Full Text Political Transcripts July 22, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at Commissioning Ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at Commissioning Ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)

Source: WH, 7-22-17

President Trump

Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)
Newport News, Virginia

11:09 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Secretary Mattis, for that wonderful introduction and for your devoted service to our nation.  Nobody has done it like you.  I’m thrilled to be back on this magnificent ship for this historic moment with the amazing men and women of the United States Navy.  (Applause.)

I was with you four months ago, and I knew that I had to be here today, and I told you I’d be back to congratulate you and the crew and everybody involved on commissioning the newest, largest, and most advanced aircraft carrier in the history of this world.  That’s a big achievement.

After today, wherever this ship sails, you will all carry a proud title: plankowner of the USS Gerald R. Ford. (Applause.)  For the rest of your lives, you’ll be able to tell your friends and family that you served on the greatest ship in the United States Navy and, in my opinion, on the greatest ship anywhere in the world.  Everyone should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.

I want to thank the many public servants who have joined us here today: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Governor Snyder, Governor McAuliffe, Senator Wicker, and members of Congress, Secretary Stackley, Admiral Richardson, senior military leaders, and, of course, the great Captain McCormack.  (Applause.)

Captain, I know you will exemplify integrity at the helm.  And have a good time doing it, Captain.  Proud of you.

Thanks to the entire Ford family — Susan, Jack, Steve, and Mike — for all that you’ve done to support this ship on its voyage.  Thank you, Susan.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

I also want to recognize two other people who were very special to President Ford.  Thank you, Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  They look great.  They look great.

As we put this stunning ship into the service of our nation, we must also pay tribute to the thousands of citizens, military and civilian, who helped design and build her.  Their love of country has been poured into every rivet and bulkhead on this vessel.  You hammered, chiseled, and sculpted this mighty hull.

You were there when the first steel was cut, when the turbines first roared to life, and when those beautiful bronze propellers first began to spin — and spin they did.  And now you are here to witness the moment when your incredible work of art becomes the pride of the United States Navy and a symbol of American power and prestige, no matter where in the world you go.

American steel and American hands have constructed a 100,000-ton message to the world:  American might is second to none, and we’re getting bigger, and better, and stronger every day of my administration.  That I can tell you.  (Applause.)

Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong.  (Applause.)

To every worker from Newport News Shipbuilding and every craftsman and engineer who helped build this incredible fortress on the sea, today we salute you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Your skill and your grit build the instruments of war that preserve peace.  This ship is the deterrent that keeps us from having to fight in the first place.  But this ship also ensures that if a fight does come, it will always end the same way; we will win, win, win.  We will never lose.  We will win.  (Applause.)

When it comes to battle, we don’t want a fair fight.  We want just the opposite.  We demand victory, and we will have total victory, believe me.  (Applause.)

Having the best technology and equipment is only one part of the American military dominance.  Our true strength is our people.  Our greatest weapon is all of you.  Our nation endures because we have citizens who love America and who are willing to fight for America.  (Applause.)  We are so very blessed with warriors who are willing to serve America in the greatest fighting force in the history — the United States military.

Today this ship officially begins its role in the noble military history of our great nation.  In a few moments, I will commission this wonderful, beautiful, but very, very powerful warship.  Captain McCormack will assume command.  He will set the first watch, and then the crew of the Gerald R. Ford will man the ship and bring her to life.  (Applause.)

A ship is only as good as the people who serve on it, and the American sailor is the best anywhere in the world.  Among you are great welders, radar technicians, machine operators, and pilots.  You take pride in your work and America takes pride in you.  We love you.  We are proud of you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

But that is why it is so fitting that this ship is named after a sailor of tremendous character, integrity, and wisdom.  You know that, Susan.  Gerald Ford was raised in American heartland.  He grew up in Grand Rapids and became an Eagle Scout.  He played football at the University of Michigan on a team that won two national championships.  And listen to this:  On that great team, he was named MVP.  Not bad.

He then went to Yale Law School, and after Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to serve.  President Ford joined the Navy and asked to be sent to sea.  He wanted to do that very badly.  He never really knew why; he felt it was a calling.  He was assigned to a new carrier — the Monterey — becoming a plankowner himself on its commissioning in 1943.

From there, he sailed to the Pacific and saw action — and a lot of action — in the Pacific War.  Like so many others of his generation, Gerald Ford returned home and started a family.  He ran for Congress, where he served the people of Michigan with honor for many years.  From there, he became Vice President and then President of the United States of America.

With this ship, we honor him for his lifetime of selfless and distinguished service.  We also remember his wife, Betty — I remember her well — and we honor the bravery she showed in living her life so that her experiences could help others.  Susan, she was a great woman — a great woman.  (Applause.)

Gerald Ford said that his time in the Navy convinced him that our lack of military preparation before World War II has only encouraged our enemies to fight harder and harder and harder.  He learned a lot.  In the future, Ford said, I felt the United States had to be strong.  Never again could we allow our military to be anything but the absolute best.  If he could see this ship today, President Gerald Ford would see his vision brought to life, and he would see his legacy of service being carried on by each and every one of you.  (Applause.)

Gerald Ford embodied American values like few others: love of family, love of freedom, and, most of all, love of country.  He knew that patriotism is the heartbeat of a nation.  He knew that we must love our country in order to protect it.  And he knew that we must have pride in our history if we are going to have confidence in our future.

The men and women of America’s Armed Services are part of a living history.  You uphold timeless customs and traditions, and you protect our nation and our freedom for the next generation to come.  You are fulfilling your duty to this nation, and now it is the job of our government to fulfill its duty to you.  (Applause.)

For years, our government has subjected the military to unpredictable funding and a devastating defense sequester.  You remember that?  Sequester — not good.  This has led to deferred maintenance, a lack of investment in new equipment and technology, and a shortfall in military readiness.  In other words, it’s been a very, very bad period of time for our military.  That is why we reached a deal to secure an additional $20 billion for defense this year — and it’s going up — and why I asked Congress for another $54 billion for next year.

Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher, stable, and predictable funding levels for our military needs that our fighting men and women deserve — and you will get, believe me.  President Trump, I will tell you — you will get it.  Don’t worry about it.  But I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it.  (Applause.)

And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get healthcare.  (Applause.)

We must end the defense sequester once and for all.  We must also reform defense acquisitions to ensure that we are getting the best equipment at the best prices so that our dollars are used only for the best interests of our country and those who serve.  We do not want cost overruns.  We want the best equipment, but we want it built ahead of schedule and we want it build under budget.  (Applause.)

This is the very least we can do for the patriots who have volunteered to give their sweat, their blood, and, if they must, their very lives for our great nation.  The commissioning of this new American carrier marks the renewal of our commitment to a future of American greatness.  Greater than ever before, remember that — greater than ever before.

Just moments from now, the Captain will set the first watch on the USS Gerald R. Ford and, with God’s grace, a watch will stand until the day she is decommissioned 50 years or more from now.

Most of you who will man this ship today are just about 20 years old.  Together, you are embarking on a truly great adventure.  The journey will require all of your talents, all of your efforts, and all of your heart.  As you know, the sea holds many challenges and threats.  But starting today, you will face, together as a team aboard this ship, which is your responsibility and your home.

Three generations of Americans will eventually man these decks.  Perhaps even some of your own children and grandchildren someday.  You will inspire many more American patriots to follow your lead and to serve.  And one day, when you are old and have lived a long and hopefully happy and successful life, you may find yourselves back aboard this ship surrounded by your family to mark its decommissioning.  And on that day, our entire nation will honor not just this carrier, it will honor you and the role you will have played in keeping America safe, strong, and free.

To every patriot who will serve on this ship today and throughout history, I say this:  Keep the watch, protect her, defend her, and love her.  Good luck and Godspeed.  Thank you to the Ford family, and thank you to every sailor in the greatest navy on Earth.  God bless you, God bless the Gerald R. Ford, and God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  God bless you all.  (Applause.)

CAPTAIN MCCORMACK:  Thank you, Mr. President.  And I would be honored if you would place Gerald R. Ford in commission.

Will the guests please rise.  Ship’s company, attention.

THE PRESIDENT:  I hereby place United States Ship Gerald R. Ford in commission.  May God bless and guide this warship and all who shall sail in her.  God bless you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:27 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts July 4, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks at 4th of July Military Appreciation Event

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at 4th of July Military Appreciation Event

Source: WH, 7-4-17

South Lawn

5:16 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome, everyone.  The rain stopped just as we came out.  I don’t know what that means, but it’s not bad.  (Laughter.)  And Happy Fourth of July.  Great honor to have you with us.  (Applause.)  Melania and I truly appreciate and celebrate America’s independence with those who courageously defend our country — the men, women and families of the United States military.

It is because of you that well over 300 million American citizens can live in freedom.  There is one military family here today I am especially excited to recognize:  Our great Vice President, Mike Pence, and our Second Lady — never heard that term before, but that’s what they say — and she is some lady, that I can tell you — of the United States, Karen Pence, are here along with their son, Marine First Lieutenant Michael Pence.  Where is Michael?  (Applause.)  Great.  It’s great, Michael.  Michael, not only are your parents proud of you, not only am I proud of you, but America, Michael, is very proud of you.  Thank you.

And America is proud of all of the brave men and women who serve in every branch of our great military.  We have outstanding representatives of each service, each branch.  They’re with us today. We have Army.  We have Navy.  We have Air Force.  (Applause.)  We have Marines.  (Applause.)  We have the Coast Guard.  (Laughter.)  We love our Coast Guard.

Representing the United States Army is Captain Jean Gwon.  She served 14 years, and today she is Company Commander in support of Old Guard, where she oversees the 120 soldiers who protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It’s beautiful.  Captain Gwon is joined today by her husband, Captain James Folwell.  Thank you both for your service, and thank you to every soldier here with us today and serving our nation, and serving us all around the world.  You are truly the army of the free.

From the Marines we have Marine Sergeant Yannick Tumukunde.  He’s with Marine Helicopter Squadron One, an outfit I’ve come to know and admire very much since arriving at the White House.  Sergeant Tumukunde is a senior technician and is the sole chief martial arts instructor and trainer for the entire squadron.  Thank you, and thank you for being here.  And also, we lay claim to a very special title.  You are a United States Marine.  That is a special title.  Thank you, Sergeant.

From the Navy we have Lieutenant Commander Allison Maybrey, a Navy oceanographer.  Her leadership has improved the atmosphere.  And really what she’s done is so incredible, having to do with sensing, modeling, and predicting the electromagnetic warfare capabilities of various countries that hopefully we won’t be thinking about too much.  But she’s there, and she’s got the information like nobody has.  We thank Allison and her husband, Lieutenant Commander Michael Maybrey, here with their children, Emma, Lily, and Amelia.  Our incredible sailors embody the Navy credo: “Not for self, but for country.”  Thank you.

From the Air Force we have Technical Sergeant Ralph Bunnell.  Sergeant Bunnell is responsible for leading 50 security forces personnel that protect the President, the Vice President, and visiting foreign heads of state.  A big job, a very important job.  We want to thank you — to Ralph and to your wife, Patricia.  And thank you to every member of the Air Force who gives our nation total superiority in the air, striking fear into the hearts of our enemies, and inspiring hope in the hearts of our friends all around the world.

Finally, representing the Coast Guard we have Petty Officer First Class Tony Franklin.  Tony is a Gunner’s Mate and is directly responsible for the armament of 17 units.  He has led countless gunnery and pyrotechnic demonstrations — so I don’t think the fireworks are going to impress him very much, but I will tell you they’re going to impress you.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Tony.

I want to thank everyone in the Coast Guard.  I was at the Coast Guard Academy this year — gave the commencement address — and it was an amazing, incredible group of people and a really great day.  Thank you, Tony, very much.

Each of you here today represents that rare combination of patriotism, virtue, and courage that our citizens have always — and I mean always — admired and that our enemies have always feared.  At this moment, your brothers and sisters in arms are posted around the globe, fighting our enemies and standing watch to protect our nation.  They’re fighting for us.  We are thanking them, praying for them, and saluting them for their selfless sacrifice.

There could be no greater privilege than to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.  I pledge my unwavering support for you, for your families, and your missions.  I will always have your back.  I will always, under all circumstances — you’ll be coming back here, and I will always have your back.

And I want to just tell you that our country is doing really, really well.  No matter where you look, the economy is blazing.  And on every front we’re doing well.  And we do have challenges, but we will handle those challenges — believe me.

You’re part of a new, and a truly great generation.  Two days ago I spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cole, who served as the co-pilot of the lead B-25 bomber pilot — and piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle during the daring 1942 raid, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Lieutenant Colonel Cole and the rest of the Doolittle Raiders launched their aircraft into the sky knowing that they would not have enough fuel to return to friendly territory.  That’s not a good feeling.  That’s a lot of courage.

Our servicemen and women are preserving the legacy of courage and selfless service that they inherited from Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cole and so many others.

May God bless you all.  May God bless our military.  May God bless forever the United States of America.

Thank you very much for being here.  Happy Fourth of July.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Happy Fourth of July, everybody.  Thank you very much.

END
5:24 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 September 7, 2016: GOP Nominee Donald Trump’s speech on National Security to the Union League of Philadelphia Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Donald Trump’s speech on National Security to the Union League of Philadelphia

Source: The Hill, 9-7-16

Today, I am here to talk about three crucial words that should be at the center of our foreign policy: Peace Through Strength.

We want to achieve a stable, peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground.

I am proposing a new foreign policy focused on advancing America’s core national interests, promoting regional stability, and producing an easing of tensions in the world. This will require rethinking the failed policies of the past.

We can make new friends, rebuild old alliances, and bring new allies into the fold.

I’m proud to have the support of warfighting generals, active duty military, and the top experts who know both how to win – and how to avoid the endless wars we are caught in now. Just yesterday, 88 top Generals and Admirals endorsed my campaign.

In a Trump Administration, our actions in the Middle East will be tempered by realism. The current strategy of toppling regimes, with no plan for what to do the day after, only produces power vacuums that are filled by terrorists.

Gradual reform, not sudden and radical change, should be our guiding objective in that region.

We should work with any country that shares our goal of destroying ISIS and defeating Radical Islamic terrorism, and form new friendships and partnerships based on this mission. We now have an Administration, and a former Secretary of State, who refuse to say Radical Islamic Terrorism.

Immediately after taking office, I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.

This will require military warfare, but also cyber warfare, financial warfare, and ideological warfare – as I laid out in my speech on defeating Radical Islamic terrorism several weeks ago.

Instead of an apology tour, I will proudly promote our system of government and our way of life as the best in the world – just like we did in our campaign against communism during the Cold War.

We will show the whole world how proud we are to be American.

At the same time, immigration security is a vital part of our national security.

We only want to admit people to our country who will support our values and love our people.

These are the pillars of a sound national security strategy.

Unlike my opponent, my foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy, not destruction. Hillary Clinton’s legacy in Iraq, Libya, and Syria has produced only turmoil and suffering. Her destructive policies have displaced millions of people, then she has invited the refugees into the West with no plan to screen them.

Including Veteran healthcare costs, the price of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $6 trillion, according to a report in the Washington Examiner. Yet, after all this money spent and lives lost, Clinton’s policies as Secretary of State have left the Middle East in more disarray than ever before.

Meanwhile, China has grown more aggressive, and North Korea more dangerous and belligerent. Russia has defied this Administration at every turn. Putin has no respect for President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes it has seemed like there wasn’t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn’t want to invade, intervene or topple. She is trigger-happy and unstable when it comes to war.

Hillary Clinton is just reckless – so reckless, in fact, she put her emails on an illegal server that our enemies could easily hack. Then Clinton’s team used a technology called bleachbit to acid wash her emails. They even took a hammer to some of her 13 phones, to cover her tracks and obstruct justice. These email records were destroyed after she received a subpoena to turn them over.

In the FBI report, she claimed she couldn’t recall important information on 39 occasions.

She can’t even remember whether she was trained in classified information, and said she didn’t even know the letter “C” means confidential.

If she can’t remember such crucial events and information, she is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

Her conduct is simply disqualifying.

She talks about her experience, but Hillary Clinton’s only foreign policy experience is “failure.” Everywhere she got involved, things got worse.

Let’s look back at the Middle East at the very beginning of 2009, before Hillary Clinton was sworn-in.

Libya was stable.

Syria was under control.

Egypt was ruled by a secular President and an ally of the United States.

Iraq was experiencing a reduction in violence. The group that would become what we now call ISIS was close to being extinguished.

Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions.

Fast-forward to today. What have the decisions of Obama-Clinton produced?

Libya is in ruins, our ambassador and three other brave Americans are dead, and ISIS has gained a new base of operations.

Syria is in the midst of a disastrous civil war. ISIS controls large portions of territory. A refugee crisis now threatens Europe and the United States. And hundreds of thousands are dead.

In Egypt, terrorists have gained a foothold in the Sinai desert, near the Suez Canal, one of the most essential waterways in the world.

Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose.

ISIS has spread across the Middle East, and into the West.

Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion dollars in cash released by the United States – plus another $1.7 billion dollars in cash ransom payments. In other words, our country was blackmailed and extorted into paying this unheard-of amount of money.

Worst of all, the Nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of Radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons.

This is Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy legacy.

But that’s not all. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also overseen deep cuts in our military, which only invite more aggression from our adversaries.

History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength.

Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, defense spending is on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the end of World War II. We currently have the smallest Army since 1940. The Navy is among the smallest it has been since 1915. And the Air Force is the smallest it has been since 1947.

When Ronald Reagan left office, our Navy had 592 ships. When Barack Obama took office, it had 285 ships. Today, the Navy has just 276 ships.

The average Air Force aircraft is 27 years-old. We have 2nd generation B-52 bombers – their fathers flew the same plane.

Our Army has been shrinking rapidly, from 553,000 soldiers in 2009 to just 479,000 today.

In 2009, our Marine Corps had 202,000 active Marines. Today, it’s just 182,000.

Our ship count is below the minimum of 308 that the Navy says is needed to execute its current missions. President Obama plans to reduce the Army to 450,000 troops—which would hamstring our ability to defend the United States.

It takes 22 years on average to field a major new weapons system.

In 2010, the US spent $554 billion on non-war base defense spending.

In the current year, we are spending $548 billion – a cut of 10% in real inflation-adjusted dollars. This reduction was done through what is known as the sequester, or automatic defense budget cuts. Under the budget agreement, defense took half of the cuts – even though it makes up only one-sixth of the budget.

As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military.

This will increase certainty in the defense community as to funding, and will allow military leaders to plan for our future defense needs.

As part of removing the defense sequester, I will ask Congress to fully offset the costs of increased military spending. In the process, we will make government leaner and more responsive to the public.

I will ask that savings be accomplished through common sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks – and that protect hard-earned benefits for Americans.

Government-wide, improper government payments are estimated to exceed $135 billion per year, and the amount of unpaid taxes is estimated to be as high as $385 billion.

We can also reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy through responsible workforce attrition – that is, when employees retire, they can be replaced by a smaller number of new employees.

We can also stop funding programs that are not authorized in law. Congress spent $320 billion last year on 256 expired laws. Removing just 5 percent of that will reduce spending by almost $200 billion over 10 years.

The military will not be exempt either – the military bureaucracy will have to be trimmed as well.

Early in my term, I will also be requesting that all NATO nations promptly pay their bills, which many are not doing right now. Only 5 NATO countries, including the United States, are currently meeting the minimum requirement to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

Additionally, I will be respectfully asking countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to pay more for the tremendous security we provide them.

Finally, we will have at our disposal additional revenues from unleashing American energy. The Institute for Energy Research cites a “short-run” figure of as much as $36 billion annually from increased energy production.

Using these new funds, I will ask my Secretary of Defense to propose a new defense budget to meet the following long-term goals:

We will build an active Army of around 540,000, as the Army’s chief of staff has said he needs. We now have only 31 Brigade Combat Teams, or 490,000 troops, and only one-third of combat teams are considered combat-ready.

We will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies – we have 23 now.

We will build a Navy of 350 surface ships and submarines, as recommended by the bipartisan National Defense Panel – we have 276 ships now.

And we will build an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, which the Heritage Foundation has shown to be needed to execute current missions – we have 1,113 now.

We will also seek to develop a state of the art missile defense system.

Under Obama-Clinton, our ballistic missile defense capability has been degraded at the very moment the US and its allies are facing a heightened missile threat from states like Iran and North Korea. As these potential adversaries grow their missile programs, US military facilities in Asia and the Middle East, as well as our allies, are increasingly in range, with the United States homeland also potentially threatened.

We propose to rebuild the key tools of missile defense, starting with the Navy cruisers that are the foundation of our missile defense capabilities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The Obama-Clinton administration tried repeatedly to remove our cruisers from service, then refused to modernize these aging ships.

We will start by modernizing our cruisers to provide the Ballistic Missile Defense capability our nation needs; this will cost around $220 million per modernization as we seek to modernize a significant portion of these 22 ships.

As we expand our Navy toward the goal of 350 ships, we will also procure additional modern destroyers that are designed to handle the missile defense mission in the coming years.

Accomplishing this military rebuild will be a fifty-state effort —every state in the union will be able to take part in rebuilding our military and developing the technologies oftomorrow.

In addition, we will improve the Department of Defense’s cyber capabilities. Hillary Clinton has taught us all how vulnerable we are to cyber hacking.

Which is why one of the first things we must do is to enforce all classification rules, and enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified information.

Hillary Clinton put her emails on a secret server to cover-up her pay-for-play scandals at the State Department. Nothing threatens the integrity of our Democracy more than when government officials put their public office up for sale.

We will also make it a priority to develop defensive and offensive cyber capabilities at our U.S. Cyber Command, and recruit the best and brightest Americans.

One of my first directives after taking office will be asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all relevant federal departments, to conduct a thorough review of United States cyber defenses and identify all vulnerabilities – in our power grid, our communications systems, and all vital infrastructure. I will then ask for a plan to immediately protect those vulnerabilities. At the same time, we will invest heavily in offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt our enemies, including terrorists who rely heavily on internet communications.

These new investments in cybersecurity, and the modernization of our military, will spur substantial new job creation in the private sector and help create the jobs and technologies of tomorrow.

America must be the world’s dominant technological powerhouse of the 21st century, and young Americans – including in our inner cities – should get these new jobs.

We must also ensure that we have the best medical care, education and support for our military service members and their families – both when they serve, and when they return to civilian life.

Our debt to our men and women in uniform is eternal.

To all those who have served this nation, I say: I will never let you down.

We will protect those who protect us.

And we will follow their example of unity. We will work across all racial and income lines to create One American Nation.

Together, we will have one great American future.

We will be one people, under one God, saluting one American flag.

America will be a prosperous, generous and inclusive society.

We will discard the failed policies and division of the past, and embrace true American change to rebuild our economy, rebuild our inner cities, and rebuild our country.

We Will Bring Back Our Jobs.

We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And We Will Make America Great Again.

Full Text Political Transcripts May 30, 2016: President Barack Obama Remarks on Memorial Day 2016 at Arlington Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Memorial Day, 2016

Source: WH, 5-30-16

Arlington Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Carter, General Dunford, Mr. Hallinan, Major General Becker, members of our Armed Forces, veterans, and most of all, our Gold Star families:  I’m honored to be with you once again as we pay our respects, as Americans, to those who gave their lives for us all.

Here, at Arlington, the deafening sounds of combat have given way to the silence of these sacred hills.  The chaos and confusion of battle has yielded to perfect, precise rows of peace.  The Americans who rest here, and their families — the best of us, those from whom we asked everything — ask of us today only one thing in return:  that we remember them.

If you look closely at the white markers that grace these hills, one thing you’ll notice is that so many of the years — dates of birth and dates of death — are so close together.  They belong to young Americans; those who never lived to be honored as veterans for their service — men who battled their own brothers in Civil War, those who fought as a band of brothers an ocean away, men and women who redefine heroism for a new generation.  There are generals buried beside privates they led.  Americans known as “Dad” or “Mom.”  Some only known to God.  As Mr. Hallinan, a Marine who then watched over these grounds has said, “everyone here is someone’s hero.”

Those who rest beneath this silence — not only here at Arlington, but at veterans’ cemeteries across our country and around the world, and all who still remain missing — they didn’t speak the loudest about their patriotism.  They let their actions do that.  Whether they stood up in times of war, signed up in times of peace, or were called up by a draft board, they embodied the best of America.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than leading our men and women in uniform; I have no more solemn obligation sending them into harm’s way.  I think about this every time I approve an operation as President.  Every time, as a husband and father, that I sign a condolence letter.  Every time Michelle and I sit at the bedside of a wounded warrior or grieve and hug members of a Gold Star Family.

Less than one percent of our nation wears the uniform, and so few Americans sees this patriotism with their own eyes or knows someone who exemplifies it.  But every day, there are American families who pray for the sound of a familiar voice when the phone rings.  For the sound of a loved one’s letter or email arriving.  More than one million times in our history, it didn’t come.  And instead, a car pulled up to the house.  And there was a knock on the front door.  And the sounds of Taps floated through a cemetery’s trees.

For us, the living — those of us who still have a voice — it is our responsibility, our obligation, to fill that silence with our love and our support and our gratitude — and not just with our words, but with our actions.  For truly remembering, and truly honoring these fallen Americans means being there for their parents, and their spouses, and their children — like the boys and girls here today, wearing red shirts and bearing photos of the fallen.  Your moms and dads would be so proud of you.  And we are, too.

Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their battle buddies home, we have to make sure our veterans get everything that they have earned, from good health care to a good job.  And we have to do better; our work is never done.  We have to be there not only when we need them, but when they need us.

Thirty days before he would be laid to rest a short walk from here, President Kennedy told us that a nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  Not everyone will serve.  Not everyone will visit this national sanctuary.  But we remember our best in every corner of our country from which they came.  We remember them by teaching our children at schools with fallen heroes’ names, like Dorie Miller Elementary in San Antonio.  Or being good neighbors in communities named after great generals, like McPherson, Kansas.  Or when we walk down 1st Sgt. Bobby Mendez Way in Brooklyn, or drive across the Hoover Dam on a bridge that bears Pat Tillman’s name.

We reveal ourselves in our words and deeds, but also by the simple act of listening.  My fellow Americans, today and every day, listen to the stories these Gold Star families and veterans have to tell.  Ask about who he or she was, why they volunteered. Hear from those who loved them about what their smile looked like, and their laugh sounded like, and the dreams they had for their lives.

Since we gathered here one year ago, more than 20 brave Americans have given their lives for the security of our people in Afghanistan.  We pray for them all, and for their families.  In Iraq, in our fight against ISIL, three Americans have given their lives in combat on our behalf.  And today, I ask you to remember their stories, as well.

Charles Keating, IV — Charlie, or Chuck, or “C-4” — was born into a family of veterans, All-American athletes and Olympians — even a Gold Medalist.  So, naturally, Charlie, and the love of his life, Brooke, celebrated their anniversary on the Fourth of July.  She called him the “huge goofball” everybody wanted to be friends with — the adventurer who surfed and spearfished and planned to sail around the world.

When the Twin Towers fell, he was in high school, and he decided to enlist — joined the SEALs because, he told his friends, it was the hardest thing to do.  He deployed to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor.  Earlier this month, while assisting local forces in Iraq who had come under attack, he gave his life.

A few days later, one of his platoon mates sent Charlie’s parents a letter from Iraq.  “Please tell everyone Chuck saved a lot of lives today,” it said.  He left us, “with that big signature smile on his handsome face, as always.  Chuck was full of aloha, but was also a ferocious warrior.”  Today, we honor Chief Special Warfare Officer Charles Keating IV.

Louis Cardin was the sixth of seven children, a Californian with an infectious wit who always had a joke at the ready to help someone get through a tough time.  When his siblings ran around the house as kids, his mom, Pat, would yell after them:  “Watch that baby’s safety margin!”  Today, she realizes that what she was really doing was raising a Marine.  As a teenager, he proudly signed up.  Louie graduated high school on a Friday.  Three days later, on Monday morning, the Marines came to pick him up.  That was 10 years ago.  One morning this March, a Marine knocked on his mother’s door again.  On his fifth tour, at a fire base in Iraq, Louie gave his life while protecting the Marines under his command.

Putting others before himself was what Louie did best.  He chose to live in the barracks with his buddies even when he could have taken a house off base.  He volunteered to babysit for friends who needed a date night.  He’d just earned a promotion to mentor his fellow Marines.  When they brought Louie home, hundreds of strangers lined freeway overpasses and the streets of Southern California to salute him.  And today, we salute Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin.  (Applause.)

Joshua Wheeler’s sister says he was “exactly what was right about this world.  He came from nothing and he really made something of himself.”  As a kid, Josh was the one who made sure his brother and four half-sisters were dressed and fed and off to school.  When there wasn’t food in the cupboard, he grabbed his hunting rifle and came back with a deer for dinner.  When his country needed him, he enlisted in the Army at age 19.

He deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan — 14 times; earned 11 Bronze Stars, four for valor.  Last October, as ISIL terrorists prepared to execute 70 hostages, Josh and his fellow Special Ops went in and rescued them.  Every single one walked free.  “We were already dead,” one of the hostages said, “then God sent us a force from the sky.”  That force was the U.S. Army, including Josh Wheeler.

Josh was the doting dad who wrote notes to his kids in the stacks of books he read.  Flying home last summer to be with his wife, Ashley, who was about to give birth, he scribbled one note in the novel he was reading, just to tell his unborn son he was on his way.  Ashley Wheeler is with us here today, holding their 10-month-old son, David.  (Applause.)  Ashley says Josh’s memory makes her think about how can she be a better citizen.  And she hopes it’s what other people think about, too.  Today, this husband and father rests here, in Arlington, in Section 60.  And as Americans, we resolve to be better — better people, better citizens, because of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler.

A nation reveals itself not only by the people it produces, but by those it remembers.  We do so not just by hoisting a flag, but by lifting up our neighbors.  Not just by pausing in silence, but by practicing in our own lives the ideals of opportunity and liberty and equality that they fought for.  We can serve others, and contribute to the causes they believed in, and above all, keep their stories alive so that one day, when he grows up and thinks of his dad, an American like David Wheeler can tell them, as well, the stories of the lives that others gave for all of us.

We are so proud of them.  We are so grateful for their sacrifice.  We are so thankful to those families of the fallen.  May God bless our fallen and their families.  May He bless all of you.  And may He forever bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                 11:45 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey about Paris Terror Attacks Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

Source: WH, 11-16-15

Kaya Palazzo Resort
Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Obama Presidency July 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Progress in the Fight Against ISIS Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Progress in the Fight Against ISIL

Source: WH, 7-6-15

The Pentagon

4:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend — especially our men and women in uniform.  This Fourth of July we were honored to once again welcome some of our incredible troops and their families to share Fourth of July and fireworks at the White House.  It was another chance for us, on behalf of the American people, to express our gratitude for their extraordinary service around the world every day.

And that includes the work that brings me here today — our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  This is a cause, a coalition, that’s united countries across the globe — some 60 nations, including Arab partners.  Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power, across our government — military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and perhaps most importantly, the power of our values.

Last month, I ordered additional actions in support of our strategy.  I just met with my national security team as part of our regular effort to assess our efforts — what’s working and what we can do better.  Secretary Carter, Chairman Dempsey, I want to thank you and your team for welcoming us and for your leadership, including General Austin who’s leading the military campaign.  And I want to summarize briefly where we stand.

I want to start by repeating what I’ve said since the beginning.  This will not be quick.  This is a long-term campaign.  ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble.  In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it’s dug in among innocent civilian populations.  It will take time to root them out — and doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground, with training and air support from our coalition.

As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress, but there are also going to be some setbacks — as we’ve seen with ISIL’s gains in Ramadi in Iraq and central and southern Syria.  But today, it’s also important for us to recognize the progress that’s been made.

Our coalition has now hit ISIL with more than 5,000 airstrikes.  We’ve taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps.  We’ve eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders.  And over the past year, we’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.

In Iraq, ISIL lost at the Mosul Dam.  ISIL lost at Mount Sinjar.  ISIL has lost repeatedly across Kirkuk Province.  ISIL lost at Tikrit.  Altogether, ISIL has lost more than a quarter of the populated areas that it had seized in Iraq.  In Syria, ISIL lost at Kobani.  It’s recently endured losses across northern Syria, including the key city of Tal Abyad, denying ISIL a vital supply route to Raqqa, its base of operations in Syria.

So these are reminders that ISIL’s strategic weaknesses are real.  ISIL is surrounded by countries and communities committed to its destruction.  It has no air force; our coalition owns the skies.  ISIL is backed by no nation.  It relies on fear, sometimes executing its own disillusioned fighters.  Its unrestrained brutality often alienates those under its rule, creating new enemies.  In short, ISIL’s recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated.

Indeed, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria.  Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations.  We’re going after the ISIL leadership and infrastructure in Syria — the heart of ISIL that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world.  Partnering with other countries — sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security — allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria as well as Iraq, and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries.  This continues to be a challenge, and, working together, all our nations are going to need to do more, but we’re starting to see some progress.

We’ll continue cracking down on ISIL’s illicit finance around the world.  By the way, if Congress really wants to help in this effort, they can confirm Mr. Adam Szubin, our nominee for Treasury Under Secretary to lead this effort.  This is a vital position to our counterterrorism efforts.  Nobody suggests Mr. Szubin is not qualified.  He’s highly qualified.  Unfortunately, his nomination has been languishing up on the Hill, and we need the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we continue to ramp up our training and support of local forces that are fighting ISIL on the ground.  As I’ve said before, this aspect of our strategy was moving too slowly.  But the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government.  So, with the additional steps I ordered last month, we’re speeding up training of ISIL [Iraqi] forces, including volunteers from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province.

More Sunni volunteers are coming forward.  Some are already being trained, and they can be a new force against ISIL.  We continue to accelerate the delivery of critical equipment, including anti-tank weapons, to Iraqi security forces, including the Peshmerga and tribal fighters.  And I made it clear to my team that we will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.

Now, all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort — political and economic — that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction.  They have filled a void, and we have to make sure that as we push them out that void is filled.  So, as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we’re working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need.  We continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that unites all the people of Iraq — Shia, Sunnis, Kurds and all minority communities.

In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end — and in a way so that the Syrian people can unite against ISIL — is an inclusive political transition to a new government, without Bashar Assad — a government that serves all Syrians.  I discussed this with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners at Camp David and during my recent call with President Putin.  I made it clear the United States will continue to work for such a transition.

And a glimmer of good news is I think an increasing recognition on the part of all the players in the region that given the extraordinary threat that ISIL poses it is important for us to work together, as opposed to at cross-purposes, to make sure that an inclusive Syrian government exists.

While the focus of our discussions today was on Iraq and Syria, ISIL and its ideology also obviously pose a grave threat beyond the region.  In recent weeks we’ve seen deadly attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.  We see a growing ISIL presence in Libya and attempts to establish footholds across North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Southeast Asia. We’ve seen attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, France and Copenhagen.

So I’ve called on the international community to unite against this scourge of violent extremism.  In this fight, the United States continues to lead.  When necessary to prevent attacks against our nation, we’ll take direct action against terrorists.  We’ll continue to also partner with nations from Afghanistan to Nigeria to build up their security forces.  We’re going to work day and night with allies and partners to disrupt terrorist networks and thwart attacks, and to smother nascent ISIL cells that may be trying to develop in other parts of the world.

This also includes remaining vigilant in protecting against attacks here in the homeland.  Now, I think it’s important for us to recognize the threat of violent extremism is not restricted to any one community.  Here in the United States, we’ve seen all kinds of homegrown terrorism.  And tragically, recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to dangerous weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans.  So our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background, including patriotic Muslim Americans who are our partners in keeping our country safe.

That said, we also have to acknowledge that ISIL has been particularly effective at reaching out to and recruiting vulnerable people around the world, including here in the United States.  And they are targeting Muslim communities around the world.  Numerous individuals have been arrested across the country for plotting attacks or attempting to join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.  Two men apparently inspired by ISIL opened fire in Garland, Texas.  And because of our success over the years in improving our homeland security, we’ve made it harder for terrorists to carry out large-scale attacks like 9/11 here at home.

But the threat of lone wolves or small cells of terrorists is complex — it’s harder to detect and harder to prevent.  It’s one of the most difficult challenges that we face.  And preventing these kinds of attacks on American soil is going to require sustained effort.

So I just want to repeat, the good news is that because of extraordinary efforts from law enforcement as well as our military intelligence, we are doing a better job at preventing any large-scale attacks on the homeland.  On the other hand, the small, individual lone wolf attacks or small cells become harder to detect and they become more sophisticated, using new technologies.  And that means that we’re going to have to pick up our game to prevent these attacks.

It’s also true why, ultimately, in order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda it’s going to also require us to discredit their ideology — the twisted thinking that draws vulnerable people into their ranks.  As I’ve said before — and I know our military leaders agree — this broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort.  Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they’re defeated by better ideas — a more attractive and more compelling vision.

So the United States will continue to do our part, by working with partners to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online.  We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam.  We’re fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims.  But around the world, we’re also going to insist on partnering with Muslim communities as they seek security, prosperity and the dignity that they deserve.  And we’re going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can, in conjunction with other people of goodwill, against these hateful ideologies in order to discredit them more effectively, particularly when it comes to what we’re teaching young people.

And this larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle.  It’s ultimately not going to be won or lost by the United States alone.  It will be decided by the countries and the communities that terrorists like ISIL target.  It’s going to be up to Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, to keep rejecting warped interpretations of Islam, and to protect their sons and daughters from recruitment.  It will be up to all people — leaders and citizens — to reject the sectarianism that so often fuels the resentments and conflicts upon which terrorists are currently thriving.  It will be up to governments to address the political and economic grievances that terrorists exploit.

Nations that empower citizens to decide their own destiny, that uphold human rights for all their people, that invest in education and create opportunities for their young people — those can be powerful antidotes to extremist ideologies.  Those are the countries that will find a true partner in the United States.

In closing, let me note that this Fourth of July we celebrated 239 years of American independence.  Across more than two centuries, we’ve faced much bigger, much more formidable challenges than this — Civil War, a Great Depression, fascism, communism, terrible natural disasters, 9/11.  And every time, every generation, our nation has risen to the moment.  We don’t simply endure; we emerge stronger than before.  And that will be the case here.

Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult.  It will take time.  There will be setbacks as well as progress.  But as President and Commander-in-Chief, I want to say to all our men and women in uniform who are serving in this operation — our pilots, the crews on the ground, our personnel not only on the ground but at sea, our intelligence teams and our diplomatic teams — I want to thank you.  We are proud of you, and you have my total confidence that you’re going to succeed.

To the American people, I want to say we will continue to be vigilant.  We will persevere.  And just as we have for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.

Thank you very much, everybody.  And thanks to the team up on the stage here with me — they’re doing an outstanding job.

Q    Take a question?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know what, I will take a question.  Go ahead.

Q    Every servicemember who is listening to you today, Mr. President, is wondering, are you going to veto the defense bills that are going to pay me?  What is your latest thinking on that? Because we’ve heard secondhand through statements of policy that your advisors would threaten a veto.  What’s your take, sir?  Would you veto the appropriations bills?

THE PRESIDENT:  Our men and women are going to get paid.  And if you’ll note that I’ve now been President for six and a half years and we’ve had some wrangling with Congress in the past — our servicemembers haven’t missed a paycheck.

But what is also important in terms of our budget is making sure that we are not short-changing all the elements of American power that allow us to secure the nation and to project our power around the world.  So what we’re not going to do is to accept a budget that short-changes our long-term requirements for new technologies, for readiness.  We’re not going to eat our seed corn by devoting too much money on things we don’t need now and robbing ourselves of the capacity to make sure that we’re prepared for future threats.

I’ve worked very closely with the Chairman and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a budget that is realistic and that looks out into the future and says this is how we’re going to handle any possible contingency.  And we can’t do that if we’ve got a budget that short-changes vital operations and continues to fund things that are not necessary.

We also have to remind ourselves that the reason we have the best military in the world is, first and foremost, because we’ve got the best troops in history.  But it’s also because we’ve got a strong economy, and we’ve got a well-educated population.  And we’ve got an incredible research operation and universities that allow us to create new products that then can be translated into our military superiority around the world.  We short-change those, we’re going to be less secure.

So the way we have to look at this budget is to recognize that, A, we can’t think short term, we’ve got to think long term; and B, part of our national security is making sure that we continue to have a strong economy and that we continue to make the investments that we need in things like education and research that are going to be vital for us to be successful long term.

Q    As an Army reservist, I’m curious to know if you have any plans to send any more American troops overseas right now, any additional forces.

THE PRESIDENT:  There are no current plans to do so.  That’s not something that we currently discussed.  I’ve always said that I’m going to do what’s necessary to protect the homeland.

One of the principles that we all agree on, though, and I pressed folks pretty hard because in these conversations with my military advisors I want to make sure I’m getting blunt and unadultered [sic] uncensored advice.  But in every one of the conversations that we’ve had, the strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIL we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress.

It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIL, but to then, as soon as we leave, see that void filled once again with extremists.  It is going to be vital for us to make sure that we are preparing the kinds of local ground forces and security forces with our partners that can not only succeed against ISIL, but then sustain in terms of security and in terms of governance.

Because if we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa, we’ll be playing Whack-a-Mole and there will be a whole lot of unintended consequences that ultimately make us less secure.

All right?  Thank you.  I didn’t even plan to do this.  (Laughter.)  You guys got two bonus questions.

Thank you.

END
4:28 P.M. EDT

 

Political Musings December 26, 2014: Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

By Bonnie K. Goodman

There was a definite theme and message President Barack Obama was trying to get across this Christmas, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, that after 13 years the combat war in Afghanistan will officially be over on Dec. 31. The president and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady Michelle Obama — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Source: WH, 12-25-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2014

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  Now, we’re not going to take much of your time because today is about family and being together with the ones you love.  And luckily for me, that means I get a little help on the weekly address, too.

THE FIRST LADY:  The holidays at the White House are such a wonderful time of year.

We fill the halls with decorations, Christmas trees, and carolers – and this year, we invited more than 65,000 people to join us.

Our theme was “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” – and Americans young and old had a chance to come together and celebrate the season.

THE PRESIDENT: And today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.

THE FIRST LADY: We hope that this holiday season will be a chance for us to live out that message—to bridge our differences and lift up our families, friends, and neighbors… and to reconnect with the values that bind us together.

And as a country, that also means celebrating and honoring those who have served and sacrificed for all of us—our troops, veterans, and their families.

THE PRESIDENT: In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Our longest war will come to a responsible end.  And that gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect upon all that these families have given us.  We’re able to gather with family and friends because our troops are willing to hug theirs goodbye and step forward to serve.  After a long day, we can come home because they’re willing to leave their families and deploy.  We can celebrate the holidays because they’re willing to miss their own.

THE FIRST LADY: And so, as our troops continue to transition back home—back to our businesses, our schools, our congregations, and our communities—it’s up to all of us to serve them as well as they have served us.

You can visit JoiningForces.gov to find out how you can honor and support the troops, veterans, and military families in your communities.

That’s something we can do not only during the holiday season, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So Merry Christmas, everybody.  May God bless you all.  And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2015.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech to Military and Civilian Personnel at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to Military and Civilian Personnel at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Source: WH, 12-15-14

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
New Jersey

2:49 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst! (Applause.) Thank you, General Martin, for the introduction and for your great leadership of the Air Force Expeditionary Center. I want to thank all the outstanding leaders for coming to welcome me here today, including General Maggie Boor and Colonel James Hodges. I want to thank the folks who are the backbone of our military — give a big round of applause for your incredible senior NCOs. (Applause.)

This is one of our nation’s premier joint military bases. Everybody is here. We’ve got Army. (Hoo-ah!) We’ve got Navy. (Oo-rah!) We’ve got Air Force. (Hoo-ah!) We’ve got Marines. (Oo-rah!) And we’ve got some Coast Guard. (Oo-rah!) (Laughter.) Who’s that one Coast Guard — there you go, that was loud, right there. (Laughter.)

All of you come together as one great American team. And I know that we also have some spouses and families here today. Your wives, your husbands, your partners, your sons, your daughters — they serve, as well. They make their own sacrifices — especially when you’re deployed. So our military families are the heroes on the home front. Give it up for our remarkable military families. (Applause.)

We’ve got some outstanding elected officials who support the mission of this facility each and every day. I want to thank Governor Christie for joining us here today. (Applause.) We’ve got some outstanding members of Congress who are here — Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, Congressmen Jon Runyan, Congressman Donald Norcross, and incoming Congressman Tom MacArthur. (Applause.) And they were already lobbying me about the base on the way in, so they’re doing a good job. (Laughter.)

It is great to be back. I was here last year and visited with some of you on my way to the Jersey Shore. Christie and I went down to Asbury Park, spent some time on the boardwalk. We played a little Frog Bog. Chris’s kids taught me how to hit the hammer to get those little frogs into the buckets. It was hard. And then Christie beat me at football toss, which really aggravated me. (Laughter.) And he bragged about it afterwards, which is okay, but I will get a rematch at some point.

But we weren’t there just to have fun. We came because, after Hurricane Sandy, people across this state — including those of you here at this base — you had to pick yourselves up, pull together, rebuild, show that here in New Jersey, here in America, we are stronger than any storm. Like a friend of mine from New Jersey likes to say, “Wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own.” That’s what we do here in New Jersey. That’s what we do all across America.

And this facility exemplifies that spirit. For nearly a century, our flag has flown right here. Millions of Americans passed through the old Fort Dix. This was where they shipped out. This was where they were welcomed home. One of them was Don Drysdale, Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher. And he had the same thought as a lot of new recruits at basic training: “What the hell am I doing here?” (Laughter.) Another recruit remembered, “I cleaned a lot of latrines with toothbrushes.”

Among those who were demobilized here was a soldier from Tennessee, serial number 53310761, a guy named Sergeant Elvis Presley. He was all shook up. (Laughter.) His homecoming was a little different, though. Apparently the King drove off in a limo. (Laughter.) Now, if it were up to me, I’d give all you all limos when you come home.

Because part of the message I’m here to deliver on behalf of the American people is very simple: It’s just to say thank you. Thank you for your extraordinary service. I thank you as your President because you inspire me. And of all the privileges I have in serving in this office, nothing comes close to the honor of serving as your Commander-in Chief.

And I also thank you on behalf of more than 300 million Americans. We Americans may disagree and debate and argue sometimes — that is part of our democracy. It is messy sometimes. Sometimes it results in some gridlock in Washington. But whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, white, black, brown, rich, poor — no matter how we pray, no matter who we love, when it comes to our troops, when it comes to you and your families, as Americans we stand united. We are proud of you. We support you. And we can never thank you enough. (Applause.)

And that’s especially true now, during the holidays. We can gather with family and friends because you’re willing to hug yours goodbye and step forward to serve. After a long day, we can come home because you’re willing to leave your home and deploy. We get to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and holidays, go to soccer games and go to dance recitals because you’re willing to miss those in your family. We’re free and safe and secure over here because you’re willing to serve over there.

That’s the noble spirit of your sacrifice. That’s the selfless character of our military. Those are the precious gifts that you give America — not just this time of year, but all year, every year. You never stop serving. You never stop giving. You guys are like Santa in fatigues. (Laughter.) Although, I’ll bet one of those C-130s is a little more efficient than Santa’s sleigh. (Applause.) I figured I’d get something out of our guys on that. (Laughter.)

I also wanted to be here, though, because after more than a decade of war, our nation is marking an important milestone. Ever since our country was attacked that awful September morning, 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Many people here have deployed there, or to Iraq, and you’ve deployed multiple times in some cases. There are people here who’ve lost really good friends, patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, including 54 fallen heroes from this base, who we will honor forever.

For more than a year, Afghan forces have been in the lead to secure their country, and that means more of our troops have been coming home, including right here to this joint base. So let me just say to all of you who’ve returned from Afghanistan in recent weeks, on behalf of a grateful nation, I want to say welcome home. You’re home for the holidays. And we’re glad to have you back.

Now, this month, in just two weeks, the transition that we’re making in Afghanistan will be complete. Afghans will take full responsibility for their security. This month, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. This month, America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.

Now, that doesn’t mean everything is great in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place. But I want you, and every American who has served in Afghanistan, to be proud of what you’ve accomplished there. Because your generation — the 9/11 Generation — has met every mission that’s been given to you. You helped decimate the core al Qaeda leadership and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden. He will not be attacking here anymore. You helped to prevent terrorist attacks against this country. You helped push back the Taliban. You helped train Afghan forces to take the lead. You helped make possible a historic election this year and the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history. Despite all their challenges, Afghans are now looking to the future. And that’s all because of you. That’s makes us safer, and it gives them a chance for a better future.

Even as our combat mission ends, our commitment to Afghanistan endures. We’ll continue to have a limited military presence there because we’ve got to keep training and equipping Afghan forces, and we’ve got to conduct counterterrorism missions because there are still remnants of al Qaeda there. After all the sacrifices you’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you’ve made. We want a stable and secure Afghanistan. And we want to make sure that country is never again used to launch attacks against the United States of America.

Now, this year is also a reminder that even as our combat mission ends in Afghanistan, there are still challenges to our security around the globe. In times of crisis, people around the world look to one nation to lead, and that is the United States of America. Even our critics, when they get into trouble they’re calling us. And when the world calls on America, we call on you — our men and women in uniform — because nobody can do what you do.

One news article said it best: When our forces train here, folks who live nearby might “feel the ground shake” because no other military in the world is as good as you, as ready as you, as capable as you, able to go as far, able to go as fast as you do and perform your basic missions. Nobody. Nobody in history has been able to do what you’ve done.

Which means we’re leading the global coalition against the brutal terrorist group ISIL in Iraq and Syria. And you are doing your part, supporting the aerial refueling that keeps our aircraft in the skies and the airlift that moves our people and equipment into place. Some folks from this base are there right now doing incredible work. And to them, and to all our troops far from home and their families for the holidays, you are in our thoughts, our prayers, and we can’t wait till you come home, too.

Just look at the difference that you and the rest of our military have made — rescuing thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children that were trapped up on a mountain in danger of slaughter. You saved them. Air dropping food and water and medicine, saving countless lives. America led the way. That’s what we do.

Along with our coalition partners, we are hammering these terrorists, taking out their fighters, their commanders, hundreds of vehicles and tanks, nearly 200 oil and gas facilities, the infrastructure that funds their terror. More than a thousand fighting positions, checkpoints, buildings, barracks — we’re taking them out. That’s because of the work that you do. We’re cutting their command and control and supply lines, and making it harder for them to maneuver.

In Iraq, local forces have held the line in some places and pushed back ISIL in other places. In Syria, our airstrikes are inflicting heavy losses on ISIL fighters and leaders. Because of you, we have blunted their momentum and we have put them on the defensive. And these terrorists are learning the same thing that the leaders of al Qaeda have learned the hard way: They may think that they can chalk up some quick victories, but our reach is long. We do not give up. You threaten America, you will have no safe haven. We will find you. And like petty tyrants and terrorists before you, the world is going to leave you behind and keep moving on without you, because we will get you. That’s thanks to you.

Now, this campaign in Iraq will take time. But make no mistake, our coalition isn’t just going to degrade this barbaric terrorist organization, we’re going to destroy it. And because this isn’t just a military effort, we’re going to keep working with those in the Middle East who believe in tolerance and opportunity and peace, because that’s what the region needs. These terrorists only know how to destroy. And we know how to do something bigger — how to build the security and peace and justice that we can build with others. But none of that would be possible without you. That’s American leadership. That’s the difference you make.

In the same way that we’re leading the fight against ISIL, we’re leading the global fight against Ebola in West Africa. And you’ve been doing your part — deploying to Liberia and Senegal, improving airfields, setting up the logistics and command-and-control, building the infrastructure, manning that air bridge, airlifting food and equipment and personnel. You have been out front.

And if you doubt the impact that you’re having, take a look at what’s going on there. With your help, we’ve built new treatment centers. We’re training more health care workers. We’re delivering medicine and supplies. Other countries are now willing to come in because you laid the foundation. And this is still a terrible epidemic, and the world has to keep on stepping up, but in Liberia, where we focused our efforts, cases are starting to decline. Ultimately, we will have saved thousands of lives because of you.

As one of our American commanders said, “Everywhere I go, Liberians are waving; hope is what we’re providing.” Or as one West African put it, “We’ve always loved America and for them to come in and help at a time like this reinforces that.” That’s the difference you’re making. There are people who are alive today because of what you guys do. That’s American leadership.

So, stepping back for a moment, we’re at a turning point. When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this month, we’ll have fewer than 15,000 in those two countries. We’ve now brought home about 90 percent of our troops — 90 percent. The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation-building overseas, that’s coming to an end.

And going forward, our military will be leaner. But as your Commander-in-Chief, I’m going to make sure we keep you ready for the range of missions that we ask of you. We are going to keep you the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped military in the history of the world because the world will still be calling.

And that’s why it was so important that folks in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — came together and passed legislation that I’m going to sign to keep our government open and funded for the coming year. And that includes military operations — the support and commissaries that your families depend on, a pay raise for you, health care for our wounded warriors and our veterans. (Applause.) You’ve always been there for us; we’ve got to be there for you.

And let me make one other point. At this time of transition, I know some of you will be returning to civilian life. I was talking about this with the two generals that I rode over with. We want to make sure you can enjoy the American Dream that you helped to defend. So we’ll keep helping you with the transition assistance and the credentialing and the licensing to help find civilian jobs worthy of your incredible talents.

We’re going to keep funding the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and keep working with colleges and universities to help you and your families realize your dream of a higher education. And as many of you know, Michelle — the First Lady — Vice President’s wife, Jill Biden; everybody at Joining Forces, we’re all going to be saying to every company in America: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a military spouse. Hire a veteran. That’s the difference you can make here at home. Because that’s also American leadership — the jobs and the opportunity, and the country that we can build together as one American team. (Applause.) You understand that. You’ve trained for it. And when you get in the job, that’s what you deliver every single time.

So I want to leave you with a story of somebody who has a special understanding of the American spirit. I just met them before I came out here, but before I came out, Yeoman Carrie Chavez and Staff Sergeant Ashley Montgomery, they did the Pledge of Allegiance and sang our National Anthem — and I had a chance to take a picture with them out back. And I asked them where they’re from, and they’re from Jersey, of course. (Laughter.) And, in fact, Ashley said that her dad had served at this facility 30 years earlier. So I asked her, had she ever left the base — (laughter) — and she said, yes, she had been deployed at four other bases. But that’s one example of American service — a generation passing the baton to the next generation; entire families who have served our country nobly, dating back in some cases over a century.

But then there’s another part of the American story. There’s another young man I met. His name is Nelson Rieu — and Nelson is here today. Wave, Nelson. There’s Nelson. (Applause.) Now, the reason I want to tell Nelson’s story is because, unlike Ashley, Nelson wasn’t born here on base, he wasn’t born in Jersey. He was born in the Republic of Congo. And when his country slipped into civil war, he and his mother became refugees. And that was a terrible civil war — over a million people died in that civil war. That was a hard life. When he was 20 years old, he and his mom got some incredible news — “the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. He had the chance to come to America.

So they land in Los Angeles, and Nelson said it was like being in a movie — all these glistening buildings and freeways. And they settled in Arizona. And Nelson barely spoke a word of English. So he took high school classes — English, American history; he earned his high school diploma. And then he signed up to serve a country that wasn’t even yet fully his own. He raised his hand, took the oath, joined the United States Air Force. And then, this past Fourth of July, he put on his uniform, he raised his hand again, and he took another oath to become a citizen of the United States. “The Fourth of July,” he says, “is my new American birthday.”

And today, Airman First Class Nelson Rieu is an engineering apprentice here on base, helping to keep his fellow airmen safe. And at 24 years old, he dreams of someday joining the Special Forces. And he says, “Freedom is the reason why I am in this country and [why I] wanted to be part of those who sustain that freedom. It’s a great feeling to know you’re the backbone of the greatest nation on Earth.”

So you think about that. You’ve got folks whose dads were born on — or who were born on base and who served going back generations. But then you’ve got new Americans with that same patriotism, that same sense of what we’re about as Americans, that same creed that we can all pledge allegiance to, regardless of what we look like or where we come from. We’re fighting on the same team for the same values and the same ideals.

So thank you for your patriotism, Nelson. (Applause.)

And that’s one of the things that makes America exceptional, and what makes our military the absolute best in the world. It’s not just your training, or your equipment, or your technology — although all that’s important. What makes us special, what makes us the best is all of you. It’s your character and your willingness to say, “Send me.” Your dedication to duty, and your courage, and your readiness to defend our values and our ideals of freedom and liberty — not just for us, but for people all around the world.

You are the backbone of the greatest nation on Earth — and you always will be that. And for that, America is eternally grateful, and I am incredibly proud to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.

So, happy holidays, everybody. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless your families. God bless our Armed Forces. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)

END
3:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops

Source: WH, 12-13-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 13, 2014

Hi, everybody. It’s the holidays—a season to give thanks for our many blessings. The love of family. The joy of good friends. The bonds of community. The freedom we cherish as Americans. The peace and justice we seek in the world.

As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.

That’s why, on Monday, I’ll be visiting our troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey—to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices. Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them. They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has worked with the Afghan people to help them reclaim their communities and prevent terrorist attacks against our own country.

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.

Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean the end of challenges to our security.We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America. The troops I’ll visit on Monday have been part of our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They’ve been supporting our efforts in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and save lives. Because in times of crisis and challenge, the world turns to America for leadership. And when the world calls on America, we call on the brave men and women of our armed forces to do what no one else can.

So this holiday season, as we give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, let’s also give thanks to our men and women in uniform who make those blessings possible. Even as some are coming home for the holidays, many more will be far from their families, who sacrifice along with them.

There are so many ways we can express our gratitude to our troops, their families and our veterans—everyone can do something. To find out what you can do, just go to JoiningForces.gov. As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us.

Thanks, have a great weekend, and God bless our troops and their families.

Political Musings December 10, 2014: First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This year President Barack Obama joined his wife First Lady Michelle Obama, on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 10, 2014 to deliver and sort toys for the “Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots campaign” at the joint Base…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2014: President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the First Lady At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting

Source: WH, 12-10-14

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

1:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s a pretty serious, ho, ho, ho.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.

MRS. OBAMA:  How is everybody doing?

THE PRESIDENT:  She’s doing good.

MRS. OBAMA: Happy holidays, merry Christmas.

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas.

MRS. OBAMA: How are all the kids?  Yay.  Well, we’re happy to be back.  As you can see, I brought a little help this year.  Welcome to Toys for Tots.  Your first year.  We’re going to break you in slowly, okay?

But let me start — we’re not going to talk long because we’re here to actually do some work.  But I want to just thank everybody who has been involved in this effort.  Of course, Lieutenant General Osman, who has just been a tremendous partner for so many years.  His leadership is really at the heart of what makes this drive possible.

But also Lieutenant General Richard Mills, Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson, and First Sergeant Lowery, as well.  Let’s give them all a round of applause for their tremendous leadership.  (Applause.)

Thank you all for all the hours that you spend picking up the donations, sorting in warehouses all throughout the area.  This wouldn’t be possible without you and, of course, your wonderful families here who help to make this possible.

We have a couple of other folks here.  We’ve got White House Communications Agency folks and their families.  Let’s give you guys a round of applause.  Thank you all so much for your work.  (Applause.)

And of course, to all of the Marines from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, plus their spouses and all of our military kids.  Yay, you guys.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yay!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  As General Osman said, this is the sixth year that I’ve been involved in Toys for Tots.  And every year it’s just a tremendous privilege to be able to be a part of making Christmas just a little brighter for a few kids across the country.

And we try to make it a big deal at the White House.  We create competitions.  I think this year the office that collected the most toys got a Bo and Sonny visit.  (Laughter.)  So we did a good job this year.  I think this year we’re bringing in about a thousand toys from the White House.  And so we’re proud of our team at the White House for participating.

But we still have a lot of time.  And one of the things that I just want to remind the public is that there’s still time to donate.  And we really want to urge folks out there do everything in their power to donate to Toys for Tots.

And if you need to find out where to go, all you have to go — do is go to the Toys for Tots website.  People can donate online.  They can go by one of the drop-off centers.  And each year, I kind of remind people that at times one of the challenges is making sure we have enough toys for the older kids.  It’s always fun to buy the Barbie Dolls and the coloring books, but we have to remember that there are teenagers out there too that need those gifts.  And we try to make it a point to make sure that we’re buying cool clothes for kids and electronic products and educational materials for teenagers, as well.

So if you haven’t already donated, don’t forget our teenagers.  They’re looking for a merry Christmas as well.

So with that, I’m going to turn it over to my new helper, who I brought along with me.  He doesn’t need any introductions.  I don’t know how good he’ll be with sorting — (laughter) — because he doesn’t usually deal in shopping in any kind of way.  But we’ll watch him closely to see if he can figure out which ones are girls, zero to two, or unisex.  It gets really complicated.  So watch him, because he could really make your work harder.

So with that, it’s my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  I’m the big elf.  (Laughter.)  I’m like Will Farrell.  (Laughter.)  It is great to be here.  I’m not going to talk long.  I just want to say thanks to all of you for participating.  I want to say thank you to Toys for Tots.  Quick statistic:  Since it started in the 1940s, Toys for Tots has distributed more than 469 million toys to more than 216 million children.  That’s a lot of dollhouses, that’s a lot of Ninja Turtles.

But really what Toys for Tots is about is generosity and giving back.  All of us are so blessed.  Look at these beautiful kids here and wonderful families.  We are lucky.  We’re lucky first and foremost to live in the United States of America, and we’re lucky to be able to look after our kids and there are parents out there who love their kids just as much but are going through a tough time.  And for us to be able to make sure that that holiday spirit extends a little bit beyond just our family but to people all around the country, it is a wonderful contribution.

While I’m here, I just want to say thank you to our Marine Corps for their extraordinary work.  Our men and women in uniform and our military families don’t just work to keep us safe; they’re also strengthening our country here at home.  They’re volunteering at schools, congregations, our communities.  With our combat mission coming to a close in Afghanistan, it means more of our extraordinary military members are going to be home for the holidays, back where they belong.  And that is the most important blessing of all.

But what’s also great is that we’re now seeing our incredible military — some who may be leaving the military — able to provide that same dedication, that same sense of service to organizations throughout the country.  Sometimes in a volunteer capacity, sometimes in a professional capacity.  And we are very proud of that.  Lieutenant General Osman is just a great example of the ongoing spirit of duty and service that is instilled in armed forces.  So we are so grateful to all of you.

With that, I want to wish everybody a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and let’s get sorting.  I am positive that girls, zero to two, that’s perfect for the “Call of Duty” video game.  (Laughter.)  Isn’t that right?

MRS. OBAMA:  What video game?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, she didn’t even get the joke.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I wasn’t listening.

THE PRESIDENT:  She wasn’t listening to me.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
1:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency June 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Crisis in Iraq and Decision to Send 300 US Troops

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Iraq

Source: WH, 6-19-14 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:32 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq.  We’ve been meeting regularly to review the situation since ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria, made advances inside of Iraq.  As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.  So today I wanted to provide you an update on how we’re responding to the situation.

First, we are working to secure our embassy and personnel operating inside of Iraq.  As President, I have no greater priority than the safety of our men and women serving overseas.  So I’ve taken some steps to relocate some of our embassy personnel, and we’ve sent reinforcements to better secure our facilities.

Second, at my direction, we have significantly increased our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets so that we’ve got a better picture of what’s taking place inside of Iraq.  And this will give us a greater understanding of what ISIL is doing, where it’s located, and how we might support efforts to counter this threat.

Third, the United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces.  We’re prepared to create joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL.  Through our new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, we’re prepared to work with Congress to provide additional equipment.  We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy, and we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors — up to 300 — to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward.

American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.

Fourth, in recent days, we’ve positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region.  Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL.  And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action, if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.  If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.

I want to emphasize, though, that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead.

Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.

Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds — all Iraqis — must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

In closing, recent days have reminded us of the deep scars left by America’s war in Iraq.  Alongside the loss of nearly 4,500 American patriots, many veterans carry the wounds of that war, and will for the rest of their lives.  Here at home, Iraq sparked vigorous debates and intense emotions in the past, and we’ve seen some of those debates resurface.

But what’s clear from the last decade is the need for the United States to ask hard questions before we take action abroad, particularly military action.  The most important question we should all be asking, the issue that we have to keep front and center — the issue that I keep front and center — is what is in the national security interests of the United States of America.  As Commander-in-Chief, that’s what I stay focused on.  As Americans, that’s what all of us should be focused on.

And going forward, we will continue to consult closely with Congress.  We will keep the American people informed.  We will remain vigilant.  And we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the security of the United States and the safety of the American people.

So with that, I’m going to take a couple of questions.  I’ll start with Colleen McCain Nelson of the Wall Street Journal.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you have any confidence in Prime Minister Maliki at this point?  And can Maliki bring political stability to Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT:  As I said, it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.  Part of what our patriots fought for during many years in Iraq was the right and the opportunity for Iraqis to determine their own destiny and choose their own leaders.  But I don’t think there’s any secret that right now at least there is deep divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders.  And as long as those deep divisions continue or worsen, it’s going to be very hard for an Iraqi central government to direct an Iraqi military to deal with these threats.

And so we’ve consulted with Prime Minister Maliki, and we’ve said that to him privately.  We’ve said it publicly that whether he is prime minister, or any other leader aspires to lead the country, that it has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd all feel that they have the opportunity to advance their interests through the political process.  And we’ve seen over the last two years, actually dating back to 2008, 2009 — but I think worse over the last two years — the sense among Sunnis that their interests were not being served, that legislation that had been promised around, for example, De-Ba’athification had been stalled.

I think that you hear similar complaints that the government in Baghdad has not sufficiently reached out to some of the tribes and been able to bring them in to a process that gives them a sense of being part of a unity government or a single nation-state.  And that has to be worked through.

Part of the reason why we saw better-equipped Iraqi security forces with larger numbers not be able to hold contested territory against ISIL probably reflects that lack of a sense of commitment on the part of Sunni communities to work with Baghdad.  And that has to be fixed if we’re going to get through this crisis.

Jim Acosta.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Americans may look at this decision that you’re making today as a sneak preview of coming attractions; that the number of advisors that you’re planning to send in may just be the beginning of a boots-on-the-ground scenario down the road.  Why is Iraq’s civil war in the national security interests of the United States?  And are you concerned about the potential for mission creep?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past:  American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.

We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq.  Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.

It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because that ultimately can be destabilizing throughout the region.  And in addition to having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.

We also have an interest in making sure that we don’t have a safe haven that continues to grow for ISIL and other extremist jihadist groups who could use that as a base of operations for planning and targeting ourselves, our personnel overseas, and eventually the homeland.  And if they accumulate more money, they accumulate more ammunition, more military capability, larger numbers, that poses great dangers not just to allies of ours like Jordan, which is very close by, but it also poses a great danger potentially to Europe and ultimately the United States.

We have already seen inside of Syria that — or groups like ISIL that right now are fighting with other extremist groups, or an Assad regime that was non-responsive to a Sunni majority there, that that has attracted more and more jihadists or would-be jihadists, some of them from Europe.  They then start traveling back to Europe, and that, over time, can create a cadre of terrorists that could harm us.

So we have humanitarian interests in preventing bloodshed.  We have strategic interests in stability in the region.  We have counterterrorism interests.  All those have to be addressed.

The initial effort for us to get situational awareness through the reconnaissance and surveillance that we’ve already done, coupled with some of our best people on the ground doing assessments of exactly what the situation is — starting, by the way, with the perimeter around Baghdad and making sure that that’s not overrun — that’s a good investment for us to make.  But that does not foreshadow a larger commitment of troops to actually fight in Iraq.  That would not be effective in meeting the core interests that we have.

Q    Just very quickly, do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq?  Any regrets about that decision in 2011?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me; that was a decision made by the Iraqi government.  We offered a modest residual force to help continue to train and advise Iraqi security forces.  We had a core requirement which we require in any situation where we have U.S. troops overseas, and that is, is that they’re provided immunity since they’re being invited by the sovereign government there, so that if, for example, they end up acting in self-defense if they are attacked and find themselves in a tough situation, that they’re not somehow hauled before a foreign court.  That’s a core requirement that we have for U.S. troop presence anywhere.

The Iraqi government and Prime Minister Maliki declined to provide us that immunity.  And so I think it is important though to recognize that, despite that decision, that we have continued to provide them with very intensive advice and support and have continued throughout this process over the last five years to not only offer them our assistance militarily, but we’ve also continued to urge the kinds of political compromises that we think are ultimately necessary in order for them to have a functioning, multi-sectarian democracy inside the country.

Juliet Eilperin.

Q    Mr. President, you just mentioned Syria a moment ago.  The United States has been slow to provide significant weapons and training directly to the Syrian opposition.  Has the expansion of the Syria war into Iraq changed your mind about the type of weapons and training we’re now willing to give the opposition there?  Is that what prompted Secretary Kerry to say of Syria, “We are augmenting our assistance in significant ways”?  And can you elaborate on what you are you doing now that you weren’t doing before?

THE PRESIDENT:  That assessment about the dangers of what was happening in Syria have existed since the very beginning of the Syrian civil war.  The question has never been whether we thought this was a serious problem.  The question has always been, is there the capacity of moderate opposition on the ground to absorb and counteract extremists that might have been pouring in, as well as an Assad regime supported by Iran and Russia that outmanned them and was ruthless.

And so we have consistently provided that opposition with support.  Oftentimes, the challenge is if you have former farmers or teachers or pharmacists who now are taking up opposition against a battle-hardened regime, with support from external actors that have a lot at stake, how quickly can you get them trained; how effective are you able to mobilize them.  And that continues to be a challenge.  And even before the situation that we saw with ISIL going into Iraq, we had already tried to maximize what we could do to support a moderate opposition that not only can counteract the brutality of Assad, but also can make sure that in the minds of Sunnis they don’t think that their only alternative is either Mr. Assad or extremist groups like ISIL or al Nusra.

Q    And can you speak to what you might be doing differently, as the Secretary of State alluded to?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that the key to both Syria and Iraq is going to be a combination of what happens inside the country working with the moderate Syrian opposition, working with an Iraqi government that is inclusive, and us laying down a more effective counterterrorism platform that gets all the countries in the region pulling in the same direction.  And I alluded to this in the West Point speech.  I talked about it today with respect to the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund.

There is going to be a long-term problem in this region in which we have to build and partner with countries that are committed to our interests, our values.  And at the same time, we have immediate problems with terrorist organizations that may be advancing.  And rather than try to play Whac-a-Mole wherever these terrorist organizations may pop up, what we have to do is to be able to build effective partnerships, make sure that they have capacity.  Some of the assets that have been devoted solely to Afghanistan over the last decade we’ve got to shift to make sure that we have coverage in the Middle East and North Africa.

You look at a country like Yemen — a very impoverished country and one that has its own sectarian or ethnic divisions — there, we do have a committed partner in President Hadi and his government.  And we have been able to help to develop their capacities without putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground at the same time as we’ve got enough CT, or counterterrorism capabilities that we’re able to go after folks that might try to hit our embassy or might be trying to export terrorism into Europe or the United States.

And looking at how we can create more of those models is going to be part of the solution in dealing with both Syria and Iraq.  But in order for us to do that, we still need to have actual governments on the ground that we can partner with and that we’ve got some confidence are going to pursue the political policies of inclusiveness.  In Yemen, for example, a wide-ranging national dialogue that took a long time, but helped to give people a sense that there is a legitimate political outlet for grievances that they may have.

Peter Maer.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Going back to where you see Prime Minister al-Maliki playing a role at this point, you said that it’s a time to rise above differences, that there’s a need for more inclusive government.  Is he a unifier?  And how much clout does the United States ultimately have with any of the leadership in Iraq at this point really?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we still provide them significant assistance.  I think they recognize that, unlike some other players in the region, we don’t have territorial ambitions in their country.  We’re not looking to control their assets or their energy.  We want to make sure that we’re vindicating the enormous effort and sacrifice that was made by our troops in giving them an opportunity to build a stable, inclusive society that can prosper and deliver for the basic needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people.

And at the same time, they are a sovereign country.  They have their own politics.  And what we have tried to do is to give them our best advice about how they can solve their political problems.  Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there is not going to be a simple military solution to this issue.  If you start seeing the various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners, then it is almost certain that Baghdad and the central government will not be able to control huge chunks of their own country.  The only way they can do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country.

Right now, that doesn’t exist.  There’s too much suspicion, there’s too much mistrust.  And the good news is that an election took place in which despite all this mistrust, despite all this frustration, despite all this anger, you still had millions of Iraqis turn out — in some cases, in very dangerous circumstances.  You now have a court that has certified those elections, and you have a constitutional process to advance government formation.

So far, at least, the one bit of encouraging news that we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties have said they continue to be committed to choosing a leadership and a government through the existing constitutional order.

So what you’re seeing I think is, as the prospects of civil war heighten, many Iraq leaders stepping back and saying, let’s not plunge back into the abyss; let’s see if we can resolve this politically.  But they don’t have a lot of time.  And you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos.

And so one of the messages that we had for Prime Minister Maliki but also for the Speaker of the House and the other leadership inside of Iraq is, get going on this government formation.  It’ll make it a lot easier for them to shape a military strategy.  It’ll also make it possible for us to partner much more effectively than we can currently.

Q    Given the Prime Minister’s track record, is he a unifier?  Can he play that role after what we’ve seen play out over the last couple of weeks is brought into play?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak.  Right now, they can make a series of decisions.  Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, and the test for all of them is going to be whether they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism, and say this is bigger than any one of us and we’ve got to make sure that we do what’s right for the Iraqi people.  And that’s a challenge.

That’s not something that the United States can do for them.  That’s not something, by the way, that the United States Armed Forces can do for them.  We can provide them the space, we can provide them the tools.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to make those decisions.

In the meantime, my job is to make sure that American personnel there are safe; that we are consulting with the Iraqi security forces; that we’re getting a better assessment of what’s on the ground; and that we’re recognizing the dangers of ISIL over the long term, and developing the kinds of comprehensive counterterrorism strategies that we’re going to need to deal with this issue.  And that’s going to involve some short-term responses to make sure that ISIL is not obtaining capacity to endanger us directly or our allies and partners.  But it also is going to require some long-term strategies, as well.

Because part of what we’ve with respect to ISIL is a broader trend that I talked about at West Point — rather than a single network, a discreet network of terrorists, this fluid combination of hardened terrorists, disaffected local leadership.  And where there’s vacuums, they’re filling it and creating the potential for serious danger for all concerned.

Thank you very much.

Q    On Iran, Mr. President, any words on what you’re willing to do, and are you also willing to work with them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we’re sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it’s inclusive and that if the interests of Sunni, Shia and Kurd are all respected.  If Iran is coming in solely as an armed force on behalf of the Shia, and if it is framed in that fashion, then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term.

Q    What’s your sense of that right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that just as Iraq’s leaders have to make decisions, I think Iran has heard from us.  We’ve indicated to them that it is important for them to avoid steps that might encourage the kind of sectarian splits that might lead to civil war.

And the one thing that I think has to be emphasized — we have deep differences with Iran across the board on a whole host of issues.  Obviously, what’s happened in Syria in part is the result of Iran coming in hot and heavy on one side.  And Iran obviously should consider the fact that if its view of the region is solely through sectarian frames, they could find themselves fighting in a whole lot of places.  And that’s probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term either.  I suspect there are folks in Iran who recognize that.  A Iraq in chaos on their borders is probably not in their interests.  But old habits die hard, and we’ll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
2:01 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Crisis in Iraq — will not send ground troops

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Iraq

Source: WH, 6-13-14 

South Lawn

12:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I wanted to take some time to give you a quick update about the situation in Iraq.

Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my National Security Council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team.  Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Now, this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.

I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.

So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed.

So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies.

Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.  So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.

Indeed, across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region.

We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military.

We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.  Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward.

I’ll take a question.

Q    Mr. President, given the recent U.S. history there, are you reluctant to get involved again in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that we should look at the situation carefully.  We have an interest in making sure that a group like ISIL, which is a vicious organization and has been able to take advantage of the chaos in Syria, that they don’t get a broader foothold.  I think there are dangers of fierce sectarian fighting if, for example, these terrorist organizations try to overrun sacred Shia sites, which could trigger Shia-Sunni conflicts that could be very hard to stamp out.  So we have enormous interests there.

And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States, by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need.

Anybody else?

Q    Mr. President, is the Syrian civil war spilling over the Iraq border?  And what can we do to stop it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that’s been happening for some time.  ISIL has been able to gain a foothold in Syria.  That’s part of the reason why we’ve been so concerned about it.  That’s part of the reason why we’ve been supporting the Syrian opposition there.  But it’s a challenging problem.

In Iraq, the Iraqi government, which was initially resistant to some of our offers of help, has come around now to recognize that cooperation with us on some of these issues can be useful.  Obviously, that’s not the case in Syria where President Assad has no interest in seeing us involved there, and where some of the governments that are supporting Assad have been able to block, for example, U.N. efforts even at humanitarian aid.  But this is a regional problem and it is going to be a long-term problem.

And what we’re going to have to do is combine selective actions by our military to make sure that we’re going after terrorists who could harm our personnel overseas or eventually hit the homeland.  We’re going to have to combine that with what is a very challenging international effort to try to rebuild countries and communities that have been shattered by sectarian war.  And that’s not an easy task.

Q    Mr. President, which foreign countries have you been in touch with?  And what are they willing to do as part of this international effort?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re in contact with them now.  So we’ll have a better sense by the end of the weekend, after those consultations.  And we will be getting a better sense from them of how they might support an effort to bring about the kind of political unity inside of Iraq that bolsters security forces.

Look, the United States has poured a lot of money into these Iraqi security forces, and we devoted a lot of training to Iraqi security forces.  The fact that they are not willing to stand and fight, and defend their posts against admittedly hardened terrorists but not terrorists who are overwhelming in numbers indicates that there’s a problem with morale, there’s a problem in terms of commitment.  And ultimately, that’s rooted in the political problems that have plagued the country for a very long time.

Last question.  Last one.

Q    Thank you.  Can you talk a little bit about U.S. concern of disruption of oil supplies?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, so far at least we have not seen major disruptions in oil supplies.  Obviously if, in fact, ISIL was able to obtain control over major output, significant refineries, that could be a source of concern.  As you might expect, world oil markets react to any kind of instability in the Middle East.  One of our goals should be to make sure that in cooperation with other countries in the region not only are we creating some sort of backstop in terms of what’s happening inside of Iraq, but if there do end up being disruptions inside of Iraq, that some of the other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack.  So that will be part of the consultations that will be taking place during the course of this week.

Just to give people a sense of timing here, although events on the ground in Iraq have been happening very quickly, our ability to plan, whether it’s military action or work with the Iraqi government on some of these political issues, is going to take several days.  So people should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight.  We want to make sure that we have good eyes on the situation there.  We want to make sure that we’ve gathered all the intelligence that’s necessary so that if, in fact, I do direct and order any actions there, that they’re targeted, they’re precise and they’re going to have an effect.

And as I indicated before — and I want to make sure that everybody understands this message — the United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.  We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we’re there we’re keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we’re not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability and prosperity of the country.

All right, thank you very much, everybody.

END
12:11 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency February 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Warning Russia Against Military Intervention in the Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source:  WH, 2-28-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody.

Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine.  Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.  Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.

I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.

However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.  Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.

It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.  It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws.  And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world.  And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions.  But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.

Right now, the situation remains very fluid.  Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister — the Prime Minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.  I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations.

We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies.  We will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government.  And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.

Thanks very much.

END
5:09 P.M. EST

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.

Political Musings August 15, 2013: President Barack Obama condemns Egypt violence, responds by canceling joint military exercises

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama condemns Egypt violence, responds by canceling joint military exercises (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama took time out from his week-long vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, in Chilmark, Massachusetts on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 to speak about the ongoing violence in Egypt that has resulted in over 600 deaths…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Situation in Egypt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt

Source: WH, 8-15-13

Residence
Chilmark, Massachusetts

10:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I just finished a discussion with my national security team about the situation in Egypt, and I wanted to provide an update about our response to the events of the last several days.

Let me begin by stepping back for a moment.  The relationship between the United States and Egypt goes back decades.  It’s rooted in our respect of Egypt as a nation, an ancient center of civilization, and a cornerstone for peace in the Middle East.  It’s also rooted in our ties to the Egyptian people, forged through a longstanding partnership.

Just over two years ago, America was inspired by the Egyptian people’s desire for change as millions of Egyptians took to the streets to defend their dignity and demand a government that was responsive to their aspirations for political freedom and economic opportunity.  And we said at the time that change would not come quickly or easily, but we did align ourselves with a set of principles:  nonviolence, a respect for universal rights, and a process for political and economic reform.  In doing so, we were guided by values but also by interests, because we believe nations are more stable and more successful when they’re guided by those principles as well.

And that’s why we’re so concerned by recent events.  We appreciate the complexity of the situation.  While Mohamed Morsi was elected President in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians.  We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course.  And while we do not believe that force is the way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path.

Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that’s taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.

The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces.  We deplore violence against civilians.  We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest.  We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right.  And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.

And given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we’ve sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people.  But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.

As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.  Going forward I’ve asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

Let me say that the Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days.  And to the Egyptian people, let me say the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop.  We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people.  We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches.  We believe that the state of emergency should be lifted, that a process of national reconciliation should begin, that all parties need to have a voice in Egypt’s future, that the rights of women and religious minorities should be respected, and that commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms of the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a President.

Pursuing that path with help Egypt meet the democratic aspirations of its people while attracting the investment, tourism and international support that can help it deliver opportunities to its citizens.  Violence, on the other hand, will only feed the cycle of polarization that isolates Egyptians from one another and from the world, and that continues to hamper the opportunity for Egypt to get back on the path of economic growth.

Let me make one final point.  America cannot determine the future of Egypt.  That’s a task for the Egyptian people.  We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure.  I know it’s tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what’s gone wrong.  We’ve been blamed by supporters of Morsi.  We’ve been blamed by the other side, as if we are supporters of Morsi.  That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve.

We want Egypt to succeed.  We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt.  That’s our interest.  But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work.

We recognize that change takes time, and that a process like this is never guaranteed.  There are examples in recent history of countries that are transitioned out of a military government towards a democratic government, and it did not always go in a straight line, and the process was not always smooth.  There are going to be false starts.  There will be difficult days.  America’s democratic journey took us through some mighty struggles to perfect our union.

From Asia to the Americas, we know that democratic transitions are measured not in months or even years, but sometimes in generations.  So in the spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect, I want to be clear that America wants to be a partner in the Egyptian people’s pursuit of a better future, and we are guided by our national interest in this longstanding relationship.  But our partnership must also advance the principles that we believe in and that so many Egyptians have sacrificed for these last several years — no matter what party or faction they belong to.

So America will work with all those in Egypt and around the world who support a future of stability that rests on a foundation of justice and peace and dignity.

Thank you very much.

END
10:37 A.M. EDT

Political Musings July 6, 2013: President Barack Obama celebrates American history and the military on the Fourth of July

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama celebrates American history and the military on the Fourth of July

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Thursday July 4, Americans across the United States celebrated the country’s 237th birthday; the day observed which marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle celebrated with military…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Honors Fallen Troops at Arlington National Cemetary — Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-27-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Today President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivering remarks.

The President thanked members of the armed forces and veterans for their service to the United States, and paid tribute to our fallen heroes laid to rest at Arlington

President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying (5/27/13)President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

READ MORE

Watch the President’s full remarks

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service — from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam.  We’re grateful to you.

I want to thank General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary  dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she’s done; for Chaplain Brainerd, Secretary Shinseki, all our guests.  And most of all, to members of our armed services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects:  I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes — those who we remember fondly in our memories, and those known only to God.

Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic.  But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character — the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love.

That character — that selflessness — beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see.  It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our union together, and in those who fought to defend it abroad — from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia.  This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean War.  And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again — in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.

Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq.  Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.

And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads.  But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war.

It should be self-evident.  And in generations past, it was.  And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort — soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines.  During the Vietnam War, just about everybody knew somebody — a brother, a son, a friend — who served in harm’s way.

Today, it’s different.  Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor.  Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power.  But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.  Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.  I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.”  And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right.  As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan.  They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission.  And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington.

Captain Sara Cullen had a smile that could light up a room and a love of country that led her to West Point.  And after graduation, Sara became a Black Hawk pilot — and married a former Black Hawk pilot.  She was just 27 years old when she and four other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission near Kandahar.  This past April, Sara was laid to rest here, in Section 60.  Today, Sara is remembered by her mother, Lynn, who says she is “proud of her daughter’s life, proud of her faith and proud of her service to our country.”  (Applause.)

Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come.  A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.  And last week, Frankie was laid to rest just a few rows over from Sara.

Staff Sergeant Eric Christian was a born leader.  A member of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Eric had served five tours of duty, but kept going back because he felt responsible for his teammates and was determined to finish the mission.  On May 4th, Eric gave his life after escorting a high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.  Later, his family got a letter from a Marine who had served two tours with Eric.  In it, the Marine wrote, “There were people who measured their success based on how many enemies they killed or how many missions they led to conquer a foe.  Eric based his success on how many of his friends he brought home, and he brought home many — including me.”  Eric was laid to rest here at Arlington, just six days ago.  (Applause.)

So today, we remember their service.  Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close.  Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating.  And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.  I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours:  to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war.

But on a more basic level, every American can do something even simpler.  As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Both of her sons are Marines.  Her oldest served two tours in Iraq.  Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time.  He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen.  But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her.  She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget.  On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise.  Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country.  Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.

May God bless the fallen and all those who serve.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:44 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 9, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama & Dr. Jill Biden’s Speeches at Military Mother’s Day Tea

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden at Military Mother’s Day Tea

Source: WH, 5-9-13 

East Room

4:04 P.M. EDT

DR.BIDEN:  Hello, everyone.  Please sit.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you for being here and it’s wonderful to welcome you to the White House.

Many of you know I’m a proud Blue Star mom.  My son, Beau, is a soldier in the Delaware Army National Guard.  So while I’m always honored to be in the presence of our military families, I feel a special bond with other military moms.  I’ll never forget the day that Beau deployed to Iraq.  It was that mixture of pride and concern that military moms know all too well, right?  Having Beau overseas was a tough year for our entire family, but it was especially difficult for my daughter-in-law Hallie, my granddaughter Natalie and our grandson Hunter.

There were a lot of people who stepped up in different ways to support our family that year.  A neighbor shoveled the driveway during a snowstorm.  Our church included Beau’s name in the church bulletin.  And at Natalie’s school, her teacher hung a photo of Beau’s unit on the wall so that everyone would know that Natalie’s daddy was away.  Through the whole experience, these acts of kindness meant so much to them and to us.

While our sons and daughters serve so selflessly having a community share the burden makes all the difference in the world. Today I am here to say thank you for all that you do, for your selflessness and for your sacrifice on behalf of our country.

And now it is my great honor to introduce our First Lady.  Military families have no greater supporter than my friend and partner, Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Thanks so much.  Well, everyone, welcome.
Thank you.  Thanks, Jill.  Thanks so much for that gracious introduction.  But, more importantly, thank you for being such a phenomenal military mom and such a spokesperson for military families.  You’ve been just a great partner in Joining Forces and everything we do.  And I’m just grateful to have you as a friend and as a partner.

Isn’t it pretty in here?  (Laughter.)  It really is.  I walked in and was like, oh, my goodness!  And everyone looks so nice.  (Laughter.)  Must be a tea going on here or something like that.  (Laughter.)

Well, welcome.  I hope you guys are doing good, having fun  — everything going well.  So far, so good?  That’s good.  (Applause.)  Well, we’re happy to have you here.

And I want to start by recognizing a few people.  I want to recognize Patty Shinseki, who is also a dear friend.  Patty, where are you?  Are you here?  Patty is right there.  (Laughter.) Patty, wonderful to see you.  Thank you for being such a tremendous supporter of both Jill and myself, and for all the sacrifices that you make.

I want to recognize Lilibet Hagel who is here.  Please stand, the both of you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, as well, for your service to this country and for all that you do for Jill and myself as well.

And I want to take a minute to embarrass somebody in the room, because I have a special person here as well — a woman who is my rock in so many ways.  I couldn’t do what I do every single day if it weren’t for this woman.  I just did an interview the other day where somebody asked me what was one of the most important things that my mother taught me — and I could go on and on and on.  But my mom has taught me most to be a good listener, to be patient, to use common sense.  She has taught me to be open-minded.

And what she still does for me today is that she will give me endless amounts of time just to talk and talk and talk and talk — and all she does is listen.  (Laughter.)  That’s all she does, is listen.  And sometimes that’s all we need.

So it is my honor to recognize my mommy, Marian Robinson, who is here.  Stand up, Mommy.  (Applause.)  It’s Grandma.  (Laughter.)

And finally, I want to thank all of you for being here today as we celebrate Mother’s Day at the White House.  It’s really good.  We’re doing it just a little bit early, so get double duty, moms.  (Laughter.)  We get today and we get tomorrow.  Let’s stretch this out.  (Laughter.)  We get Saturday, Sunday — and I think we should just figure out what we need to do on Monday, too.  (Laughter.)  So I think this is a good way to start off the weekend.

Today, we have some of the most extraordinary moms in the country with us.  We have active duty troops and veterans and military spouses from all across the country.  And we knew we wouldn’t be celebrating motherhood properly if we didn’t have you guys bring along some special guests — your children — and some people have brought their own moms as well.  So this is quite a beautiful crew — and handsome, too.  (Laughter.)  So we are thrilled to have several generations of families here with us today.

We also have a group of very special women who I’d like to take a moment to recognize — some of the Military Spouses of the Year from each branch of our Armed Forces.  And as I say your name, please stand so that we can recognize you.  Verenice Castillo from the Air Force.  (Applause.)  Stay up.  (Laughter.) I want you to get your moment.  Tara Crooks from the Army.  (Applause.)  Karen Guenther from the Marine Corps.  (Applause.) Shelley Kimball from the Coast Guard.  Alisha Youch from the Navy.  (Applause.)  Where’s Alisha?

DR. BIDEN:  Alisha had another event that she had to race to.  She’s so sad —

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, give her a hug from us.

And just a couple of hours ago, Alicia Hinds Ward from the National Guard was named the National Military Spouse of the Year for 2013.  Is she here?  There you go — Alicia.  (Applause.)

Thank you all so much.  We are so proud.  You all are just a reflection of what you know folks like you are doing all over this country.  And it is an honor to have you here.  We are grateful for what you do.  And have a good time.  You can sit down now.  (Laughter.)

But I’m going to talk a little bit more about our Military Spouse of the Year, Alicia.  Alicia’s story probably sounds pretty familiar to many of you in this room.  She’s a mother of three boys — ooh, sorry.  (Laughter.)  Her husband is in the Air National Guard here in Washington.  And every day, she finds a way to give back in some way, shape or form — working to build morale and support family members who are going through deployments, leading monthly forums to educate families about their benefits in the military, distributing book bags to military kids.  And she’s doing it all because, as she says — and these are here words — she says, “I believe each of us as the ability to be as phenomenal as we choose or we are given the opportunity to be.  Empower someone and watch them soar.”

Those are Alicia’s words.  And that’s what military moms do every day.  You all help people soar.  You help our country soar. When somebody needs you, whether it’s your family, or your community, or your country — you lift them up.  You answer the call every single time.  You find a way to fit that meeting into your calendar — which is why Alicia is gone — (laughter) — or stop by that neighbor’s house on the way home to lend a hand.

And even though you’ve got families to raise and jobs to do all your own, you never complain.  And Jill and I say this all the time, as we meet with thousands of military families — you all just never complain.  Never complain.  You just keep moving along, getting it done.

And I hope that you know how much your country appreciates you.  I really hope you do.  I hope that you know that people across America have your backs, from everyone here at the White House and the Department of Defense to CEOs of some of the largest companies in this country, to doctors and college professors and community and faith leaders in cities all over this country — people are responding to your service with service of their own.

And that’s why Jill and I — one of the things that we’ve seen as we’ve been working with Joining Forces over these past several years — every time we’ve issued a call to action on your behalf, whether it’s for jobs or educational opportunities or volunteers to do more for you, Americans have responded overwhelmingly, in such positive ways.  We haven’t had a single person tell us no when we’ve asked.

I mean, that’s what we’ve learned.  A lot of times when people don’t step up, they don’t know — they don’t know what to do.  But when we explain, when we share, when we ask them to do it, they step up.  And I know that’s not just because Jill and I are asking.  I mean, we’re cool and everything, but — (laughter) — but it’s really because of all of you and everything your families have given to this country.

So I want you all to know that this country is here for you and your families now and in the years ahead — because everything we’re doing with Joining Forces isn’t about the Obama administration.  The goal is that this is a forever proposition, that anyone who occupies the White House from now on will take this mission up as a primary focus of everything they do.  All of these changes we hope to be part of the bureaucracy from now on. So that’s what Joining Forces is all about, and that’s what today is all about.

So we really do want you to make yourselves at home.  When the lights go off and all the cameras leave, it’s just tea with us.  (Laughter.)  Eat all you want.  As I say, have all the cookies you want.  (Laughter.)  Today is the day to forget about Let’s Move.  This is the balance part of it.  (Laughter.)  We’ve earned it, moms.  (Laughter.)  We can have our cookies.

And we’re going to walk out, Jill and I, for a second.  And we’re going to ask all the young people in the room to come with us because we’ve got some surprises for you.  So we’re going to leave, do a little business, and we will be back for a few surprises for you all.

So, moms, hold tight.  You get a couple of minutes of free babysitting.  (Laughter.)  So any kids who are ready who want to leave and come with us, you guys follow us.  We’re coming.  We’re going to march on out.  Let’s go.

* * * * *

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, surprise!  (Laughter.)  You guys, your kids will be coming in, they’re going to find their places.  They’ve been working so hard on some special surprises.  You all, please, be seated.

Well, it is my honor to welcome Prince Harry to the White House today.  As you all might know, Prince Harry is a Captain in the Army Air Corps in the British Armed Forces.  (Applause.)  In January, he returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan, and for the past few years he has focused on honoring the sacrifice and service of our veterans and military families, especially now that the war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close.

He has spent much of his time supporting our wounded warriors and the families of our fallen.  And this weekend — absolutely.  (Applause.)  And this weekend, he will be attending the fourth annual Warrior Games in Colorado Springs.

So we are absolutely thrilled that he could be with us today, that he took the time.  He just arrived in D.C. and only has a limited time with us because he has a very busy schedule.  But when he heard about this tea and all of you — as I said, when people know about you and the sacrifices you make, they want to be a part of it — he wanted to be here to personally thank you for your service.

So we are going to head into the Blue Room — Jill, Prince Harry and myself — and we’re going to take time to greet each one of you.  So Prince Harry is going to stay as long as he can, and our goal is to get through everyone.  But as soon as he — whenever he has to leave we’ll pull him out, and Jill and I will be here to the very end.

So Happy Mother’s Day.  (Applause.)  I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves, and we’ll see you inside.  (Applause.)

END
4:49 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency March 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Naturalization Ceremony for Active Duty Service Members and Civilians Pushes Congress to Move on Immigration Reform Bill

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama to new citizens: “In each of you, we see the true spirit of America”

Source: WH, 3-25-13

Watch this video on YouTube

Today, President Obama spoke at a at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians at the White House. He welcomed 28 new American citizens to our nation of immigrants and called for reforms to our immigration system that will help harness the talent and ingenuity of all those like them who want to work hard and find a place here in America….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at a Naturalization Ceremony for Active Duty Service Members and Civilians

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-25-13

East Room

11:36 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Well, good morning, everybody.  Secretary Napolitano, thank you for administering the oath and making it official.  Director Mayorkas, distinguished guests, family and friends, it is a great pleasure to have you here at the White House.  And it is an honor to be among the first to greet some of my fellow citizens of the United States.

Today, here in the people’s house — a house designed by an Irish immigrant — we welcome 28 men and women, immigrants themselves, who from this day forward have earned the precious right to call this country home.

And I know this is an incredibly special moment for you and your families, but I have to say, it’s a special moment for the rest of us as well.  Because as we look out across this room, we’re reminded that what makes somebody American isn’t just their bloodlines, it’s not just an accident of birth.  It’s a fidelity to our founding principles, a faith in the idea that anyone, anywhere, can write the next great chapter in this American story.

That’s the promise of America.  And today we know it’s alive and well in each and every one of you.

At first glance, of course, it would be easy to define this group by their differences.  They all hail from different corners of the world — from Nigeria to Nicaragua, from the Philippines to Peru.  They arrived here in different ways.  Some of you came here as children, carried by parents who wished for them a life that they had never had.  Others came as adults, leaving behind everything you knew to seek a new life.  But what binds you together — what binds us all together — is something more meaningful than anything of that.  A love for this country and all that it represents — that’s what unites each and every one of you.

For Nikita Kirichenko — there’s Nikita right here — that love runs so deep it led him to enlist in our military.  Nikita came here at the age of 11 from Ukraine.  His mother saw America as the one place on Earth where her son could do anything he wanted.  And a few years ago, Nikita decided that he wanted to join the Air Force so that, in his words, “I could give back to a country that took me in and gave me a better life.”  Thank you, Nikita.  Today, we proudly salute him not just as a member of our military but also as a citizen of our country.

Today, we salute Elrina Brits.  Where did Elrina go?  There she is.  Elrina was born in South Africa, came here as a child, grew up in Washington State.  When Elrina decided to join the Navy, somebody told her that she wouldn’t be able to cut it.  But even though she wasn’t yet American on paper, she had that American quality of being defiant when somebody says you can’t do something.  (Laughter.)  So she proved them wrong.  She deployed twice to the Middle East, once to Haiti, showcasing another quintessentially American impulse, and that’s helping others in need.  And as a new citizen, Elrina hopes to serve her country in a new way -– as a police officer.  So, congratulations, Elrina.

Elrina, Nikita, every member of the military with us have shown incredible patriotism; a willingness to risk their lives in defense of a nation that was not yet their own.  And that’s a remarkable act.  And it made each of them one of us.  It made each of them in some ways American even before it was official.  Because that kind of service and sacrifice has defined our nation for more than two centuries.

In America, we look out for one another.  We see citizenship not just as a collection of rights but also as a set of responsibilities.  That’s who we are.  And that’s what brought so many to our shores, including Kingsley Elebo.  Kingsley came here at the age of 35 from Nigeria, pursued his master’s in information technology.  He’s now pursuing his doctorate.  He wants to become a professor so he can help America lead the world in high-tech industries of tomorrow.  And what Kingsley said is, “What makes this country great is that if you’re a citizen you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”  And he’s right.  And we’re glad that, as of today, Kingsley is part of it, too.

We’re also glad to welcome Pertula George-Redd.  Pertula arrived in America from St. Lucia at the age of 23, leaving behind her parents and seven siblings.  She came here to study international development.  She stayed, for over a decade now, to work at non-profits that teach our kids about sustainable foods and how to live a healthier life by eating well — which I know Michelle is very happy about.  Today, she also has the gratitude of her new nation.  So, thank you so much.

We are so proud of everybody here.  In each of you, we see the true spirit of America.  And we see a bit of ourselves, too, because most of our stories trace back to moments just like this one.  To an ancestor who -– just like the men and women here today –- raised their right hand and recited that sacred oath.

And the point is that unless you are one of the first Americans, unless you are a Native American, you came from someplace else.  That’s why we’ve always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants.  And we’ve always been better off for it.  The promise we see in those who come from all over the world is one of our greatest strengths.  It’s kept our workforce young.  It keeps our businesses on the cutting edge.  It’s helped to build the greatest economic engine that the world has ever known.  And you think about the drive and the determination that it took for each of these 28 men and women to reach this moment.  Imagine how far they’ll go from here, the kind of difference that they’ll be making on behalf of this country.

Immigration makes us a stronger.  It keeps us vibrant.  It keeps us hungry.  It keeps us prosperous.  It is part of what makes this such a dynamic country.  And if we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest that the world has to offer, then we need to do a better job of welcoming them.  We’ve known for years that our immigration system is broken, that we’re not doing enough to harness the talent and ingenuity of all those who want to work hard and find a place here in America.  And after avoiding the problem for years, the time has come to fix it once and for all.  The time has come for a comprehensive, sensible immigration reform.

Now, a couple months ago in Nevada — and then last month again in my State of the Union Address — I talked about how Republicans and Democrats were ready to tackle this problem together.  And the good news is that since then, we’ve seen some real action in Congress.  There are bipartisan groups in both the House and the Senate working to tackle this challenge, and I applaud them for that.  We are making progress, but we’ve got to finish the job, because this issue is not new.

Everyone pretty much knows what’s broken.  Everybody knows how to fix it.  We’ve all proposed solutions and we’ve got a lot of white papers and studies.  And we’ve just got, at this point, to work up the political courage to do what’s required to be done.  So I expect a bill to be put forward.  I expect the debate to begin next month.  I want to sign that bill into law as soon as possible.

We know that real reform means continuing to strengthen our border security and holding employers accountable.  We know that real reform means providing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the shadows — a pathway that includes passing a background check and paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English and then, going to the back of the line behind everyone else who is trying to come here legally.

We know that real reform requires modernizing the legal immigration system so that our citizens don’t have to wait years before their loved ones are able to join them in America, and so that we’re attracting the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that are going to help create good paying jobs and grow our economy.

So let’s get this done, and let’s do it in a way that keeps faith with our history and our values.  And no other country on Earth welcomes as many new arrivals as us.  And as long as the promise of America endures, as long as we continue to stand tall as a beacon of hope and opportunity, then the world’s hardest workers, the hungriest entrepreneurs, the men and women who are willing to make enormous sacrifices to get a better life — not just for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren, they’re going to keep on coming.

And like the millions who came before — and like the 28 Americans who are here today — they will bring with them new hopes and new dreams, new ideas and new optimism about our future.  That will make us stronger.  That’s how we’ll make sure that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us.

So I want to thank each and every one of you for allowing me the opportunity to share in this incredible moment.  One of the best things I get to do as President of the United States is to address all of you as fellow citizens.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

And we now have one last piece of business to conclude the ceremony.  I’d like to ask one of our newest citizen, Julian de la Valle, from Colombia, to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Julian.

(The Pledge of Allegiance is recited.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.  Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And now, enjoy the White House, all right?  (Laughter.)  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Headlines February 26, 2013: Speaker John Boehner’s Press Conference on the Sequester — President Obama Using Military as a Campaign Prop to Demand Tax Hikes

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Speaker Boehner: President Obama Using Military as a Campaign Prop to Demand Tax Hikes

Source: Speaker Boehner Press Office, 2-26-13

February 26, 2013
Video

“You know, Republicans have voted twice to replace the sequester.  The president, as you’re all aware, insisted that he not have to deal with the debt ceiling twice and insisted that the backstop for the work of the super committee be the sequester. 

“But I don’t think the president’s focused on trying to find a solution to the sequester.  The president has been traveling all over the country and today going down to Newport News in order to use our military men and women as a prop in yet another campaign rally to support his tax hikes. 

“Now the American people know if the president gets more money they’re just going to spend it.  The fact is is that he’s gotten his tax hikes.   It’s time to focus on the real problem here in Washington and that is spending. 

“The president has known for 16 months that the sequester was looming out there when the super committee failed to come to an agreement.  And so for 16 months the president’s been traveling all over the country holding rallies instead of sitting down with Senate leaders in order to try to forge an agreement over there in order to move a bill.  We have moved a bill in the House twice, we should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.”     

Political Headlines February 25, 2013: Republicans urge President Barack Obama to ‘stop campaigning’ over budget cuts

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Republicans urge Obama to ‘stop campaigning’ over budget cuts

Source: Fox News, 2-25-13

House Republican leaders on Monday urged President Obama to “stop campaigning” and hunker down with Congress to find an alternative to the bludgeon of spending cuts set to hit Friday, saying now is not the time “for a road-show president….READ MORE

%d bloggers like this: