, Louisiana, yesterday. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the leadership of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company in announcing Michael Abitago, Junior as the 50,000veteran or military spouse to have been hired by a company through the Joining Forces employment efforts this past year! Abitago literally left active duty in the Army last Saturday after 4 years of service (including 2 tours in Iraq) and starts work on Monday as a Conductor-trainee. He was hired by KCS in mid-March at a Joining Forces hiring event in Ft Hood, Texas.

And there’s even more great news. A couple of months ago when we first wanted to highlight this event, we had planned on announcing our 50,000hire. But as we approached our visit to Shreveport we had already hit that mark. By April another 8,000 veterans and military spouses were hired. And yesterday, Mrs. Obama revealed the news that the surge in hiring pushed the number of veterans and military spouses hired through Joining Forces to 60,000!

Through Joining Forces, American businesses have not only hired more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses to date,  they have also pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the years ahead.

More than 1,600 companies have been involved in this effort, including Microsoft, Comcast, Honeywell, Safeway and Sears. JPMorgan Chase and the 40 companies of the “100,000 jobs mission” hired more than 6,000 veterans  — alone – in the January-March 2012 timeframe.

The private sector is stepping up in a real way to support veterans and military spouses. For a full list of companies and their commitments please click HERE.


Learn more:

Brad Cooper is the Executive Director of Joining Forces
Related Topics: Economy, Veterans, Women

Remarks by the First Lady at a Joining Forces Employment Event – Shreveport, LA

Kansas City Southern Railways
Shreveport, Louisiana

1:27 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Michael for that very kind introduction and for his service.  We are very proud of him.  We know he’s going to do well.  And we’re just thrilled to be here — thrilled to be here with all of you.

I also want to thank Dave for his work and his introduction, for hosting us here today, and everyone else here at Kansas City Southern for hosting us as well.  It is really exciting to be here as part of our first anniversary of Joining Forces.

I also have to recognize Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, who is here.  (Applause.)  Thank you for being here and thank you for your leadership and for joining us today.

Yesterday, we kicked off our tour to celebrate the first anniversary of Joining Forces, which is our nationwide campaign to honor and serve America’s veterans and military families.  And I’m here today in Shreveport to make another big announcement about our effort to hire veterans and military spouses across the country.

And I have a little secret — because the truth is, is that when we started to plan this event a couple of months ago, we had planned on announcing the 50,000th hire.  That’s what this was going to be.  But by mid-March — because we were going to hit that goal by the end of — the middle of the year — but by the end of March we had already hit that mark.  (Applause.)  And then a week later, we added 5,000 more.  And by April, another 3,000.  (Applause.)

So today, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that America’s businesses have hired 60,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year.  (Applause.)  And that’s really the story that we want to celebrate here today.  That’s the story of Joining Forces.  Whenever we have asked Americans to step up, no matter who we were talking to, they have gone above and beyond our expectations — just above and beyond.  And I want these veterans to understand that.  America is stepping up in big ways.

When we looked to America’s health care providers, 135 medical schools, more than 500 nursing schools, more than 3 million health care providers stepped up to improve care for veterans and military families.  (Applause.)

When we asked Americans of all kind to find ways to honor our military families, they answered by serving more than 13 million volunteer hours right in their own communities.  (Applause.)  That’s individual.  That’s all volunteer work.

And of course, when it comes to businesses, when we approached the private sector, when we asked them to follow through on my husband’s challenge to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013, America’s businesses have overwhelmed us with their response.  So just listen to some of what they’ve done, just some examples:

The Chamber of Commerce held more than 130 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses all across the country.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership committed to 20,000 hires.  The American Logistics Association pledged 25,000 hires.  And the International Franchising Association committed to 80,000 more hires.

And just last week, a group of 11 companies said that they would devote 15,000 portable, flexible jobs to military spouses and veterans.  More than 1,600 companies — from Sears and Siemens, to NBC and Disney, to Honeywell and Snap-On Tools — they’ve all joined this effort.  Everyone is stepping up.  And in total, they’ve committed to hiring at least 160,000 veterans and military spouses in the coming years.  And that’s above and beyond the 60,000 that we’re talking about here today.  That’s on top of it.  (Applause.)

So I think it is fair to say that over this past year, this has just been one year’s worth of work.  Over this past year, America’s businesses have truly answered the call to give back to the men and women who have given so much to this country.  And all of these companies are joining this effort, as Dave said, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s a patriotic way to show our support, but because it’s good business as well.  That’s important.  This is good business.  (Applause.)

Right here at Kansas City Southern you all are seeing that.  That’s why more than 10 percent of your American workforce has worn our country’s uniform.  That’s why you hired 45 veterans last year alone.  You have made hiring veterans a priority because you know that these folks are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees in this country.  They have experience that simply cannot be created — or recreated in a classroom.

Today’s modern battlefield means that our 9/11 generation of veterans has served not only as soldiers or airmen or sailors, but as diplomats — they’ve served as social workers, as mediators, as educators.  They’re directing dozens of their peers — so they’ve got the management experience.  They’re executing highly complex, life-or-death missions, and they’re operating some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

Meanwhile, their spouses are getting more done in a day than most of us get done in a week.  They are juggling everything — family schedules, keeping the finances in order, coordinating community drives — because they’re also volunteering outside of their own homes, all while earning degrees or trying to build their own careers.  They are doing it all.

So make no mistake about it, our veterans and military spouses are some of the most able –- and employable -– people in the marketplace today.

But for so long, so many of these heroes have had difficulties finding jobs.  Last year, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was over 12 percent — and that was significantly higher than the general population.  And over the last few years, our nation’s military spouses have struggled to find employment as well, with an unemployment rate that nearly doubles that of civilian spouses.

But we have reason for optimism — because the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans has been trending downward for the past 27 months.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  So while we know that we haven’t solved this problem and we know that there is still a lot more work to be done, we are cautiously optimistic that we’re beginning to turn a corner on this employment issue and so many other issues that impact our veterans and military families.

And let’s remember that these are not simply numbers or plot points on a graph that we’re talking about.  These are not just statistics that we’re dealing with.  These are real lives that we’re talking about — real people with real struggles.  These are families who won’t have to worry about where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.  These are military spouses who can once again add a second income to the family’s finances.  Correct?  We are talking about veterans who can provide for their families and put their skills to use, and who can trust that this country has got their backs.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)

And that is really what Joining Forces is about.  That’s why we’ve done this.  It is not about words.  And I said that from the very beginning:  This is not about words or about false pats on the back, this is really about action.  That is one thing I didn’t want to do when we started this initiative, is to have some family member look me in the eye and not feel the work that we were doing.  This isn’t about what’s going on in Washington.  This is about what’s happening on the ground.  (Applause.)  It’s about making a real, meaningful difference for these men and women and families who have given our country so much.  And they’ve done it without complaint.  They’ve done it without hesitation.

So to all of you here at Kansas City Southern and to everyone across the country who has hired our veterans and military spouses, I want to thank you for giving our heroes the opportunities they deserve.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

And this anniversary is about continuing to raise the bar.  We can celebrate a little bit today, but there is more work to do.  So to any company out there that needs dedicated, productive, and highly skilled professionals on their team, I urge you to hire a veteran or a military spouse.  I urge you to do that.  I am confident that they will serve you as well as they’ve served this country.

And also, to all of the veterans and to the military members here — and I know that includes the 30 veterans who were recently hired at KCS –- I again want to thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do for this country.  You all inspire me.  And one of this things that most people cannot do is that they don’t get a chance to visit a military base.  They don’t get to see up close and personal what you all go through over the course of a day, a year, a career.  They don’t see what happens when you come back.  The challenges that you face for the service that you’ve provided.

I feel blessed to have had that honor.  I am not from a military background — Jill Biden is, and she’s been a terrific partner in this effort.  But we committed to be a voice for all of you in this position.  We’ve committed to be a part of telling your story so that other Americans who don’t have that connection, who don’t have someone in the military can really understand the incredible lives you’ve lived and the debt that we owe you as a country for the sacrifice that you have so selflessly made.  We are grateful.

And it is important for you to know that you live in a grateful nation.  Everyone we have asked has wanted to step up.  I think the only reason the connection hasn’t been made is that people don’t always know how to serve, because you all are so doggone competent — (laughter) — that you don’t ask for help, and you’re used to handling it all, keeping it all in, so people don’t always know how best to reach out, how best to provide that support.

But it is not just businesses that are doing this.  This is church groups that are stepping out.  These are teachers and classrooms, and again, nursing students and doctors and social workers.  Joining Forces provides them a platform for help.  We are not doing it; they’re doing it.  And they’re doing it not because of us but because of you and your stories.  And I want you to know that, because sometimes it takes a little time for that support to trickle down.  And we are working — that’s why there is so much more work to do.  We cannot stop until the unemployment rate among our veterans and military families is at zero.  That’s a high goal.  (Applause.)  But that’s how much we need to do.

So I want to thank you all for what you’ve done for this country.  This is a forever proposition.  The goal is that Joining Forces, the concept of it — whether it’s in name or in spirit — is something that becomes a part of our culture as America forever.

So thank you, all.  Good luck to you.  Good luck to your families.  And God bless you all.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:40 P.M. CDT

Remarks by the First Lady Honoring Young Women from Military Families

Jacksonville Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Florida

6:08 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Oh! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? (Applause.) You guys sit down. Rest yourselves. Are you having fun? (Applause.) There is more fun to come. I am thrilled — thrilled — to be here.

I want to start by thanking Maddie for her poise and for introducing me not once, but twice. (Applause.) Well done, Maddie. She is amazing. She’s terrific. Very proud of her, so let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)

A few other people that I want to thank. I want to thank Representative Corrine Brown, who’s here, and Mayor Alvin Brown, who are here to — joining us today. Thank you both for your leadership and being here with us.

I also want to take a moment to recognize all of the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are here today. You’re amazing — and your amazing spouses. Yay for the spouses. Thank you for the service that you’ve given. Thank you for the sacrifices that you’ve made. You all are the very best this country has to offer, and I am thrilled that you could join us here today.

And finally, I want to thank our guests of honor, these amazing, beautiful, well-dressed, well-put-together young women we are celebrating here today. (Applause.) And on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to tell you all truly how proud we are of you. We are so proud of you. We are inspired by you, and we are grateful for everything that you do for this country every single day. That’s why we wanted to have you here.

You see, when we talk about how our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much and serve this country so bravely, we’re not just talking about your parents. We are not. We are talking about all of you. We’re talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.

When your parents get that call to pick up and move halfway across the country, you pick up and move right alongside them. And then, just when you finally get settled in, just when you’re feeling comfortable and make friends and start fitting in, what happens? That call comes again, right? And you have to start all over again and make new friends, and settle in, yet again.

And I know that couldn’t be easy. That can’t possibly be easy for you. And I know it’s even harder when your parents are deployed, and you have to keep your spirits up through all those missed holidays, and missed birthdays, and times when you would give anything in the world to have them back home.

And I know that some of you here will be — for you, there will be an empty seat at graduation — I know this. And for some of you, when it comes time for the prom, mom might not be there to help you pick out your dress. Dad might not be there to see you out on your date. And I know that that can’t possibly be easy either.

But here’s something else that I know: Through it all –- through all the moves that you’ve had to make, through all those difficult moments, you all have stayed strong. I have seen it. I’ve seen it in so many kids like you across this country. You all have risen to the challenge.

You’ve become leaders in your schools. You’re excelling in your classes. You’re getting involved in all kinds of activities. You’ve become leaders in your communities, finding all kinds of ways to volunteer and give back. And many of you have stepped up at home as well, juggling activities and homework with chores and housework.

Many of you have had to put on a brave face for maybe a younger brother or sister, even when you were worried. You’ve had to reassure your parents that you were okay, even when sometimes you weren’t.

And you’ve done all of this because ultimately, you understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves. You know that they protect and defend the freedoms that every single one of us holds dear. You know that their service keeps this country safe every single day. And you all are a vital part of that work. You truly are.

By working so hard at school and at home, and doing your part, you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can’t thank you enough. We cannot thank you enough.

Now, I know that many of you have never known anything else, right? This is your life. So for you, this is no big deal, maybe. Maybe you think it’s nothing special, because this is just how you’ve grown up.

But I am here today — we are all here today, and we’re doing all of this today — because you should know that this is a big deal. You are special. You all have lived lives that make you incredibly special young individuals.

As military kids, you have learned lessons and had experiences that many people don’t have in their entire lifetimes. You’ve immersed yourselves in all kinds of communities and cultures. You’ve made friends with people from all different backgrounds. And you’ve gained the wisdom and the perspective to appreciate what really matters in life.

You see, unlike a lot of young people, you all don’t take your families for granted, right? A lot of times, you have to work to stay connected to your families — maybe through Skype. It’s a lot of hard work making the most of those precious weeks of leave, saying the things that we don’t nearly say enough to the people we love –- things like “I’m so proud of you,” “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” “I love you more than you will ever know.”

And that’s something that always strikes me about our military families –- how dealing with the challenges of military life actually strengthens your family bonds, rather than weakening them; how spending time apart oftentimes actually brings you closer together. And all of that is part of who you are. And you should know that.

And as you get older, you will see that growing up in a military family has prepared you for life in a way that nothing else can. Because that’s really what life is about –- it’s about weathering all sorts of changes and transitions, and bumps and bruises. But it’s also about savoring the good times, right? Treasuring the people that we love and appreciating the many blessings that come with living in this great country of ours. That’s what all of you do every day.

Like your parents, you all are the very best this country has to offer. You’re role models not just for kids, but for adults and for all Americans who want to see what patriotism, sacrifice and service really looks like. That’s why we’re here.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you do. I want to once again thank your parents for their service to our country.

And now — here’s where the fun begins — I would like to announce that we have a special surprise guest who is about to join us. She is someone that I am proud to call a friend. She’s a tremendous supporter and admirer of veterans and military families. And she’s so amazed by your service that she’s going to put you all on national TV right now.

So are you ready?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: So joining us live from the set of her TV show, I’m proud to introduce the one and only Ellen DeGeneres. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA: They’re screaming.

MS. DEGENERES: Hello, Mrs. Obama!

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Ellen.

MS. DEGENERES: We’re screaming here too! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on?

MS. DEGENERES: I hope I’m not interrupting anything.

MRS. OBAMA: No, we’re good. We’re just — good to have you here.

MS. DEGENERES: Good to be there. Congratulations on Joining Forces’ one-year anniversary. Tell everybody what it’s about, please.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Joining Forces is our national initiative to make sure that all Americans honor our troops, veterans and families. This is the one-year anniversary. We’ve made some amazing strides, and we’re here with some great military kids to give them a special thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: And that’s why I’m there, too, to give them a special thank you. You’ve accomplished so much already. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we want to do more. We want to make sure that every American does something. We’re saying — our motto is everyone can do something. It can be something as big as having you on your show, but it can also be helping mow the lawn; it can be doing what you do best, but doing it on behalf of a military family — finding those families within your communities and reaching out to find out what they need.

So we want more of that to go on across this country.

MS. DEGENERES: So that is what you’d say if you — if somebody says how can I help, it’s all the little things. Just call up and say, what can I offer, what’s my specialty?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes. And people can go to our website, joiningforces.gov. And we’ve got thousands of wonderful ideas, suggestions, things that are going on in communities all across this country. That’s a good place to start.

MS. DEGENERES: Great. Great. Now, Mrs. Obama, before we go any further, I think it’s time we talk about the push-up situation. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’re still bothered by that, huh?

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Still feeling the wounds of defeat. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Let’s just make sure that everyone sees what we’re talking about here. You were here in February, we had a competition to see who could do the most push-ups. I did 20, and you did 25. (Laughter.) Now, let’s just watch the video for a second and then we’ll comment.

Anything you’d like to say?

MRS. OBAMA: I could have done 35. I stopped because I felt bad for you. (Laughter and applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: I bet you could have. I actually bet you could have.

All right, we have to take a break. And we’ll be back with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and we have a surprise for a few lucky people there. We’ll be right back. I’m going to do some push-ups. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! I’m exhausted. I just did 53 push-ups. (Laughter and applause.)

We’re back with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She’s in Jacksonville, Florida right now with military families. (Applause.) Mrs. Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Mrs. Obama, tell me who you’re sitting with right now.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh man, we’ve got some great, beautiful young ladies. They’re just gorgeous. You want me to pass the mic? You want to hear from them? You want to hear who’s here?

MS. DEGENERES: Sure, let me meet them.

MRS. OBAMA: All right, we’ve got —

Q Hi, I’m Rachel.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, Rachel. You excited to be there today?

Q Oh, I’m extremely excited to be here. I’m so honored. I’m here with all my classmates and my family members as well.

MS. DEGENERES: Well, it’s so nice to meet you Rachel. Who are you sitting next to?

Q I’m sitting next to —

Q Hey! My name’s Kianna. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hey, Kianna! (Applause.) Hey Kianna, I love your energy. And your mom is serving overseas right now, right?

Q Yes, she is.

MS. DEGENERES: And how do you stay in touch?

Q My mom calls our house a few times a week, and I always enjoy whenever she calls the house. I love hearing her voice, but it reminds me of her background.

MS. DEGENERES: I bet, I bet. And you’re sitting next to?

Q Hi Ellen. My name is Elise.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi Elise, how are you?

Q I’m good. How are you?

MS. DEGENERES: And your dad is a Navy vet? I’m fantastic, thank you. Your dad is a Navy veteran. What is the best thing about being a military kid?

Q I really think that it teaches you a lot of good characteristics and to have a lot of strength and courage. Because it’s really not easy when you have a family member out in deployment.

MS. DEGENERES: I know, it certainly is not easy, and that’s why you get so much love and support from all of us. We admire your strength and everything that your parents are doing for us. (Applause.)

So my question is, it’s almost prom. You’re looking forward to that, I bet, right?

Q Yes. Definitely.

MS. DEGENERES: Now, Mrs. Obama, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you my prom picture. I just wanted to — I want to show you my prom picture first. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: That is an excellent picture. Love the dress. Love the dress.

MS. DEGENERES: Thank you very much. That was a tablecloth at one point. (Laughter.) Now, I heard you have a good one too, so I thought I would share yours. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That split was a little high. I don’t know if I’d let my kids go out with a split that high, so let’s not show this to Malia and Sasha.

MS. DEGENERES: All right. Were you shopping at Pier One or something? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’ve never done the wicker chair shot? That’s standard.

MS. DEGENERES: No, I’ve seen the wicker chairs before but — I didn’t know it was standard.

All right. Well, listen, JC Penny knows that you guys are getting ready for prom. They’re a one-stop shop for all your prom needs. They have dresses, shoes, accessories — even a salon — all at great prices. So they’re giving all three of you a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

And I know there are 300 other students there with you all for the event today who need to get ready for the prom as well. So all of you students who are there in Florida with Mrs. Obama are also getting a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

Thank you so much for your time today, Mrs. Obama. You know I admire you, I think you’re an amazing, amazing woman. Thank you for all that you’re doing. We’re going to put something up on our website if anyone wants to get involved with Joining Forces. And we send our love and our support to all of you there. Thank you so much for all you do. And thank you, again, Mrs. Obama, for your time.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, Ellen. We love you. This is amazing. (Applause.) Thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: Love you, too. We’ll be right back.

END
6:30 P.M. EDT

Political Highlights April 18, 2011: President Obama & Republican’s Divergent Debt Reduction Budget Plans

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, Samantha Appleton, 4/15/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Poll shows Americans oppose entitlement cuts to deal with debt problem: Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
    The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.
    On Monday, Standard & Poor’s, for the first time, shifted its outlook on U.S. creditworthiness to “negative” because of the nation’s accumulating debt. The announcement rattled investors and could increase pressure on both sides in Washington to work out a broader deal as part of the upcoming vote over increasing the government’s borrowing authority…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • New Poll Shows Obama Falling, But Not Below GOP Contenders: Economic anxiety is driving President Obama’s approval rating to nearly its lowest level yet, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows, but he still edges out any possible GOP opponent for 2012. The president’s 47 percent approval rating is down seven points from January, but he would get a majority of the vote against every potential Republican White House candidate except former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom he leads by a 49 to 45 percent margin.
    Results prove a direct correlation between the faltering economy and Obama’s grade: “Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse,” the Post reported, and Americans demonstrate particular concern for rising gas prices; meanwhile, 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • The GOP’s 2012 Enthusiasm Gap: New numbers out this morning bears bad news for Barack Obama but worse news for every single one of the GOP candidates. According to a poll by ABC News/Washington Post out today, only 43 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with the potential candidates for president and a further 17 percent have no opinion about the field. These two numbers are dramatically low compared to this stage in the 2008 elections, and analysts suggest that the GOP candidates’ reticence to formally enter the race might have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • A Gallup poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans approve of the budget deal that slices $38 billion from spending for the next six months, the president has moved toward embracing the role of deficit slayer.

IN FOCUS

  • Obama unveils plan to reduce borrowing by $4 trillion over the next 12 years: President Obama unveiled a framework Wednesday to reduce borrowing over the next 12 years by $4 trillion — a goal that falls short of targets set by his deficit commission and House Republicans — and called for a new congressional commission to help develop a plan to get there. In his most ambitious effort to claim the mantle of deficit cutter, Obama proposed sharp new cuts to domestic and military spending, and an overhaul of the tax code that would raise fresh revenue. But he steered clear of fundamental changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the primary drivers of future spending….
  • Obama’s Debt Plan Pairs Cuts With Higher Taxes on Rich: In a speech on Wednesday, President Obama called for cutting the nation’s budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years, countering Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts.
    In a speech that serves as the administration’s opening bid for negotiations over the nation’s fiscal future, Mr. Obama conceded a need to cut spending, rein in the growth of entitlement programs and close tax loopholes, officials said shortly before he spoke.
    But he also insisted that the government must maintain what he called investment in programs that are necessary to compete globally. And he made clear that, despite his compromise with Congressional leaders in December, Mr. Obama would fight Republicans to end lowered tax rates for wealthy Americans that have been in place since President George W. Bush championed them in the last decade…. – NYT, 4-13-11
  • Obama’s Debt Plan Sets Stage for Long Battle Over Spending: President Obama made the case Wednesday for slowing the rapid growth of the national debt while retaining core Democratic values, proposing a mix of long-term spending cuts, tax increases and changes to social welfare programs as his opening position in a fierce partisan budget battle over the nation’s fiscal challenges.
    After spending months on the sidelines as Republicans laid out their plans, Mr. Obama jumped in to present an alternative and a philosophical rebuttal to the conservative approach that will reach the House floor on Friday. Republican leaders were working Wednesday to round up votes for that measure and one to finance the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
    Mr. Obama said his proposal would cut federal budget deficits by a cumulative $4 trillion over 12 years, compared with a deficit reduction of $4.4 trillion over 10 years in the Republican plan. But the president said he would use starkly different means, rejecting the fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Republicans and relying in part on tax increases on affluent Americans…. – NYT, 4-13-11
  • Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text): Following is a text of President Obama’s debt-reduction speech, delivered on Wednesday at George Washington University, as released by the White House… – NYT, 4-13-11
  • A Meeting with Bipartisan Leadership on Fiscal Policy: This morning, the President and the Vice President hosted a meeting with bipartisan House and Senate Leadership in the Cabinet Room to discuss the fiscal policy vision that President Obama laid out in a speech at George Washington University this afternoon.
    In the speech, the President proposed a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission, and builds on the $1 trillion in deficit reduction proposed in the 2012 budget. At the same time, it will protect the middle-class, defend our commitments to seniors, and make the smart investments we need to create good jobs and grow our economy…. – WH, 4-13-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • U.S. defends role in Libya: U.S officials defended America’s role in the NATO-led mission in Libya Monday, amid criticism that Washington is not doing enough as the coalition struggles. White House spokesman Jay Carney downplayed reports that NATO is running out of munitions to fight the war. Carney told reporters that “a dramatic increase” in NATO sorties Sunday and Monday “demonstrates the capacity of NATO to fulfill its mission” in securing a no-fly zone over Libya. “We have no plans to change our posture,” he said…. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • Libyan rebels say they’ve reached oil town again: Libya’s rebel forces advanced once again to the strategic oil town of Brega thanks to four days of airstrikes by NATO, a rebel officer said Saturday. Following scattered clashes with government forces, the rebels reached the outskirts of Brega, which has already changed hands half a dozen times since fighting began in early March, Col. Hamid Hassy said. Explosions that appeared to be from new airsrtrikes could still be heard Saturday in the area…. – AP, 4-15-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Paper: Documents show US funding Syrian opposition: The State Department has been secretly financing opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, The Washington Post reported, citing previously undisclosed diplomatic documents provided to the newspaper by the WikiLeaks website. One of the outfits funded by the U.S. is Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel that broadcasts anti-government news into Syria, the Post reported Sunday. Barada’s chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile group Movement for Justice and Development. The leaked documents show that the U.S. has provided at least $6 million to Barada TV and other opposition groups inside Syria, the newspaper said…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • After US pullback, Iraq envoys are more vulnerable: Make no mistake, Mazin al-Nazeni hates Americans. Soldiers, diplomats, oilmen — the militant leader in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, considers all of them to be Enemy No. 1. But U.S. diplomats in the southern port city say they’re here to stay — even if it’s at their peril.
    It’s a quandary for the Obama administration as the U.S. tries to move from invading power to normal diplomatic partner. But with the last American troops obligated to be gone by year’s end, the protection of American diplomats will fall almost entirely to private contractors and Iraqi security forces…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Envoy criticized for religious activism resigns: The U.S. ambassador to Malta has announced his resignation following a State Department report that criticized him for neglecting his official duties and spending too much time writing and speaking about his Catholic faith…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • US and Pakistan struggle with ‘unhappy’ alliance: When U.S. President Barack Obama inherited Washington’s partnership with Pakistan, he kept the money flowing in hopes that stronger ties would help end the Afghan war and give Pakistan more tools to keep its nuclear arsenal from falling into extremists’ hands. What Washington has gotten for its billions, however, is limited progress on clearing militant strongholds on the Afghan-Pakistan border and a souring relationship that included threats this month to limit CIA drone strikes and require Pakistani clearance for Washington spy operations…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • G-20 nations reach agreement on imbalances: The world’s major economies reached an agreement Friday on how to measure and prevent the types of dangerous imbalances that contributed to the worst global downturn in seven decades. The deal was announced in a joint statement issued following a day of talks among finance officials from the Group of 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets such as China and Brazil. The effort will monitor countries and prod them to take corrective actions when imbalances in such areas as foreign trade or government debt rise to excessive levels…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • China trims holdings of US securities in February: Total foreign holdings increased 0.5 percent to $4.47 trillion. However, as the government moves closer to the $14.3 trillion debt limit, it will have to scale back sales unless Congress moves to raise the limit. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that the government will hit its current limit no later than May 16. But Geithner said it will be able to avoid an unprecedented default on the national debt through various accounting maneuvers for possibly another two months. If the government failed to pay bondholders the interest that they were due, it could drive borrowing costs higher not only for the U.S. government but also for consumers and American businesses…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • US worried Iran may be supporting Syrian crackdown: The Obama administration said Thursday that Iran appears to be helping Syria crack down on protesters, calling it a troubling example of Iranian meddling in the region and an indication that Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar Assad, isn’t interested in real reform.
    State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was troubled by reports that Iran was assisting its closest Arab ally to put down the protests. “There is credible information that Iran is assisting Syria … in quelling the protesters,” Toner told reporters. “If Syria’s turning to Iran for help, it can’t be very serious about real reform.” AP, 4-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama President meets with the House and Senate Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the budget. Attending the meeting are, from left,: House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor; House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi; House Speaker John Boehner; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. April 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama begins selling ‘balanced’ deficit plan: President Obama began a coast-to-coast sales pitch Tuesday for something that may prove tough to sell: spending cuts and tax increases. It’s the exact opposite prescription from what Obama spent his first two years in office pitching — a one-two punch of stimulus spending and tax cuts designed to lift the nation out of a major recession.
    To make his case, the president warned that his “balanced” combination of defense and domestic spending cuts and higher taxes on upper-income Americans was the best way to block a Republican plan to privatize Medicare and cut taxes for the wealthy. “I think that is the wrong way to go,” Obama told about 550 students and local residents at Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington suburbs. “That would fundamentally change Medicare as we know it, and I’m not going to sign up for that.”… – USA Today, 4-19-11
  • Obama off to ‘friend’ Facebook in person: President Barack Obama heads to Facebook’s headquarters on Wednesday to tout his budget cuts to followers of the social media powerhouse, which he also hopes to use to help get reelected. Obama, whose audacious 2008 White House bid leaned heavily on social networking sites, will hype his “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” plan at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.
    With his 2012 reelection campaign just getting into gear, Obama is moving to bring some love to the more than 19 million Facebook followers he has, up close and in person.
    The US president is to take part at 2045 GMT in a scheduled question and answer session at the headquarters not far from San Francisco. If the format is different, the content should be familiar: Obama has been hammering away since April 13 at his strategy to get the federal deficit under control and pare US debt…. – AFP, 4-19-11
  • Plane carrying Michelle Obama aborts landing because of controller error: A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to federal officials familiar with the incident. Ultimately, controllers at Andrews feared that the cargo jet was not moving quickly enough to clear the runway in time for the White House plane to land, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies.
    Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Tuesday that the first lady was aboard the plane and said that “the aircraft were never in any danger.” The White House referred all questions to the FAA…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • Immigration Is Lead Topic as Leaders Are Gathered: President Obama told a gathering of business, labor, religious and political leaders at the White House on Tuesday that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and wants to try again in the coming months to push Congress to pass a bill. With his re-election campaign launched this month and Latino communities growing increasingly frustrated with his immigration policies, Mr. Obama summoned more than 60 high-profile supporters of the stalled overhaul legislation to a strategy session, looking for ways to revive it. Among those attending were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, an independent; Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, a Democrat; and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Obama to hold meeting on immigration reform: President Barack Obama, under fire for not taking on immigration reform yet, has marshaled a high-profile meeting in an attempt to show wide and varied support for an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. The invitees are among a bipartisan group expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss revamping the immigration system…. AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama, Panama’s president to meet April 28: The White House says President Barack Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will meet for the first time later this month…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Work begins on new SC school featured by Obama: Construction is starting on a new school in South Carolina more than two years after a student wrote Congress about the decrepit conditions at her school…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • US official: US opposes Syria for UN rights body: The Obama administration will oppose Syria’s candidacy to the United Nations’ top human rights body, an official said Monday, calling the Arab country’s attempt to gain a seat in the organization “hypocritical” while it uses violence to try to silence protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime. The diplomatic push against Assad’s government comes as thousands of Syrians continue to demonstrate for democratic reforms. Human rights groups say more than 200 have been killed by security forces in a month of protests…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pentagon inquiry clears McChrystal of wrongdoing: A Pentagon inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his dismissal as the top US commander in Afghanistan has cleared him of wrongdoing. The probe’s results released Monday also called into question the accuracy of the magazine’s report last June, which quoted anonymously people around McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Barack Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden.
    At the time he dismissed McChrystal, Obama said the general had fallen short of “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” The Defense Department inspector general’s report, however, concluded that available evidence did not support the conclusion that McChrystal had violated any applicable legal or ethics standard…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama extends Passover greetings to Netanyahu: The White House says President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed cooperation on counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and violence in the Gaza Strip during a telephone conversation Monday…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama to award trophy to AF Academy football team: President Barack Obama meets with some of the troops Monday, but not the usual kind or for the usual reasons. Obama will present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden. The Falcons won the trophy in early November by beating West Point, 42-22…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Job cuts for poor seniors could up homelessness: Under the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, more than 75,000 elderly Americans living in poverty in all 50 states earn their keep by the slimmest of margins. To qualify, participants must be over 55 and earning less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,600 a year.
    In the budget bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama, the program was slashed by 45 percent, from $825 million to $450 million a year. Advocates say it could mean as many as 58,000 fewer jobs if states or national groups are forced to discontinue the program because of the reductions…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Congress Can’t Kill Advisory Posts, Obama Declares in Signing Statement: President Obama is refusing to eliminate several “czars” who were cut in the fiscal 2011 spending bill, calling the provision a violation of the separation of powers. When Congress unveiled its budget compromise last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the provision as the elimination of “four of the Obama Administration’s controversial czars.” Among the cut czars was the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a position that was held by Carol Browner until she stepped down in January. But in a signing statement Friday, Obama argued that lawmakers had overstepped their authority. “The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” Obama wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.”…. – NYT, 4-18-11
  • Obamas report $1.7 mn in income for 2010: US President Barack Obama and his wife earned $1.7 million last year, a significant drop from the prior year as sales of the president’s books slowed, according to tax documents released Monday. The president and Michelle Obama reported 2010 adjusted gross income of $1,728,096, down from $5.5 million in 2009.
    While the salary for US president is $395,000 annually, “the vast majority of the family’s income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Obama earned $1.38 million in 2010 from sales of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” “Dreams From My Father,” and “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” That’s down from nearly $5.2 million in books’ revenue from 2009…. – AFP, 4-18-11
  • Obama and Biden release tax returns. Will Trump, Palin, and other contenders?: President Obama and Vice President Biden release their returns on Tax Day. Sarah Palin last released hers as a VP candidate in 2008, and The Donald’s finances are carefully guarded…. – CS Monitor, 4-18-11
  • Geithner confident Congress will raise debt limit: Geithner told ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans told President Barack Obama in a White House meeting last Wednesday that they will go along with a higher limit.
    “I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling,” Geithner said in the interviews taped Saturday and aired Sunday. He said the leaders told Obama that they couldn’t play around with the government’s credit rating. “They recognize it, and they told the president that on Wednesday in the White House,” Geithner said…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • OC Republican allegedly sent offensive Obama email: A Southern California Republican Party official was under fire Saturday after allegations she sent an email that included an altered photo depicting President Barack Obama as an ape. An e-mail reportedly sent by party central committee member Marilyn Davenport shows an image, posed like a family portrait, of chimpanzee parents and child, with Obama’s face artificially superimposed on the child. Text beneath the photo reads, “Now you know why no birth certificate.”
    The alternative newspaper OC Weekly first reported the story, and was told by Davenport that the e-mail was “just an Internet joke.” She also asked the Weekly, “You’re not going to make a big deal about this are you?”
    Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh told The Associated Press on Saturday that he wants an ethics investigation into the incident. “It’s just highly inappropriate, it’s a despicable message, it drips with racism and I think she should step down from the committee,” said Baugh…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Obama assesses GOP budget: ‘Wrong for America’: President Barack Obama is promoting his new deficit-reduction plan by drawing sharp contrasts with a House Republican budget that he says offers a vision that “is wrong for America.”
    In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama contended that Republicans want to dismantle venerable safety net programs and cut taxes for the wealthy at the expense of students paying for college and older adults relying on Medicare.
    “To restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice – but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Obama: Congress will compromise, raise debt limit: President Barack Obama, insisting a politically divided government will not risk tanking the world economy, says Congress will once again raise the amount of debt the country can pile up to ensure it has money to pay its bills. For the first time, though, he signaled that he will have to go along with more spending cuts to ensure a deal with Republicans.
    In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, the president also spoke in his most confident terms yet that voters will reward him with another four years in the White House for his work to turn around the economy. Speaking from his hometown and the site of his newly launched re-election bid, Obama said he thinks voters will determine he is the best prepared person “to finish the job.”… – AP, 4-16-11
  • US says new oil pipeline study shows no new issues: The State Department said Friday that a new environmental study of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas shows no new issues since a similar report was issued last year. The report on the proposed $7 billion, 1,900-mile pipeline, comes as President Barack Obama offered his first public comments on the project, which would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada, to refineries in Texas. At a town hall meeting on energy last week, Obama said concerns about the potentially “destructive” nature of the Canadian oil sands need to be answered before his administration decides whether to approve a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
    The pipeline planned by Calgary-based TransCanada would travel through six U.S. states carrying what environmental groups call “dirty oil,” because of the intensive energy needed to extract crude from formations of sand, clay and water…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: GOP tried to “sneak” agenda into budget: In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week. CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama’s conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room. In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program.
    “I said, ‘you want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?'” recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September.
    What’s in the budget bill? Mr. Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and members of his staff that he’d spent a year and a half getting the sweeping health care legislation passed — paying “significant political costs” along the way — and wouldn’t let them undo it in a six-month spending bill…. – CBS News, 4-15-11
  • Oops: An open microphone night for the president: “I said, ‘You wanna repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. But you’re not going to be able to do it by nickel and diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?
    “This is the same guy who voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill but wasn’t paid for,” Obama said.
    “The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff,” he said. “I’m like, ‘C’mon guys, I’m the president of the United States. Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up?’ It doesn’t happen.” Government information technology, he complained, is “horrible.” “It’s true in the Pentagon. It’s true in the agencies. It’s true in the Department of Homeland Security.”
    “Pretty influential guy,” Obama told his donors. “He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform.” Letting the careful language of diplomacy slide, he continued: “Now he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move toward democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama signs bill striking small part of health law: President Barack Obama has signed the first rollback of last year’s health care law, a bipartisan repeal of a burdensome tax-reporting requirement that’s widely unpopular with businesses…. – AP, 4-14-11
  • Obama: Senate vote against debt ceiling a mistake: As the White House presses Congress “not to play chicken” with a vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, President Barack Obama says his vote as a senator in 2006 against raising the debt cap was a mistake motivated by politics. “Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars,” Obama said.
    It’s Republicans who are now threatening to withhold their support for raising the limit. As a result, Obama says Senate Democrats will have to carry the burden of an unpopular vote when Congress votes on whether to lift the limit sometime during the next three months…. – AP, 4-14-11
  • Obama signs spending bill he negotiated with GOP: President Barack Obama signed a six-month spending bill Friday that cuts more than $38 billion from the current budget. The legislation averted a government shutdown and was the result of intense negotiations between the White House and emboldened Republicans. There was no signing ceremony.
    “The prosecution of terrorists in federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the nation and must be among the options available to us,” he said. “Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our nation’s counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Congress passes 2011 spending plan: Republican House Speaker John Boehner needed help from the Democrats to pass a budget compromise Thursday, keeping the government open and honoring a deal worked out with Senate Democrats and President Obama last week.
    Fifty-nine House Republicans voted against the spending plan, which cuts $38 billion compared to last year’s budget. It took 81 Democrats voting yes to pass it. The final vote was 260 to 167.
    The spending bill went immediately to the Senate, which passed it with no debate, 81-19. Of the no votes, 15 were Republicans… – USA Today, 4-15-11
  • Unruly G.O.P. Puts Boehner to a Test in Budget Vote: It should have been a moment of victory for Speaker John A. Boehner and fellow members of a House Republican leadership team still learning on the job as they forced through a record level of spending cuts. Instead, it felt a little like defeat.
    Though the House voted convincingly to end the spending fight that had brought the government to the brink of a shutdown, Democrats had to ride to the rescue to provide the winning margin as dozens of Republicans turned thumbs down.
    Fifty-nine Republicans — nearly a quarter of the new majority — rejected the measure personally negotiated by Mr. Boehner and endorsed by his top lieutenants, Representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip. Another lawmaker said he would have opposed the measure but missed the vote. Twenty-seven of the 59 who bucked the leadership were freshmen…. – 4-14-11
  • Obama’s debt plan has four elements — including Medicare and taxes: President Obama will focus on four items in today’s speech on reducing the federal debt, the White House says in a statement: lower domestic spending, less defense spending, excess spending in Medicare and Medicaid and elimination of tax breaks that favor the wealthy.
    Medicare and taxes are likely to be the most controversial: Liberal groups such as MoveOn.org have warned Obama against making changes to Medicare; congressional Republicans have said Obama’s calls for tax changes amount to a call for tax hikes.
    Obama will “borrow” many of the recommendations made by his bipartisan fiscal commission, the White House said in a statement, but it did not detail which proposals the president will endorse.
    “The president will advocate a balanced approach to controlling out-of-control deficits and restoring fiscal responsibility while protecting the investments we need to grow our economy, create jobs and win the future,” the statement said…. – USA Today, 4-13-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner: DOJ funds should pay to defend marriage: House Speaker John Boehner says the Justice Department should reimburse the House for court costs of defending a ban on gay marriage. In a letter Monday to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Ohio Republican says he shares her concern over the cost of defending the law in court and intends to “redirect” some of the department’s money to the House as repayment…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pelosi: House Dems shut out but helped pass budget: Their votes required to pass a budget for the year, House Democrats expect a bigger role in the upcoming fiscal showdowns and other matters in which House Speaker John Boehner can’t muster a GOP majority, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday. Republicans “don’t have the votes to pass some of these bills,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said during an interview with The Associated Press. “If we’re going to have to supply the votes, we’re going to have to be at the table.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • House passes GOP budget plan cutting $6.2T from Obama budget, promising Medicare overhaul –
  • A look at the $3.5 trillion House-passed budget: Highlights of the $3.5 trillion budget passed by the House on Friday. The Republican plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is a framework for changes to spending or tax policy in subsequent legislation for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it would never pass the Senate…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama: In a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly.
    The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans
    The GOP budget passed 235-193 with every Democrat voting “no.” Obama said in an Associated Press interview that it would “make Medicare into a voucher program. That’s something that we strongly object to.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Moderate Dems stand with Obama on health care: Tough re-election campaigns looming, a handful of moderate Senate Democrats voted on Thursday to keep the money flowing to President Barack Obama’s health care law despite increasing public opposition to the year-old overhaul. The deal on the spending bill struck by Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., required a separate vote on cutting off money for the year-old health care overhaul. The effort failed, 53-47, falling 13 votes short of the 60 votes needed for passage, but it put lawmakers on record — an outcome relished by Republicans looking ahead to 2012…. – AP, 4-14-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • High court takes no action on Va. health care case: The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia’s call for speedy review of the health care law. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • New climate change case headed to Supreme Court: The Obama administration and environmental interests generally agree that global warming is a threat that must be dealt with. But they’re on opposite sides of a Supreme Court case over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society that want to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions.
    The administration is siding with American Electric Power Co. and three other companies in urging the high court to throw out the lawsuit on grounds the Environmental Protection Agency, not a federal court, is the proper authority to make rules about climate change. The justices will hear arguments in the case Tuesday…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Gov’t asks high court to take GPS tracking case: The Obama administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to take up an important privacy case for the digital age, whether the police need a warrant before using a global positioning system device to track a suspect’s movements. The administration is appealing a lower court ruling that reversed a criminal conviction because the police did not obtain a warrant for the GPS device they secretly installed on a man’s car.
    The federal appeals court in Washington said that officers violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches. Other appeals courts have ruled that search warrants aren’t necessary for GPS tracking…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Court dismisses suit over National Day of Prayer: A federal appeals court on Thursday threw out a ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and ordered that a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s right to proclaim the day be dismissed. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to sue because while they disagree with the president’s proclamation, it has not caused them any harm. “A feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury,” the appeals court said…. – AP, 4-14-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Why Arizona governor vetoed gun law and ‘birther bill,’ irking the right: Jan Brewer, Arizona governor, surprised conservatives by vetoing a bill to allow guns onto college campuses and a ‘birther bill’ to require certain proofs of US citizenship for presidential candidates…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Obama as a chimp? E-mail gives California GOP problems it didn’t need: The California GOP had a historically bad election in 2010, partly because it has trouble connecting with immigrants and minorities. An e-mail from a local Republican official touting the ‘birther’ conspiracy and showing Obama as a chimp won’t help…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief: Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Monday picked Rochester, N.Y., schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the new Chicago Public Schools chief, selecting a leader who recently earned a no-confidence vote from his local teachers but someone Emanuel praised as not being afraid of “tough choices.”
    “And that is what Chicago students need today,” Emanuel said of Brizard, whom he called “J.C.” while introducing him at a press conference at a nearly empty Chicago high school because students are on spring break. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest district with more than 400,000 students and 675 schools… – AP, 4-18-11
  • Republican legislative gains tug nation to right: In state after state, Republicans are moving swiftly past blunted Democratic opposition to turn a conservative wish-list into law. Their successes, spurred by big election gains in November, go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the fiscal crunch and tea party agitation. Republican governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into effect from Virginia to Arizona, expanding gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that are anathema to Democrats and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • NC gov nearly moved to tears by tornado damage: North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue says her tour of tornado-ravaged portions of her state nearly brought her to tears. Perdue told said at a Sunday afternoon news conference in Raleigh that nothing she saw surprised her, given her experience with natural disasters…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Austin residents return to wildfire-scorched homes: Gov. Rick Perry asked President Barack Obama on Sunday for federal disaster funding, and forestry officials said Monday that the threat of new wildfires remained extremely high in the western part of the state. “We really need the federal government to step up at a substantially greater role that they have been playing,” Perry said Monday…. – AP, 4-17-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Dems: Sanchez likely to run for Texas Sen. seat: Democratic officials said Monday that retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile recruit to fill the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • WaPo, 4-17-11
  • 2012 presidential candidates ‘friend’ social media: Republican Tim Pawlenty disclosed his 2012 presidential aspirations on Facebook. Rival Mitt Romney did it with a tweet. President Barack Obama kicked off his re-election bid with a digital video emailed to the 13 million online backers who helped power his historic campaign in 2008. Welcome to The Social Network, presidential campaign edition.
    The candidates and contenders have embraced the Internet to far greater degrees than previous White House campaigns, communicating directly with voters on platforms where they work and play. If Obama’s online army helped define the last campaign and Howard Dean’s Internet fundraising revolutionized the Democratic primary in 2004, next year’s race will be the first to reflect the broad cultural migration to the digital world…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • ‘Tea-Paw?’ Ex-Minn. governor courts tea partyers: Republican Tim Pawlenty, “T-Paw” to his supporters, has increasingly tied himself to the new crop of grass-roots activists in the 2012 presidential campaign. So maybe it’s time to call the former Minnesota governor “Tea-Paw.”
    “I’m not trying to introduce myself to the tea party. I’m trying to introduce myself to the whole party … because I’m not known outside of Minnesota,” Pawlenty told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of a Saturday appearance at a tea party rally at the Iowa Statehouse. He spoke at a similar rally in Boston on Friday and to the movement’s national summit in Phoenix in February…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Trump stalls TV contract while mulling campaign: Donald Trump says he has put off agreeing to an extension of his “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show while he weighs a presidential bid. The real estate mogul and potential Republican contender says he told NBC on Friday he could not commit to a three-year contract extension for the series until he decides whether he’s running…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Meaning of presidential qualification is unclear: An Arizona bill that would require presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can appear on the state’s ballot has rekindled a debate about the qualifications for running for the nation’s highest political office. The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be natural-born U.S. citizens, at least 35 years old and be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.
    However, the Founding Fathers didn’t elaborate on “natural-born citizen,” so the term has been left open to interpretation… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Ariz. plows controversial ground with birther bill: Arizona, a state that has shown little reluctance in bucking the federal government, is again plowing controversial political ground, this time as its Legislature passed a bill to require President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names can appear on the state’s ballot.
    If Gov. Jan Brewer signs the proposal into law, Arizona would be the first state to pass such a requirement — potentially forcing a court to decide whether the president’s birth certificate is enough to prove he can legally run for re-election. Hawaii officials have certified Obama was born in that state, but so-called “birthers” have demanded more proof…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Likely GOP contenders plot tea party strategies: As the tea party turns 2, the still-gelling field of Republican presidential contenders is the first class of White House hopefuls to try to figure out how to tap the movement’s energy without alienating voters elsewhere on the political spectrum. Look no further than this weekend’s events marking the tea party’s second anniversary to see how the candidates are employing different strategies. Some will be out front as the tea party stages tax day rallies across the country. Others, not so much…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama visits his hometown to restart money chase: President Barack Obama restarted his formidable fundraising operation Thursday with a challenge to supporters that the 2012 presidential campaign will be about how to fix the country’s money problems without doing harm to “the America we believe in.”
    “We are going to be able to present a very clear option to the American people,” the president told Chicago hometown supporters in his first fundraisers since formally announcing his re-election last week. “We can get our fiscal house in order, but we can do it in a way that is consistent with our values and who we are as a people. Or we can decide to shrink our vision of what America is. And I don’t believe in shrinking America.” – AP, 4-15-11
  • Pawlenty finally makes it unofficial: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty preempted his own long-expected presidential announcement Tuesday, telling CNN interviewer Piers Morgan: “I’m running for president.” Pawlenty’s remark, his first direct acknowledgment that he will run, came in response to a question about whether he would agree to become a candidate for vice president on a ticket led by someone like Donald Trump.
    “I’m running for president,” Pawlenty said, “I’m not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president. So I’m focused on running for president.” “We’ll have a final or full announcement on that in the coming weeks here,” Pawlenty said. “It won’t be long too much longer, but everything is headed in that direction.”…. – Star Tribune, 4-13-11
  • Romney Makes it Official, Quietly: Mr. Romney, a top contender in the 2008 presidential campaign, has so far been content to remain largely quiet while other Republicans seek the media spotlight. At this stage, Mr. Romney tops most polls as the Republican front-runner and his advisers saw little need to compete for the boost in name recognition that comes with an early declaration.
    But the pressures of fund-raising are likely to be even greater this time around, with President Obama expected to raise as much as $1 billion for his reelection campaign. Every day that Mr. Romney waited to declare his intentions was a day that he could not raise any money for his bid. That ends now. With a new Web site — www.mittromney.com — and an official registration with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Romney will now be able to tap his donors for money that he can use to once again seek the Republican nomination.
    “From my vantage point in business and in government, I have become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years,” Mr. Romney said in the video. “But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead.” NYT, 4-11-11
  • Romney in _ almost _ announcing exploratory effort: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the closest to a front-runner in a wide-open Republican field, took a major step toward a second White House candidacy Monday, formally announcing a campaign exploratory committee.
    Romney declared that “with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead,” vigorously asserting that President Barack Obama had failed to provide it. The Republican, who has been plotting a comeback since losing the GOP presidential nomination to John McCain three years ago, offered himself as the person best able to lead a country struggling to recover from economic crisis.
    “It is time that we put America back on a course of greatness with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington,” Romney, a former venture capitalist with a record of turning around failing companies, said in a video posted on his website and on Facebook. He also announced the formation of the committee, which will allow him to raise money, in a Twitter message…. – AP, 4-11-11

QUOTES

Lawrence Jackson, 4/12/11
  • Brad Watson’s Interview with President ObamaWFAA, 4-19-11
  • Sarah Palin: Happy Passover: Tonight is Passover, the Jewish people’s celebration of their deliverance from bondage and their Exodus to the Land of Israel. Passover contains poignant spiritual and historical meaning for Jews, but it also reminds all of us of mankind’s universal aspiration to be free from bondage and oppression. Today, in the same region where the story of Exodus took place, Arabs suffering under despotic regimes are seeking their own freedom and self- determination. As Jews in Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, gather for Passover, we hope for the spread of freedom and peace throughout the region. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to the Jewish community. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem. –
  • The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation: “This time of year calls us to reflection and remembrance about Jewish heritage. American Jews have given of their heart and soul for an America that has ever been a haven for the oppressed. That is reason for every American to rejoice and to remember.” – Ronald Reagan, 1987
  • Barack Obama: My family and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating the sacred festival of Passover. As Jewish families gather for this joyous celebration of freedom, let us all be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, and let us work to alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free. Chag Sameach.
  • Weekly Address: “We Can Live Within Our Means and Live Up to the Values We Share as Americans” Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Saturday, April 16, 2011 Washington, DC: This week, I laid out my plan for our fiscal future. It’s a balanced plan that reduces spending and brings down the deficit, putting America back on track toward paying down our debt.
    We know why this challenge is so critical. If we don’t act, a rising tide of borrowing will damage our economy, costing us jobs and risking our future prosperity by sticking our children with the bill.
    At the same time, we have to take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit – an approach that protects the middle class, our commitments to seniors, and job-creating investments in things like education and clean energy. What’s required is an approach that draws support from both parties, and one that’s based on the values of shared responsibility and shared prosperity.
    Now, one plan put forward by some Republicans in the House of Representatives aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years. But while I think their goal is worthy, I believe their vision is wrong for America….
    I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think it’s right to ask seniors to pay thousands more for health care, or ask students to postpone college, just so we don’t have to ask those who have prospered so much in this land of opportunity to give back a little more.
    To restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice – but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in.
    That’s why I’ve proposed a balanced approach that matches that $4 trillion in deficit reduction. It’s an approach that combs the entire budget for savings, and asks everyone to do their part. And I’ve called on Democrats and Republicans to join me in this effort – to put aside their differences to help America meet this challenge. That’s how we’ve balanced our budget before, and it’s how we’ll succeed again….
    So that’s my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years while protecting the middle class, keeping our promise to seniors, and securing our investments in our future. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself on WhiteHouse.gov. And while you’re there, you can also find what we’re calling the taxpayer receipt. For the first time ever, there’s a way for you to see exactly how and where your tax dollars are spent, and what’s really at stake in this debate.
    Going forward, Democrats and Republicans in Washington will have our differences, some of them strong. But you expect us to bridge those differences. You expect us to work together and get this done. And I believe we can. I believe we can live within our means and live up to the values we share as Americans. And in the weeks to come, I’ll work with anyone who’s willing to get it done. – WH, 4-16-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Highlights of Obama’s interview with AP: Highlights of President Barack Obama’s interview Friday with The Associated Press… – AP, 4-16-11
  • Text of Obama’s interview with the AP: Text of President Barack Obama’s interview Friday with Associated Press White House Correspondent Ben Feller, as transcribed by the White House… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says he’s best prepared to move economy: President Barack Obama is making his case for re-election, saying he was able to yank the economy out of its hole and is the best person to finish the job…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says he has not made the case to public on closing Guantanamo; needs help from CongressAP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi is feeling pressure to leave: President Barack Obama says a military stalemate exists on the ground in Libya, but the United States and NATO have averted a “wholesale slaughter” and Moammar Gadhafi is under increasing pressure to leave… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama differs with tea party but welcomes debate: President Barack Obama praises the tea party movement for getting Americans engaged in politics, but he says he strongly disagrees with its views… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: US troop withdrawal in summer from Afghanistan will be significant, not ‘token gesture’AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: GOP budget plan would lead to fundamentally different society AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says a military stalemate exists on the ground in Libya, but he expects Gadhafi to leaveAP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: Debt ceiling won’t be raised without spending cuts; he expects compromise with GOP: President Barack Obama confidently predicted Friday that a divided Congress would raise the nation’s borrowing limit to cover the staggering federal debt rather than risk triggering a worldwide recession, but he conceded for the first time he would have to offer more spending cuts to Republicans to get a deal. Pushed to the brink, Obama said, the two parties would find “a smart compromise.”…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • The Country We Believe In: Improving America’s Fiscal Future Remarks by the President on Fiscal Policy George Washington University Washington, D.C.: What we’ve been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it’s about more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future that we want. It’s about the kind of country that we believe in. And that’s what I want to spend some time talking about today….
    This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know.
    The America I know is generous and compassionate. It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share. We’re a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. That’s who we are. This is the America that I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.
    To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.
    So today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table — but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
    So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America — a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children….
    But I also know that we’ve come together before and met big challenges. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously, disagreed on just about everything, but they still found a way to balance the budget. And in the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts.
    And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country. We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.
    So I believe we can, and must, come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach that I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit and get it done by the end of June….
    But no matter what we argue, no matter where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made these liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.
    This sense of responsibility — to each other and to our country — this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or a Republican idea. It’s patriotism…. – WH, 4-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President, the Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden Launch Joining Forces (joiningforces.gov) Remarks by the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and Dr. Biden at Launch of “Joining Forces” Initiative East Room:
    THE PRESIDENT: We are joined today by members of Congress, by members of my Cabinet, Joint Chiefs, by leaders across the administration and just about every sector of American society. But most of all, we’re joined by our service members and their families, representing the finest military that the world has ever known.
    And while the campaign that brings us all together is truly unique, it does reflect a spirit that’s familiar to all of us — the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries.
    Freedom is not free — simple words that we know are true. For 234 years, our freedom has been paid by the service and sacrifice of those who’ve stepped forward, raised their hand and said, “Send me.” They put on a uniform. They swear an oath to protect and defend. And they carry titles that have commanded the respect of generations — soldiers, airmen, Marine, sailor, Coast Guardsman.
    Our nation endures because these men and women are willing to defend it, with their very lives. And as a nation, it is our solemn duty and our moral obligation to serve these patriots as well as they serve us.
    But we are here today because these Americans in uniform have never served alone — not at Lexington, not at Concord, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan. Behind every American in uniform stands a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, a son or a daughter, a sister or brother. These families -— these remarkable families —- are the force behind the force. They, too, are the reason we’ve got the finest military in the world.
    Whenever I’m with our troops overseas, when I ask them what we can do for you, there’s one thing they request more than anything else: “Take care of my family.” Take care of my family. Because when our troops are worried about their families back home, it’s harder for them to focus on the mission overseas. The strength and the readiness of America’s military depends on the strength and readiness of our military families. This is a matter of national security. It’s not just the right thing to do; it also makes this country stronger.
    And that’s why, over the past two years, we’ve made major investments to take care of our military families. Secretary Gates has been one of the leaders in this process — new housing and childcare for families; new schools for military kids; better health care for veterans; new educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their family members under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
    And that’s why, as part of a landmark Presidential Study Directive, for the first time ever the well-being of our military families is now a national priority -— not just a Defense Department priority, not just a VA priority —- it is a federal government priority.
    Today, my administration is working to implement nearly 50 specific commitments to improve the lives of military families -—everything from protecting families from financial scams to improving education for military kids and spouses, to stepping up our fight to end homelessness among veterans. And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m not going to be satisfied until we meet these commitments. Across this administration, we’re going to keep doing everything in our power to give our military families the support and the respect that they deserve.
    But as we’ve said all along, this can’t be the work of government alone. Something else has been true throughout our history: Our military —- and our military families —- can’t be the only ones bearing the burden of our security. The United States of America is strongest -— and as Americans, we are at our best -— when we remember our obligations to each other. When we remember that the price of freedom cannot simply be paid by a select few. When we embrace our responsibilities to each other, especially those who serve and sacrifice in our name.
    And that’s why the extraordinary work that Michelle and Jill have been engaged in these past two years is so important. I remember how it began. It was during our campaign. Michelle was meeting with women all across the country, listening to their struggles, hearing their stories. And inevitably there were complaints about husbands and — (laughter) — not doing enough around the house and — (laughter) — being confused when you’ve got to brush the daughter’s hair and get that ponytail right. (Laughter.) So they were sharing notes. But in all these conversations, there was one group that just kept on capturing Michelle’s heart —- and that was military spouses.
    And she decided right then and there, if I was given an opportunity to serve as President and she was given the opportunity to serve as First Lady, she would be their voice. And that’s exactly what she and Jill have done.
    You all see the events around the country —- on the bases, in the communities, at the hospitals with our wounded warriors -— where Michelle and Jill celebrate our military families — celebrate your families -— and what we can do to support you better. But what you don’t see is what happens when the cameras are off; how Michelle and Jill come back, and they are inspired by what they saw, and they use their platform to advocate on your behalf in every single agency.
    So I want every military family to know that Michelle hears you —- not just as a First Lady, not just as a fellow American —- but as a wife, and a daughter, and a mom. She is standing up for you and your families — not just today, in public events like this one, but every day. And the voice that she promised to be, that’s what she’s been out there doing, making sure that you’re getting the support and appreciation that you and your families deserve.

    MICHELLE OBAMA: We call it Joining Forces for a very special reason. This campaign is about all of us, all of us joining together, as Americans, to give back to the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much, every day, so that we can live in freedom and security.
    Joining Forces is a challenge to every segment of American society to take action, to make a real commitment to supporting and engaging these families. And I want to thank all of you here because this campaign is the result of everything that so many of you have shared with us and taught us over the past two years.
    And I am especially grateful to my phenomenal partner in this effort, a Blue Star mom herself and a tireless champion of Guard and Reserve families, and an inspiration to me throughout this entire process, my dear friend, Dr. Jill Biden. And we need to give Jill — (applause.)
    Joining Forces is inspired by the amazing military spouses and children who we’ve met all across the country, some of whom, like Shirley, have been able to join us today; families who’ve told us that even with the huge outpouring of support for our troops over the last decade, the truth is that as a country, we don’t always see their families, our heroes on the home front. These families have appealed to us, like a military mom who wrote to me and said, “Please don’t let Americans forget or ignore what we live with.” Please don’t let them forget.
    Joining Forces is shaped by the insights of spouses like Becky Gates and Patty Shinseki and Deborah Mullen and spouses of the Joint Chiefs, spouses of our Senior Enlisted Advisors and countless spouses of all ranks, many of whom I see sprinkled around have been terrific advisors to us. Also, the passionate advocates representing military families who are here, and of course, member of Congress from both parties, they’re all in support of this. These are all leaders who’ve devoted their lives to serving our troops and their families and who’ve helped us to understand where and how a campaign like this could really make a difference.
    Joining Forces builds on the great work of the President and the Vice President and the entire administration, which has made military families a priority across the federal government, even as we recognize, as the President said, that this work cannot be done by government alone.
    And I am just excited that as a result of the work that we’ve done with so many people over the past two years, businesses and organizations across America, including some of the best known names and brands, have already responded to this call. Today, as part of Joining Forces, they are going to be announcing major new commitments to support military families, and you’ll all see those incredible commitments as we go forward, but we are tremendously grateful for so many of them stepping up so early.
    Joining Forces is rooted in those American values of service and citizenship that have kept our country strong throughout history. In World War II, for example, the whole nation went to war. Just about every family was a military family, or knew someone that was.
    However, today, with an all-volunteer force, fewer Americans serve or know someone who does. And unlike our troops, military families don’t wear uniforms, so we don’t always see them. But like our troops, these families are proud to serve and they don’t complain, so as a result, the rest of us don’t always realize how hard it can be or what we can do to help lighten their load.
    And I have to admit that I haven’t always realized it myself. My father served in the Army, but he served before I was born, so I didn’t grow up in a military family. I always revered our troops, but like many Americans, I didn’t see firsthand just how much our military families sacrifice as well.
    And that’s why we’re Joining Forces. This is about the responsibility that we each have to one another, as Americans. It’s about the fact that, as Joe said, that 1 percent of Americans may be fighting on our behalf, but 100 percent of Americans need to be supporting our troops and their families. This campaign is about renewing those bonds and those connections between those who serve and the rest of us who live free because of their service…. – WH, 4-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • Welcome to JoiningForces.gov: Today, President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Obama and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families. The initiative aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society – citizens, communities, businesses, non-profits, faith based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government – to ensure military families have the support they have earned.
    Our new website — JoiningForces.gov — provides ways for all Americans to step up and show their gratitude to our service members and their families. Here, you can share a messages of thanks, find opportunities to get involved and share stories of service. We’ll also highlight Federal Government support and the outstanding American citizens, communities, and businesses that are serving our nation’s military families.
    “Joining Forces was created to recognize and serve our nation’s extraordinary military families who, like their loved ones in uniform, serve and sacrifice so much so that we can live in freedom and security,” said Mrs. Obama, “This is a challenge to every segment of American society not to simply say thank you but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families.”
    Join forces with us and stay connected through Facebook, Twitter, and email updates. – WH, 4-12-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama takes on risky topic of taxes: After spending two years on health care, President Barack Obama is about to take up another Herculean political challenge: taxes.
    In response to the Republican plans to cut spending, Obama is pushing a proposal of his own, which will include loophole-closing tax reform and increasing taxes on the wealthy. In his speech at George Washington University, the president said:
    “I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. ”
    By injecting taxes into the mix, Obama enters into perilous territory. For decades, Democrats have mostly tried to avoid any proposals that increase taxes….
    Importantly, the shift of public debate toward deficit reduction offers Obama as much of an opportunity as a danger. The fact is that substantive deficit reduction won’t take place unless higher revenue is part of the package. Spending cuts alone won’t do the trick.
    But if Obama does not recalibrate his political strategy, he could weaken his own standing, as well as the standing of congressional Democrats, going into 2012. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • After budget battle Act 1, will Obama, Reid, Boehner have an Act 2?: Looming debt-ceiling talks may be a bigger hurdle for the three negotiators than the hard-fought deal on the 2011 budget. As for a deficit-cutting plan? Obama and Boehner are starting far apart.
    One hurdle may be that Democrats and Republicans emerge from Round 1 with different expectations for next steps. “There’s nothing inevitable about this [first budget] deal,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “For Republicans, it’s a precedent to cut more. For Mr. Obama, it’s a precedent to think about something else besides spending cuts.”…
    “Republicans have insisted on spending cuts and deficit reduction, rather than reviving the economy, and with this speech [Obama] shifted to their ground,” says Mr. Zelizer. “This is a White House that feels that Republicans are powerful and have been successful in shifting the public to their issues.”… – CS Monitor, 4-18-11
  • Obama urged to follow Ronald Reagan way: President Obama is “missing a fundamental lesson in leadership” by focusing his attention on the “inside the beltway” politics of Washington, D.C., Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff said Thursday. It was a mistake Reagan never made, the former White House gatekeeper, Kenneth Duberstein, said.
    In an interview prior to an evening address at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Duberstein said that as a result of Obama’s failure to govern from the political middle, “the ball was on the Republican side of the court” in the battle over the federal budget and the ballooning national debt.
    Duberstein, a Republican who broke with his party to vote for Obama in 2008, said “the electorate is going to reward people” who deal with the deficit in a serious and comprehensive way. He credited House Republicans with doing exactly that…. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4-15-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Republicans are winning budget debate: Following the announcement of the budget deal on Friday night, South Dakota Sen. John Thune told Politico, “The debate is now on our side of the field. This is just the opening act. But these upcoming debates are not going to be about whether we’re going to reduce the cost and size of government, but how much. That’s very good ground for Republicans to fight on.”
    Thune is correct. The compromise revealed just how far congressional Republicans have been able to shift the debate since the 2010 midterm elections. This week, President Obama will make a proposal of his own to lower the debt, which will include the politically difficult call for higher taxes.
    Much of the energy that President Barack Obama and Democrats displayed in his first two years in office — pushing for health care reform, financial regulation, an economic stimulus and more — seems to be gone….
    Like Clinton, Obama could end up winning re-election in 2012 by capturing the center, all the while finding himself unable to pass the kinds of policies that he and his supporters focused on in 2008. – CNN, 4-12-11

    President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden acknowledge Dr. Jill Biden during the launch of the Joining Forces initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families, in the East Room of the White House. April 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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