Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s on the Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the USA FREEDOM Act

Source: WH, 6-2-15

For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.

After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.

I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.

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Full Text Obama Presidency August 9, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Vacation Press Conference on NSA Surveillance & Patriot Act Reforms — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in a Press Conference

Source: WH, 8-9-13

President Obama on Friday during a news conference in the East Room of the White House.
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama on Friday during a news conference in the East Room of the White House.

President Obama announced Friday afternoon that his administration would change the Patriot Act and other aspects of surveillance programs.

3:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about what I believe should be our number-one priority as a country — building a better bargain for the middle class and for Americans who want to work their way into the middle class. At the same time, I’m focused on my number-one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, and that’s keeping the American people safe. And in recent days, we’ve been reminded once again about the threats to our nation.

As I said at the National Defense University back in May, in meeting those threats we have to strike the right balance between protecting our security and preserving our freedoms. And as part of this rebalancing, I called for a review of our surveillance programs. Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate, but not always fully informed way.

Now, keep in mind that as a senator, I expressed a healthy skepticism about these programs, and as President, I’ve taken steps to make sure they have strong oversight by all three branches of government and clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the American people. But given the history of abuse by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance — particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives.

I’m also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas, because American leadership around the world depends upon the example of American democracy and American openness — because what makes us different from other countries is not simply our ability to secure our nation, it’s the way we do it — with open debate and democratic process.

In other words, it’s not enough for me, as President, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well. And that’s why, over the last few weeks, I’ve consulted members of Congress who come at this issue from many different perspectives. I’ve asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review where our counterterrorism efforts and our values come into tension, and I directed my national security team to be more transparent and to pursue reforms of our laws and practices.

And so, today, I’d like to discuss four specific steps — not all inclusive, but some specific steps that we’re going to be taking very shortly to move the debate forward.

First, I will work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to Section 215 of the Patriot Act — the program that collects telephone records. As I’ve said, this program is an important tool in our effort to disrupt terrorist plots. And it does not allow the government to listen to any phone calls without a warrant. But given the scale of this program, I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse. So after having a dialogue with members of Congress and civil libertarians, I believe that there are steps we can take to give the American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse.

For instance, we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency, and constraints on the use of this authority. So I look forward to working with Congress to meet those objectives.

Second, I’ll work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISC. The FISC was created by Congress to provide judicial review of certain intelligence activities so that a federal judge must find that our actions are consistent with the Constitution. However, to build greater confidence, I think we should consider some additional changes to the FISC.

One of the concerns that people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story — may tilt it too far in favor of security, may not pay enough attention to liberty. And while I’ve got confidence in the court and I think they’ve done a fine job, I think we can provide greater assurances that the court is looking at these issues from both perspectives — security and privacy.

So, specifically, we can take steps to make sure civil liberties concerns have an independent voice in appropriate cases by ensuring that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.

Number three, we can, and must, be more transparent. So I’ve directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible. We’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the NSA, but we can go further. So at my direction, the Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, and released information that details its mission, authorities, and oversight. And finally, the intelligence community is creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency, and this will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission, and why it does so.

Fourth, we’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in the haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments — including our own — unprecedented capability to monitor communications.

So I am tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities — particularly our surveillance technologies. And they’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy — particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public. And they will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of this year, so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy.

So all these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values. And to others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people. Our intelligence is focused, above all, on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people, and — in many cases — protect our allies.

It’s true we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do, refuse to show — and that includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics. We shouldn’t forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information online under strict guidelines and for narrow purposes, and the willingness of some other governments to throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.

And let me close with one additional thought. The men and women of our intelligence community work every single day to keep us safe because they love this country and believe in our values. They’re patriots. And I believe that those who have lawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties are also patriots who love our country and want it to live up to our highest ideals. So this is how we’re going to resolve our differences in the United States — through vigorous public debate, guided by our Constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.

So, with that, I’m going to take some questions. And let’s see who we’ve got here. We’re going to start with Julie Pace of AP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about some of the foreign policy fallout from the disclosure of the NSA programs that you discussed. Your spokesman said yesterday that there’s no question that the U.S. relationship with Russia has gotten worse since Vladimir Putin took office. How much of that decline do you attribute directly to Mr. Putin, given that you seem to have had a good working relationship with his predecessor? Also will there be any additional punitive measures taken against Russia for granting asylum to Edward Snowden? Or is canceling the September summit really all you can do given the host of issues the U.S. needs Russian cooperation for? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Good. I think there’s always been some tension in the U.S.-Russian relationship after the fall of the Soviet Union. There’s been cooperation in some areas; there’s been competition in others.

It is true that in my first four years, in working with President Medvedev, we made a lot of progress. We got START done — or START II done. We were able to cooperate together on Iran sanctions. They provided us help in terms of supplying our troops in Afghanistan. We were able to get Russia into the WTO — which is not just good for Russia, it’s good for our companies and businesses because they’re more likely then to follow international norms and rules. So there’s been a lot of good work that has been done and that is going to continue to be done. What’s also true is, is that when President Putin — who was prime minister when Medvedev was president — came back into power I think we saw more rhetoric on the Russian side that was anti-American, that played into some of the old stereotypes about the Cold War contests between the United States and Russia. And I’ve encouraged Mr. Putin to think forward as opposed to backwards on those issues — with mixed success.

And I think the latest episode is just one more in a number of emerging differences that we’ve seen over the last several months around Syria, around human rights issues, where it is probably appropriate for us to take a pause, reassess where it is that Russia is going, what our core interests are, and calibrate the relationship so that we’re doing things that are good for the United States and hopefully good for Russia as well, but recognizing that there just are going to be some differences and we’re not going to be able to completely disguise them.

And that’s okay. Keep in mind that although I’m not attending the summit, I’ll still be going to St. Petersburg because Russia is hosting the G20. That’s important business in terms of our economy and our jobs and all the issues that are of concern to Americans.

I know that one question that’s been raised is how do we approach the Olympics. I want to just make very clear right now I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed. Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia. But as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue.

And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there. And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then it probably makes their team weaker.

Q Are there going to be any additional punitive measures for Russia, beyond canceling the summit?

THE PRESIDENT: Keep in mind that our decision to not participate in the summit was not simply around Mr. Snowden. It had to do with the fact that, frankly, on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress, Russia has not moved. And so we don’t consider that strictly punitive.

We’re going to assess where the relationship can advance U.S. interests and increase peace and stability and prosperity around the world. Where it can, we’re going to keep on working with them. Where we have differences, we’re going to say so clearly. And my hope is, is that over time, Mr. Putin and Russia recognize that rather than a zero-sum competition, in fact, if the two countries are working together we can probably advance the betterment of both peoples.

Chuck Todd.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Given that you just announced a whole bunch of reforms based on essentially the leaks that Edward Snowden made on all of these surveillance programs, is that change — is your mindset changed about him? Is he now more a whistle-blower than he is a hacker, as you called him at one point, or somebody that shouldn’t be filed charges? And should he be provided more protection? Is he a patriot? You just used those words. And then just to follow up on the personal — I want to follow up on a personal —

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I want to make sure — everybody is asking one question it would be helpful.

Q No, I understand. It was a part of a question that you didn’t answer. Can you get stuff done with Russia, big stuff done, without having a good personal relationship with Putin?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have conversations, they’re candid, they’re blunt; oftentimes, they’re constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive.

So the issue here really has to do with where do they want to take Russia — it’s substantive on a policy front. And —

Q (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: No. Right now, this is just a matter of where Mr. Putin and the Russian people want to go. I think if they are looking forward into the 21st century and how they can advance their economy, and make sure that some of our joint concerns around counterterrorism are managed effectively, then I think we can work together. If issues are framed as if the U.S. is for it then Russia should be against it, or we’re going to be finding ways where we can poke each other at every opportunity, then probably we don’t get as much stuff done.

See, now I’ve forgotten your first question, which presumably was the more important one. No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks.

My preference — and I think the American people’s preference — would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws, a thoughtful fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place. Because I never made claims that all the surveillance technologies that have developed since the time some of these laws had been put in place somehow didn’t require potentially some additional reforms. That’s exactly what I called for.

So the fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case. If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community — for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.

But having said that, once the leaks have happened, what we’ve seen is information come out in dribs and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways. Once the information is out, the administration comes in, tries to correct the record. But by that time, it’s too late or we’ve moved on, and a general impression has, I think, taken hold not only among the American public but also around the world that somehow we’re out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it.

That’s not the case. Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons without a warrant. And there are a whole range of safeguards that have been put in place to make sure that that basic principle is abided by.

But what is clear is that whether, because of the instinctive bias of the intelligence community to keep everything very close — and probably what’s a fair criticism is my assumption that if we had checks and balances from the courts and Congress, that that traditional system of checks and balances would be enough to give people assurance that these programs were run probably — that assumption I think proved to be undermined by what happened after the leaks. I think people have questions about this program.

And so, as a consequence, I think it is important for us to go ahead and answer these questions. What I’m going to be pushing the IC to do is rather than have a trunk come out here and leg come out there and a tail come out there, let’s just put the whole elephant out there so people know exactly what they’re looking at. Let’s examine what is working, what’s not, are there additional protections that can be put in place, and let’s move forward.

And there’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through, and I had sat down with Congress and we had worked this thing through. It would have been less exciting. It would not have generated as much press. I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.

Major Garrett.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about this debate that’s playing itself out in editorial pages, in the blogosphere, even in the Senate Democratic caucus, about the choice you eventually will make for the next Federal Reserve chairman. There is a perception among Democrats that Larry Summers has the inside track, and perhaps you’ve made some assurances to him about that. Janet Yellen is the vice chair of the Federal Reserve. There are many women in the Senate who are Democrats who believe that breaking the glass ceiling there would be historic and important.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

Q Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate? Do you find it any way unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the most important — if not the most important — economic decisions you’ll make in the remainder of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: It is definitely one of the most important economic decisions that I’ll make in the remainder of my presidency. The Federal Reserve chairman is not just one of the most important economic policymakers in America, he or she is one of the most important policymakers in the world. And that person presumably will stay on after I’m President. So this, along with Supreme Court appointments, is probably as important a decision as I make as President.

I have a range of outstanding candidates. You’ve mentioned two of them — Mr. Summers and Mr. Yellen — Ms. Yellen. And they’re both terrific people.

I think the perception that Mr. Summers might have an inside track simply had to do with a bunch of attacks that I was hearing on Mr. Summers preemptively, which is sort of a standard Washington exercise, that I don’t like. Because when somebody has worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people, and I know the quality of those people, and I see them getting slapped around in the press for no reason — before they’ve even been nominated for anything — then I want to make sure that somebody is standing up for them. I felt the same way when people were attacking Susan Rice before she was nominated for anything. So I tend to defend folks who I think have done a good job and don’t deserve attacks.

But I consider them both outstanding candidates. My main criteria — I’ve stated this before, but I want to repeat it — my main criteria for the Fed Reserve chairman is somebody who understands they’ve got a dual mandate. A critical part of the job is making sure that we keep inflation in check, that our monetary policy is sound, that the dollar is sound. Those are all critical components of the job. And we’ve seen what happens when the Fed is not paying attention. We saw, prior to Paul Volcker coming into place, inflation shooting up in ways that really damaged the real economy.

But the other mandate is full employment. And right now, if you look at the biggest challenges we have, the challenge is not inflation; the challenge is we’ve still got too many people out of work, too many long-term unemployed, too much slack in the economy, and we’re not growing as fast as we should. And so I want a Fed chairman who’s able to look at those issues and have a perspective that keeps an eye on inflation, makes sure that we’re not seeing artificial bubbles in place, but also recognizing, you know what, a big part of my job right now is to make sure the economy is growing quickly and robustly, and is sustained and durable, so that people who work hard in this country are able to find a job.

And, frankly, I think both Larry Summers and Janet Yellen are highly qualified candidates. There are a couple of other candidates who are highly qualified as well. I’ll make the decision in the fall.

Q Can you see how the perception of you defending Larry Summers as vigorously as you just did and in other quarters lead some to believe you’ve already made up your mind?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, except I just told you I haven’t. Major, I’d defend you if somebody was saying something that wasn’t true about you. (Laughter.) I really would. In fact, I’ve done that in the White House some times. (Laughter.)

Carol Lee. And, Carol, congratulations on Hudson.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you have pictures?

Q I do. I’ll have to show you —

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I’m going to have to see them.

Q I appreciate you making it a slow news week.

I wanted to ask you about your evolution on the surveillance issues. I mean, part of what you’re talking about today is restoring the public trust. And the public has seen you evolve from when you were in the U.S. Senate to now. And even as recently as June, you said that the process was such that people should be comfortable with it, and now you’re saying you’re making these reforms and people should be comfortable with those. So why should the public trust you on this issue, and why did you change your position multiple times?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s important to say, Carol, first of all, I haven’t evolved in my assessment of the actual programs. I consistently have said that when I came into office I evaluated them. Some of these programs I had been critical of when I was in the Senate. When I looked through specifically what was being done, my determination was that the two programs in particular that had been at issue, 215 and 702, offered valuable intelligence that helps us protect the American people and they’re worth preserving. What we also saw was that some bolts needed to be tightened up on some of the programs, so we initiated some additional oversight, reforms, compliance officers, audits and so forth.

And if you look at the reports — even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward — all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.

Having said that, though, if you are outside of the intelligence community, if you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, U.S.-Big Brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera, well, understandably, people would be concerned. I would be, too, if I wasn’t inside the government.

And so in light of the changed environment where a whole set of questions have been raised, some in the most sensationalized manner possible, where these leaks are released drip by drip, one a week, to kind of maximize attention and see if they can catch us at some imprecision on something — in light of that, it makes sense for us to go ahead, lay out what exactly we’re doing, have a discussion with Congress, have a discussion with industry — which is also impacted by this — have a discussion with civil libertarians, and see can we do this better.

I think the main thing I want to emphasize is I don’t have an interest and the people at the NSA don’t have an interest in doing anything other than making sure that where we can prevent a terrorist attack, where we can get information ahead of time, that we’re able to carry out that critical task. We do not have an interest in doing anything other than that. And we’ve tried to set up a system that is as failsafe as so far at least we’ve been able to think of to make sure that these programs are not abused.

But people may have better ideas and people may want to jigger slightly sort of the balance between the information that we can get versus the incremental encroachments on privacy that if haven’t already taken place might take place in a future administration, or as technologies develop further.

And the other thing that’s happening is, is that as technology develops further, technology itself may provide us some additional safeguards. So, for example, if people don’t have confidence that the law, the checks and balances of the court and Congress are sufficient to give us confidence that government is not snooping, well, maybe we can embed technologies in there that prevent the snooping regardless of what government wants to do. I mean, there may be some technological fixes that provide another layer of assurance.

And so those are the kinds of things that I’m looking forward to having a conversation about.

Q Can you understand, though, why some people might not trust what you’re saying right now about wanting to —

THE PRESIDENT: No, I can’t.

Q — that they should be comfortable with the process?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the fact that I said that the programs are operating in a way that prevents abuse, that continues to be true, without the reforms. The question is how do I make the American people more comfortable.

If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes — now, granted, in the White House I don’t do the dishes that much — (laughter) — but back in the day — and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.

And so the program is — I am comfortable that the program currently is not being abused. I’m comfortable that if the American people examined exactly what was taking place, how it was being used, what the safeguards were, that they would say, you know what, these folks are following the law and doing what they say they’re doing.

But it is absolutely true that with the expansion of technology — this is an area that’s moving very quickly — with the revelations that have depleted public trust, that if there are some additional things that we can do to build that trust back up, then we should do them.

Jonathan Karl.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You have said that core al Qaeda has been decimated, that its leaders are on the run. Now that we’ve seen this terror threat that has resulted in embassies closed throughout the Arab world, much of Africa, do you still believe that al Qaeda has been decimated? And if I can ask in the interest of transparency, can you tell us about these drone strikes that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks in Yemen?

THE PRESIDENT: What I said in the same National Defense University speech back in May that I referred to earlier is that core al Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated. But what I also said was that al Qaeda and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups that can pose significant dangers.

And I’d refer you back to that speech just back in May where I said specifically that although they are less likely to be able to carry out spectacular homeland attacks like 9/11, they have the capacity to go after our embassies. They have the capacity, potentially, to go after our businesses. They have the capacity to be destabilizing and disruptive in countries where the security apparatus is weak. And that’s exactly what we are seeing right now.

So it’s entirely consistent to say that this tightly organized and relatively centralized al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11 has been broken apart and is very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity, and to say we still have these regional organizations like AQAP that can pose a threat, that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall and can kill some people.

And so that requires us, then, to make sure that we have a strategy that is strengthening those partners so that they’ve got their own capacity to deal with what are potentially manageable regional threats if these countries are a little bit stronger and have more effective CT and so forth. It means that we’ve got to continue to be vigilant and go after known terrorists who are potentially carrying out plots or are going to strengthen their capacity over time — because they’re always testing the boundaries of, well, maybe we can try this, maybe we can do that. So this is a ongoing process. We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism. What we can do is to weaken it and to strengthen our partnerships in such a way that it does not pose the kind of horrible threat that we saw on 9/11.

And I’m not going to discuss specific operations that have taken place. Again, in my speech in May, I was very specific about how we make these determinations about potential lethal strikes, so I would refer you to that speech.

Q So you won’t even confirm that we carried out drone strikes in Yemen?

THE PRESIDENT: I will not have a discussion about operational issues.

Ed Henry.

Q I hope you would defend me as well.

THE PRESIDENT: I would.

Q Okay, thank you. I want to ask you about two important dates that are coming up. October 1st you’ve got to implement your signature health care law. You recently decided on your own to delay a key part of that. And I wonder, if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement, couldn’t your successor down the road pick and choose whether they’ll implement your law and keep it in place?

And on September 11th we’ll have the first anniversary of Benghazi. And you said on September 12th, “Make no mistake, we’ll bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” Eleven months later, where are they, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I also said that we’d get bin Laden, and I didn’t get him in 11 months. So we have informed, I think, the public that there’s a sealed indictment. It’s sealed for a reason. But we are intent on capturing those who carried out this attack, and we’re going to stay on it until we get them.

Q And you’re close to having suspects in custody?

THE PRESIDENT: I will leave it at that. But this remains a top priority for us. Anybody who attacks Americans, anybody who kills, tragically, four Americans who were serving us in a very dangerous place, we’re going to do everything we can to get those who carried out those attacks.

With respect to health care, I didn’t simply choose to delay this on my own. This was in consultation with businesses all across the country, many of whom are supportive of the Affordable Care Act, but — and many of whom, by the way, are already providing health insurance to their employees but were concerned about the operational details of changing their HR operations, if they’ve got a lot of employees, which could be costly for them, and them suggesting that there may be easier ways to do this.

Now, what’s true, Ed, is, is that in a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the Speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law — it has to do with, for example, are we able to simplify the attestation of employers as to whether they’re already providing health insurance or not — it looks like there may be some better ways to do this; let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do.

But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to “Obamacare.” We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so. But this doesn’t go to the core of implementation. Let me tell you what is the core of implementation that’s already taken place. As we speak, right now, for the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they are benefiting from being able to keep their kid on their plan if their kid is 26 or younger. That’s benefiting millions of young people around the country, which is why lack of insurance among young people has actually gone down. That’s in large part attributable to the steps that we’ve taken.

You’ve got millions of people who have received rebates, because part of the Affordable Care Act was to say that if an insurance company isn’t spending 80 percent of your premium on your health care, you get some money back. And, lo and behold, people have been getting their money back. It means that folks who have been bumping up with lifetime limits on their insurance, that it leaves them vulnerable. That doesn’t exist.

Seniors have been getting discounts on their prescription drugs. That’s happening right now. Free preventive care — mammograms, contraception. That’s happening right now. I met a young man today on a bill signing I was doing with the student loan bill who came up to me and said thank you — he couldn’t have been more than 25, 26 years old — thank you; I have cancer, thanks to the Affordable Care Act working with the California program, I was able to get health care and I’m now in remission. And so right now people are already benefiting.

Now, what happens on October 1st, in 53 days, is for the remaining 15 percent of the population that doesn’t have health insurance, they’re going to be able to go on a website or call up a call center and sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market. And if even with lower premiums they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it. And between October 1st into March there will be an open enrollment period in which millions of Americans for the first time are going to be able to get affordable health care.

Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail, their number-one priority. The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care and, presumably, repealing all those benefits I just mentioned — kids staying on their parents’ plan; seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs; I guess a return to lifetime limits on insurance; people with preexisting conditions continuing to be blocked from being able to get health insurance.

That’s hard to understand as an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, well, we’re going to replace it with something better. There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better.

The notion is simply that those 30 million people, or the 150 million who are benefiting from the other aspects of Affordable Care, will be better off without it. That’s their assertion — not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence. It’s just become an ideological fixation.

Well, I tell you what, they’re wrong about that. There is no doubt that in implementing the Affordable Care Act, a program of this significance, there are going to be some glitches. No doubt about it. There are going to be things where we say, you know what, we should have thought of that earlier. Or this would work a little bit better. Or this needs an adjustment. That was true of Social Security. That was true of Medicare. That was true of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That was true of the prescription drug program, Part D, that was rolled out by a Republican President and supported by Republicans who are still in the House of Representatives. That’s true, by the way, of a car company rolling out a new car. It’s true of Apple rolling out the new iPad.

So you will be able to, whenever you want during the course of the next six months and probably the next year, find occasions where you say, ah-ha, you know what, that could have been done a little bit better. Or that thing, they’re kind of making an administrative change; that’s now how it was originally thought this thing was going to work. Yes, exactly. Because our goal is to actually deliver high-quality, affordable health care for people and to reform the system so costs start going down and people start getting a better bang for the buck. And I make no apologies for that.

And let me just make one last point about this. The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea. What you should be thinking about is how can we advance and improve ways for middle-class families to have some security so that if they work hard, they can get ahead and their kids can get ahead.

Jessica Yellin.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. And following on what you just said, Republicans in the House might give you that choice soon to either allow the government to shut down or see Obamacare defunded. Would you choose to let the government shut down to ensure that Obamacare remains funded?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I can tell you that the American people would have difficulty understanding why we would weaken our economy, shut down our government, shut down vital services, have people who are not getting paid who then can’t go to restaurants or shop for clothes, or all the other things that we’re doing here because Republicans have determined that they don’t want to see these folks get health care.

Again, they used to say they had a replacement. That never actually arrived, right? I mean, I’ve been hearing about this whole replacement thing for two years — now I just don’t hear about it, because basically they don’t have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates. And the idea that you would shut down the government at a time when the recovery is getting some traction; where we’re growing, although not as fast as we need to; where the housing market is recovering, although not as fast as we would like; that we would precipitate another crisis here in Washington that no economist thinks is a good idea — I’m assuming that they will not take that path. I have confidence that common sense, in the end, will prevail.

Q And if they do, sir, you will have to make that choice?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. We’ve got a couple of months.

Q When’s the last time you spoke to Speaker Boehner about the budget?

THE PRESIDENT: Fairly recently, yes. Probably right before they left.

Okay. Scott Horseley.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Part of the political logic behind immigration reform was the strong showing by Latino voters last November. That doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of House Republicans who represent overwhelmingly white districts. What other political leverage can you bring to bear to help move a bill in the House?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got an economic report that shows that our economy would be a trillion dollars stronger if we get immigration reform done. We’ve got evidence that our housing market would be stronger if immigrants are in a situation in which, having paid a fine, having paid back taxes, that they now have the ability to actually enter into the housing market. We’ve got strong evidence that our technological and research edge would be better if we get immigration reform done.

We know that the Senate bill strengthens border security, puts unprecedented resources on top of the unprecedented resources I’ve already put into border security. So if your main priority is border security, I’d think you’d want to vote for this bill. We know that the Senate bill creates a system in which employers are held accountable for when they hire undocumented workers. This is something that people say is a bad thing. I agree. Let’s make sure that that system for holding employers accountable is in place.

So when I hear the opposition to immigration reform, I just run through the list of things they’re concerned about, I look at what the Senate bill does, and I say to myself, you know what, the Senate bill actually improves the situation on every issue that they say they’re concerned about.

Now, what they may argue is it doesn’t solve the problem 100 percent. I don’t know a law that solves a problem 100 percent. Social Security lifted millions of seniors out of poverty, but there are still some poor seniors. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act drastically reduced discrimination in America, but there’s still discrimination. That doesn’t make them bad laws, it just means that there are very few human problems that are 100 percent solvable.

So what I see right now is a strong bipartisan vote coming out of the Senate. I think that the Speaker and others have said they need to do something, and I’d urge, when they get back, to do something — put forward a bill that has an opportunity to actually pass. It may not be precisely what’s in the Senate bill. My preference would be for them to go ahead and call the Senate bill. But if they’ve got some additional ideas, I think the Senate is happy to consider them. And get that bill on the floor, put it up for a vote.

I am absolutely certain that the votes for the Senate bill — which strengthens border security; demands responsibility from undocumented workers to pay a fine, pay a penalty and get to the back of the line; reforms our legal immigration system; holds employers accountable — I am absolutely confident that if that bill was on the floor of the House, it would pass.

So the challenge right now is not that there aren’t a majority of House members, just like a majority of Senate members, who aren’t prepared to support this bill. The problem is internal Republican caucus politics. And that’s what the American people don’t want us to be worrying about. Don’t worry about your Washington politics. Solve problems.

And this is one where you’ve actually got some pretty broad consensus. I don’t know an issue where you’ve got labor, the Chamber of Commerce, evangelicals, student groups — you name it — supportive of a bill. Let’s get it done.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 4:00 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 9, 2013: Live Blog: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Vacation Press Conference on NSA Surveillance & Patriot Act Reforms

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Live Blog: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Vacation Press Conference

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LIVE VIDEO  President Obama holds a news conference.

President Obama plans to announce efforts to “restore public trust” in surveillance programs that have sparked deep concern after leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, a senior official said Friday….READ MORE

Live Updates: Obama Addresses Surveillance in News Conference

Source: NYT, 8-9-13

Highlights and analysis as President Obama takes questions from the news media on Friday afternoon….READ MORE

Full Text Campaign Buzz November 22, 2011: CNN GOP National Security Republican Presidential Debate at Constitutional Hall, Washington, DC — Debate Transcript

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

 

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Before the sparring began at the debate in Washington on Tuesday, the Republican presidential primary candidates paused as the national anthem was sung.

Source: CNN, 11-23-11

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Full Transcript of CNN NATIONAL SECURITY DEBATE, 20:00-22:00

Aired November 22, 2011 – 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: Live from Washington, DC, for the Republican National Security Debate.

(UNKNOWN): It’s a president’s most important and daunting responsibility, to protect and defend the United States of America. Millions of lives in the hands of one commander-in-chief. It’s what legacies are made of.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A date which will live in infamy.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): For better…

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): — and for worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that is not to do anything that would endanger the lives or safety of the hostages.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): In war…

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just two hours ago, Allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): — and peace. On the day everything changed… (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): — and every day since.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Tonight, from an historic hall in the nation’s capital, the Republican candidates address the global challenges ahead — Mitt Romney, who ran an international business and the Olympic Winter Games.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of America deserve a regular briefing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker with a PhD in history.

Herman Cain…

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We would use our military might if we have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): A business executive who worked for firms with global reach.

Ron Paul, a leading anti-war voice in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: We should only go to the war when the people in this country declare the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Rick Perry, the governor of the state with the longest stretch of international border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BACHMANN: Iran is waiting in the wings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: Our nation’s future is how well prepared we are to compete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China.

Rick Santorum, who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Who has what it takes to be the next commander-in-chief in a world of peril?

The first step toward building a legacy, the Republican National Security Debate begins now.

BLITZER: From Constitution Hall in the nation’s capital, this is the Republican presidential debate.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Every U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge has been inside this historic hall, just steps away from the White House.

Tonight, the eight Republican candidates are here with their ultimate goal in sight.

I’m Wolf Blitzer.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Tonight’s debate is airing on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol and the American Forces Network. We want to thank our co- sponsors, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Members of these distinguished conservative think tanks, they are here in our audience and some of them will have a chance to question the candidates. They’ll add their knowledge and insights to our discussion, making this unlike any debate so far in this presidential campaign.

Viewers also can take part in our debate by sending us your questions online, on Twitter. Make sure to include the hash tag, cnndebate; on Facebook at Facebook.com/cnnpolitics; and, of course, on CNNPolitics.com.

It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders.

Joining us onstage, the former U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR, R-UTAH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Wolf.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: The former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: The former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain.

(APPLAUSE)

The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney…

(APPLAUSE)

Texas governor, Rick Perry…

(APPLAUSE)

Texas congressman, Ron Paul…

(APPLAUSE)

(inaudible) from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

(APPLAUSE)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates for President of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, please rise for our National Anthem. Please rise. The National Anthem performed by Mauricio Perez, from the Tony Award winning musical, “Jersey Boys,” now playing at the National Theater here in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

(SINGING NATIONAL ANTHEM)

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Mauricio Perez, thank you.

Candidates, please take your — to your podiums while I tell you a little bit more about how this debate will work. I’ll be the moderator and as I mentioned, our partners from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute will ask questions as well.

I’ll follow up. I’ll try to guide the discussion. Candidates, I’ll try to make sure each of you gets your fair share of questions.

You’ll have one minute to answer, 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. And I’ll make sure you get time to respond if — if you’re singled out for criticism.

This year more than ever we’ve seen how events beyond our borders directly affect America, including perhaps the biggest national security issue right now, the economy.

Candidates, tonight Republican voters are here. They are watching around the country to decide if you have what it takes to be the next commander in chief, to shape foreign policy, to protect this great nation.

On some of these issues you will agree. On some you’ll disagree. But by the end of the night, voters should have a better understanding of how you would lead the nation in times of crisis.

Now, let’s have the candidates introduce themselves to our audience, but we’ll keep it very brief. Here’s an example of what I’m looking for.

I’m Wolf Blitzer and yes, that’s my real name. I’ll be your moderator this evening and I’m happy to welcome each one of you to our debate.

Rick Santorum, let’s begin with you.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I am Rick Santorum. And it’s great to be here and I want to thank AEI and Heritage (inaudible).

… One constitutional responsibility of the federal government and that is national security. And I think we can all agree that if you like what Barack Obama has done to our economy, you’ll love what he’s done to our national security.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas. I am pleased to be here at the debate because this is a very important debate. I am convinced that needless and unnecessary wars are a great detriment. They undermine our prosperity and our liberties. They add to our deficits and they consume our welfare. We should take a careful look at our foreign policy.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and I want to take a moment and introduce you, the beautiful first lady of the state of Texas, Anita. Thank you for being here with me, 29 years of wedded bliss and 45 years ago we had our first date. So I’m a blessed man in many ways to represent a great state, and we’re here to ask you for your support, your blessings and your vote.

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name. And…

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: … I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather of 16. I love this country very much. I spent my life in the private sector. And as I’ve watched the direction this president has taken our country, both domestically and internationally, I’m afraid that he’s taking us on a perilous course. I want to keep America strong and free, and if I’m president, I’ll use every ounce of my energy to do just that.

(APPLAUSE)

HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am businessman Herman Cain. I’m delighted to be here to discuss one of the most critical issues we face because, as a result of this administration, our national security has indeed been downgraded.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Newt Gingrich. My father spent 27 years in the infantry. And as a result of that, in the fall of 1958, I decided that national survival was worth the study of a lifetime. I’ve worked with both Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute for over 30 years. I can’t imagine any two institutions better to partner with CNN on the most important single topic, the survival of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: My name is Michele Bachmann. I’m a proud member of the United States Congress. I’m privileged to serve on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. My father honorably served in the United States Air Force, my stepfather in the United States Army and my brother in the United States Navy.

I think for every one of us who are here on this stage tonight, I think we all want to send our very best Happy Thanksgiving greetings to all of our men and women in uniform who are serving us overseas, here in the United States and also to their families. Happy Thanksgiving. We appreciate, we love you and we want to get you home as soon as we can.

(APPLAUSE)

HUNTSMAN: My name is Jon Huntsman. I believe this week, in particular, that there is still much to be grateful for in this, the greatest nation that ever was. I’m here with my wife of 28 years, Mary Kay, who is fortuitously sitting in the New Hampshire box up here. We are the wife — or we are the parents of seven kids, two in the United States Navy.

Twice elected governor of the great state of Utah, I’ve lived overseas four times, three times as a United States ambassador. I am honored and privileged to be here. Wolf, CNN, Heritage, AEI, thank you one and all for making tonight possible.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And let’s get right to the questions.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Our leadoff question is from the honorable Ed Meese, the former attorney general of the United States, who is representing the Heritage Foundation.

ED MEESE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: At least 42 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States have been thwarted since 9/11. Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.

Shouldn’t we have a long range extension of the investigative powers contained in that act so that our law enforcement officers can have the tools that they need?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, only this weekend there was an alleged terror plot uncovered in New York City. What do you think?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that Attorney General Meese has raised a key point, and the key distinction for the American people to recognize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements.

I think it’s desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty, if it’s a matter of criminal law. But if you’re trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.

The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that. And I think looking at it carefully and extending it and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities.

BLITZER: So, Speaker, just to clarify, you wouldn’t change the Patriot Act?

GINGRICH: No, I would not change it. I’m not aware of any specific change it needs. And I’d look at strengthening it, because I think the dangers are literally that great. And again, I’ve spent years studying this stuff. You start thinking about one nuclear weapon in one American city and the scale of loss of life and you ask yourself, what should the president be capable of doing to stop that?

And you come up with a very different answer. Again, very sharp division. Criminal law, the government should be frankly on defense and you’re innocent until proven guilty. National security, the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, I suspect you disagree.

PAUL: I do.

BLITZER: Tell us why.

PAUL: I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty. I’m concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh was a vicious terrorist. He was arrested. Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally, it’s a crime and we should deal with it.

We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh. But why I really fear it is we have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our early founders were very clear. They said, don’t be willing to sacrifice liberty for security.

Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security. I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: I want to bring others in, but do you want to respond, Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Yes. Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: This is like saying that we need a policeman in every house, a camera in every house because we want to prevent child- beating and wife-beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms. And we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, let me bring you into this conversation. Are you with Congressman Paul or Speaker Gingrich or do you have your own view?

BACHMANN: Well, I’m with the American people, with the Constitution, and with the job of the commander-in-chief as the number one duty of the president of the United States.

We have to realize we’re in a very different war, with very different techniques that are used for that war, and very different bad actors than we’ve had before in the terrorists and their motivations are very different.

We can’t forget that technology is completely different. When we were looking at prior laws, phones were wired in to walls. That’s not how it works any more. Today we deal with wireless functions. And we have to completely change the way that we go about investigating.

This is one thing we know about Barack Obama. He has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU. He has outsourced it to them. Our CIA has no ability to have any form of interrogation for terrorists.

When the bomber — or the attempted bomber over Detroit, the underwear bomber was intercepted, he was given Miranda warnings within 45 minutes. He was not an American citizen. We don’t give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don’t read them their rights. They don’t have any.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on the Patriot Act? Do you believe it’s un-American, as Congressman Paul has suggested?

HUNTSMAN: I think we have to be very careful in protecting our individual liberties. We forget sometimes that we have a name brand in this world. And I have seen it shine living overseas. And when our light shines based on the values that we live up to and represent, it moves people, it moves countries, it moves events like nothing else can.

We are a nation of values. And forever, like what we’re trying to do in this debate tonight, we’ll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security. But we also have to remember as we’re talking about security, I see Tom Ridge in the audience here, a great former secretary of Homeland Security. He will tell you, he will tell you that we cannot secure the homeland out of Washington, D.C., itself. We’ve got to make sure that we have partnerships with governors and mayors, that this is a national effort.

No longer can we compartmentalize intelligence. Those are the old days. Today we’ve got to share. We’ve got to make sure that we are prepared as a people, we are prepared not only as a federal government, but we’re prepared as well as a local government in a collaborative and sharing kind of relationship.

BLITZER: I’m going to give everyone a chance to respond, but let me get this one question from CNN Politics, that came to cnnpolitics.com, and then we’ll bring in the rest of you.

This was the question: “TSA pat-downs: violation of civil liberty or a necessity to ensure national security?”

Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Well, we can do a lot better than the TSA system. It’s going to get get better over time. We can use better technology. We can also identify people who are lower risk and allow them to go through the process more quickly than the current process.

But let’s come back to the issue that seems to be so confusing here.

And that is Congressman Paul talked about crime. Newt Gingrich was right. There are different categories here. There’s crime and there are rights that are afforded to American citizens under our Constitution and those that are accused of crime. Then there’s war. And the tool of war being used today in America and around the world is terror. There’s a different body of law that relates to war.

And for those that understand the difference between the two, they recognize that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that, as president of the United States, you can fulfill your first responsibility, which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign.

And that means, yes, we’ll use the Constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes, but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds, we will use instead a very different form of law, which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

that we need tools when war is waged domestically to ensure that as president of the United States you can fulfill your first responsibility which is to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign. That means yes we’ll use the constitution and criminal law for those people who commit crimes but those who commit war and attack the United States and pursue treason of various kinds we will use instead a very different form of law which is the law afforded to those who are fighting America.

BLITZER: Governor Perry…

(APPLAUSE)

… you proposed legislation that would criminalize these TSA pat-downs under certain circumstances.

PERRY: Right.

BLITZER: Explain what you have in mind.

PERRY: Well, here’s what I would do with the TSA; I would privatize it as soon as I could and get rid of those unions.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s working in Denver. They have a program where they’re privatizing it. And the airlines and other private-sector groups work together to do the security in our airports. And it makes abundant good sense.

And I agree with most of my colleagues here on the stage when we talk about the Patriot Act. And we need to keep it in place. We need to have — strengthen it if that’s what’s required, to update it with new technologies as they come along, Newt.

But here’s the other issue that I think we’ve really failed at, and that is in our ability to collect intelligence around the world. And this administration in particular has been an absolute failure when it comes to expending the dollars and supporting the CIA and the military intelligence around the world, to be able to draw in that intelligence that is going to truly be able to allow us to keep the next terrorist attack from happening on American soil.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, under certain circumstances in the past, you’ve supported profiling. Is that correct?

SANTORUM: I have.

BLITZER: What do you have in mind?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, I think TSA is a good example of that. We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb. Other countries have done it. Israel is probably the best example of that.

But to put this enormous expense on the federal government, to put the enormous expense on the traveling public for — for pat-downs and other intrusions, I think, is too much money. I agree with Governor Perry; I actually voted when I — when this bill came up, I voted to allow for privatization. I was not for this being a government function. I thought it could be a private function.

But the issue of the Patriot Act is — is a little different. We are at war. The last time we had a — we had a threat at home like this — obviously, it was much more of a threat at home — was during the Civil War.

And, of course, Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights. Why? Because we had a present domestic threat. In the previous wars that we’ve had, we haven’t had this type of threat that we have here in the homeland. And we have to deal with it differently.

I disagree with Governor Huntsman. He made some good points. And we have had the debate. It’s been an open debate. It’s really shown the values of our country, that we can engage in this open debate and balance those interests, and I think we have done so appropriately.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, is it ethnic profiling, religious profiling? Who would be profiled?

SANTORUM: Well, the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at — I mean, obviously, it was — obviously, Muslims would be — would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are — the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we’ve — by and large, as well as younger males.

I mean, these are things that — not exclusively — but these are things that you profile to — to find your best — the most likely candidate.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: That’s digging a…

(APPLAUSE)

That’s digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal.

I think we’re using too much carelessness in the use of words that we’re at war. I don’t remember voting on — on a declared — declaration of war. Oh, we’re against terrorism.

(APPLAUSE)

And terrorism is a tactic. It isn’t a person. It isn’t a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You’re the judge and the jury? No, they’re suspects.

And they have changed the — in the — in DOD budget they have changed the wording on the definition of al-Qaeda and Taliban. It’s anybody associated with organizations, which means almost anybody can be loosely associated so that makes all Americans vulnerable.

And now we know that American citizens are vulnerable to assassination.

So I would be very cautious about protecting the rule of law. It will be a sacrifice that you’ll be sorry for. (APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let’s bring you into this conversation. Are you with Senator Santorum when he says that there should be religious profiling, that Muslims in particular should get extra screening when they go — go through airports?

CAIN: I believe we can do a whole lot better with TSA. And I called it, targeted identification.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

CAIN: We can do — we can do — targeted identification. If you take a look at the people who are trying to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like.

But I want — but I want to make sure that I get to the Patriot Act. So I believe we can do a whole better. The answer, I believe, also may be privatization.

Now, relative to the Patriot Act, if there are some areas of the Patriot Act that we need to refine, I’m all for that. But I do not believe we ought to throw out the baby with the bathwater for the following reason. The terrorists have one objective that some people don’t seem to get. They want to kill all of us.

So we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first — first.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Now, just to be precise, Mr. Cain. I just want to — I’ll give you a chance. Is it OK for Muslim Americans to get more intensive pat downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans?

CAIN: No, Blitz. That’s oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if — if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job they can come up with an approach — I’m sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

This was — since we on a — since we on a blitz debate, I apologize. Wolf, what I’m saying is let’s ask the professionals to give us an approach of how we can increase the identification of people that might be a danger to civilians as well as a danger to this nation.

BLITZER: Thank you, Cain.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE) All right. Go ahead. We have another question. Please give us your name and the organization you represent.

QUESTION: I’m Fred Kagan, resident scholar and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

And my question is, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was obviously an important success in the struggle against al-Qaeda, although it also drove U.S. relations with Pakistan into a new low.

Do you think that an expanded drone campaign in Pakistan would be sufficient to defeat al-Qaeda and to secure our interests in Pakistan?

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: Let me just say that as we talk about foreign policy, let’s be reminded that in order to have an effective foreign policy we need a Washington that works.

Today we have a president who can’t lead. We have a Congress that can’t even figure out how to balance our budget. They need term limits, by the way. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we…

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. We’ve gotta get our house in order if we’re gonna expect to get anything done overseas because when our light shines we can influence the rest of the world.

Pakistan is a concern. That’s the country that ought to keep everybody up at night. You have not President Zardari in charge but General Kayani over the military, which also is responsible for ISI.

You’ve got the youngest demographic of the 160 million people in Pakistan. You’ve got a Midrasha movement. You’ve got over 100 nuclear weapons. You’ve got trouble on the border.

You’ve got a nation-state that is a candidate for failure. And I say it’s a haven for bad behavior. It’s a haven — it’s — it’s a haven for training the people who seek to do us harm. And an expanded drone program is something that would serve our national interest.

I think it must be done. And I think it must be consistent with recognizing the reality on the ground of what we need out of Afghanistan — we don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

We don’t need to nation-build in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.

BLITZER: We’re gonna get to Afghanistan.

HUNTSMAN: But we need something. We need something in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, we’ll be bringing you in. You’re a member… HUNTSMAN: We need Special Forces and drones.

BLITZER: All right. You’re a member of the Intelligence Committee. Do you think, as Governor Perry has said, that Pakistan should no longer receive U.S. aid because they’ve shown they’re not a good friend, ally of the United States?

BACHMANN: Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al-Qaeda training grounds there. There’s also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well.

And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.

The United States has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognize that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don’t want to lose influence.

I’m answering your question. You asked me about the money that the United States gives to Pakistan. This is a — this is a dual answer. A nation that lies, that does everything possibly that you could imagine wrong, at the same time they do share intelligence data with us regarding Al Qaida.

We need to demand more. The money that we are sending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. It is helping the United States. Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States and our sovereignty…

BLITZER: So…

BACHMANN: … our safety and our security.

BLITZER: … you would continue that aid to Pakistan?

BACHMANN: I — at this point I would continue that aid, but I do think that the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan,. And I also think that Pakistan is a nation, that it’s kind of like too nuclear to fail. And so we’ve got to make sure that we take that threat very seriously.

BLITZER: Governor Perry?

PERRY: I understand where she’s coming from, but the bottom line is that they’ve showed us time after time that they can’t be trusted. And until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America’s best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period.

I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that, if you are not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens’ money to be coming into your country. That is the way we change foreign policy. Now, if we want to engage these countries with our abilities and our companies that go in, and help to economically build these countries up, rather than just writing a blank check to them, then we can have that conversation, because I think that is a change in foreign policy that would be adequate and appropriate and a positive move for us.

But to write a check to countries that are clearly not representing American interests is nonsensical.

BLITZER: You want to respond, Congresswoman Bachmann?

BACHMANN: Well, I — with all due respect to the governor, I think that’s highly naive, because, again, we have to recognize what’s happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation. And, potentially, Al Qaida could get hold of these weapons.

These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That’s how serious this is. We have to maintain an American presence.

They certainly aren’t looking out for the best interests of the United States. I wouldn’t expect them to. But at the same time, we have to have our interests, which is national security, represented. The best way we can do that with an uneven actor state is to have some sort of presence there.

BLITZER: I just want to give Governor Perry the chance to respond.

She just said your views are highly naive.

PERRY: And I — absolutely we need to be engaged in that part of the world. I never said for us not to be engaged. I just said we need to quit writing blank checks to these countries, and then letting them decide how these dollars are going to be spent.

We’ve got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan. I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region.

BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I want to move on, but you’ll have a chance — you’ll have a chance to respond…

BACHMANN: If I can just — Wolf, if I could just…

BLITZER: Very quickly.

BACHMANN: … clarify, we’re not writing just blank checks. We’re also exchanging intelligence information. So we aren’t writing blank checks in that region.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the audience.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Israel Ortega (ph) with the Heritage Foundation.

Is the money that we’ve drawn back from U.S. troops in Afghanistan really worth the risk of allowing Taliban to expand territories, and Al Qaida to grow safe sanctuaries?

BLITZER: Governor Romney, $2 billion a week the United States is spending right now in Afghanistan, $2 billion, more than $100 billion a year. And U.S. troops are supposed to stay for another three years at least, till the end of 2014. Is that money well spent?

ROMNEY: We spent about $450 billion so far, 1,700 or so service men and women have lost their lives there, and many tens of thousands have been wounded. Our effort there is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching point for terror against the United States. We can’t just write off a major part of the world.

Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world. We can’t just say goodbye to all of — of what’s going on in that part of the world.

Instead, we want to draw them toward modernity. And for that to happen, we don’t want to literally pull up stakes and run out of town after the extraordinary investment that we’ve made. And that means we should have a gradual transition of handing off to the Afghan security forces the responsibility for their own country.

And for the region, what happened in Indonesia back in the 1960s, where — where we helped Indonesia move toward modernity with new leadership. We — we brought them in the technology that allowed them to trade in the world.

We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century — or the 20th century, for that matter, so that they — they can engage throughout the world with trade and with modernity.

Right now, American approval level in — in Pakistan is 12 percent. We’re not doing a very good job with this huge investment we make of $4.5 billion a year. We can do a lot better directing that to encourage people to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities the West and freedom represent for their people.

BLITZER: Now, Governor Huntsman, do you agree with Governor Romney that the U.S. has to stay in Afghanistan at these levels?

HUNTSMAN: No, I — I totally disagree. I think we need to square with the American people about what we’ve achieved. We need an honest conversation in this country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years. We have — we have dismantled the Taliban. We’ve run them out of Kabul. We’ve had free elections in 2004. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden. We’ve upended, dismantled al Qaeda. We have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America.

Now, the fact that we have 100,000 troops nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built, when, on the ground, we do need intelligence gathering, no doubt about that. We need a strong Special Forces presence. We need a drone presence. And we need some ongoing training of the Afghan National Army.

But we haven’t done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Well, let me respond.

Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what — what’s your proposal?

HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said?

I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don’t need 100,000 troops. We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan…

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN: — many of whom can’t even cross the wire. We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and Special Forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terror — counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.

ROMNEY: And the — and the commanders on the ground feel that we should bring down our surge troops by December of 2012 and bring down all of our troops, other than, perhaps, 10,000 or so, by the end of — of 2014.

The decision to pull our troops out before that, they believe, would put at risk the extraordinary investment of treasure and blood which has been sacrificed by the American military.

I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggests that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at — at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice that’s been made. This is not time for America to cut and run. We have been in for 10 years. We are winding down. The Afghan troops are picking up the capacity to secure their country. And the mission is pretty straightforward, and that is to allow the Afghan people to have a sovereign nation not taken over by the Taliban. BLITZER: Let me bring the speaker in. What do you say…

GINGRICH: I would…

BLITZER: — pull out?

HUNTSMAN: Just — just one point.

BLITZER: You want — oh, go ahead.

HUNTSMAN: Yes, just about the generals on the ground. And listen, I think it’s important for the American people to know we have achieved some very important objectives in raising standards in Afghanistan and helping to build civil society.

But at the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief. Of course you’re going to listen to the generals. But…

(APPLAUSE)

HUNTSMAN: — I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn’t serve our interests very well.

The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals Jr. ) on the ground.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: It’s…

ROMNEY: Look, I’ve got a good — he gets a response, I get a response.

BLITZER: All right.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chief makes — make the final decision.

PAUL: How about the rest of us?

ROMNEY: Of course the final — look…

PAUL: How about us who haven’t had a response?

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) got a chance.

ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chiefs makes the — makes the final decision. But the commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground. And — and we — we’ve both been to Afghanistan. I’ve been to Afghanistan. The people I speak with there say we have a very good prospect of the people in Afghanistan being able to secure the peace and their sovereignty from the Taliban, but that if we pull out on a precipitous basis, as Governor Huntsman suggests, that we could well see that nation and Pakistan get pulled into terror and become another launching point to go after America. That’s a mistake. That’s why you listen and then make your decision.

BLITZER: Speaker?

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Well, Wolf, I’m a little confused about exactly what we’re currently debating, because I think — I think we tend to get down to these narrow questions that — that, in a sense, don’t get at the — at the core issues.

The very first question I thought about Pakistan is the one that should be the starting point.

The gentleman said that when we went in and killed bin Laden, that we drove U.S.-Pakistan — did I have — is this like a 30-second response?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: I mean, I’m happy to play by the rules, I just want to know what they are. But I think this is the heart of the American dilemma. We were told, a perfectly natural Washington assumption that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low.

To which my answer is, well, it should have because we should be furious.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: Now, and that’s where this has got to start. You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don’t complain if we kill people you’re not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I agree with Ron Paul. We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We’re fighting a war against radical Islam. And what radical Islam is telling — all of the radical Islamist leaders are saying is that just wait America out, America is weak, they will not stand for the fight, they cannot maintain this, they’ll set time limits, politics will interfere, and we will tell the people in Afghanistan, we will tell the people in Iraq and other places that we will be the strong horse in the region.

And President Obama, by making political decision after political decision about timelines and constraints on rules of engagement, has validated everything these radical Islamists are saying.

So the answer to you, Jon, is that you’re doing exactly — Governor Huntsman, is that you’re doing exactly what all of the radical leaders are saying that America will do, that we are not in this to win, we are going to play politics with this, and then we will find this problem in Afghanistan on our shores in a very short order.

BLITZER: We are going to come to Congressman Cain (sic) in a moment. But just hold your horses for a second because we’re going to take a quick break. Much more coming up. The former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff calls this the number one threat to America’s national security. The candidates will answer that question on this topic, coming up next.

We want you to send us your questions for the candidates. Go to cnnpolitics.com or facebook.com/cnnpolitics or on twitter use #cnndebate. Our coverage of this historic debate at Constitution Hall in Washington continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to historic Constitution Hall here in the nation’s capital.

(APPLAUSE)

We’re continuing the CNN national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question from the audience.

(APPLAUSE)

Go ahead with your question.

Hello?

No question from the audience.

Yes, we do. We do have a question from the audience.

(LAUGHTER)

We were waiting for you.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I’m Mike Gonzalez (ph) of the Heritage Foundation.

BLITZER: Thank you.

QUESTION: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise? BLITZER: All right. We’ve got the question. Let me ask Herman Cain first. Did you get the question?

CAIN: I didn’t quite get the question.

BLITZER: If — the specific question is, if Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?

CAIN: I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success.

Remember, when you talk about attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region. The latest reports say that there may be 40 different locations, and I would want to make sure that we had a good idea from intelligence sources where these are located.

And if Israel had a credible plan that it appeared as if they could succeed, I would support Israel, yes. And in some instances, depending upon how strong the plan is, we would join with Israel for that, if it was clear what the mission was and it was clear what the definition of victory was.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, would you support Israel and help Israel in such an attack?

PAUL: No, I wouldn’t do that.

(LAUGHTER)

But there would be good reasons because I don’t expect it to happen. Because, you know, the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. And it’s a big argument over in Israel. They’re not about to do this.

They’ve just polled 40 major experts on foreign policy here by the National Journal. Not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on — on the sites in — in Iran.

So that’s not going to happen. And if it did — you’re supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them. We interfere with them…

(LAUGHTER)

… when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that’s their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the ’80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it’s none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves. Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves. Why should we commit — we don’t even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves.

I think we do detriment — just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years. Now, look, we were buying friendship. Now there’s a civil war, they’re less friendly to Israel.

The whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops, so I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress.

BLITZER: Let me let Herman Cain respond.

(APPLAUSE)

CAIN: Thank you.

I stated if the mission and the plan were clear, that it could succeed, but I pointed out that that is highly unlikely, given the terrain, the mountainous terrain in Iran.

But here’s the other reason that we should help Israel in an initiative live that. Back to Afghanistan: if we pull out of Afghanistan too soon, Iran is going to help to fulfill that power vacuum in Afghanistan. And so it is in our best interests, the United States of America, to prevent them from being able to help fill that power vacuum in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. And I want all of you to weigh in. We have another question.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Good evening. I’m Danielle Pletka (ph); I’m the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yesterday the United States and the U.K. slapped new sanctions on Iran. But we haven’t bought oil directly from Iran in over 30 years. We’ve had targeted sanctions on Iran for more than half that time.

Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Do you believe that there is any set of sanctions that could be put in place that would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. What do you think?

PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. As a matter of fact, Congressman Paul, that is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have. And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the United States. And it’s one of the reasons that I call for the — there is an area over there, of all of them working together — and I’m talking about Syria — and bringing them into the mix as well.

As I called for, one of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you’re putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it’s another show of lack of leadership from the President of the United States.

BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich — and I know you’ve studied this, and I want you to weigh in — on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day.

The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That’s why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you?

GINGRICH: Well, I say you — the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.

Now that’s how we won World War II.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: So, I think you put your finger, Wolf, on the — on the — you know, we all get sucked into these tactical discussions. We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. We need a strategy, as Rick Santorum was saying, of being honest about radical Islam and designing a strategy to defeat it wherever it happens to exist.

We need a strategy in central Asia that recognizes that, frankly, if you’re Pashtun, you don’t care whether you’re in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because you have the same tribal relationships. So we need to be much more strategic and less tactical in our discussion.

But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.

BLITZER: But sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank now, is that a good idea or a bad idea?

GINGRICH: I think it’s a good idea if you’re serious about stopping them having nuclear — I mean, I think replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon. Those are your three choices.

BLITZER: I want Congresswoman Bachmann to weigh in. Go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: I agree with all of that. And energy independence is something that President Obama certainly has avoided.

BLITZER: But that’s going to take many years.

BACHMANN: It — it will but the president — almost every decision that the president has made since he came in has been one to put the United States in a position of unilateral disarmament including the most recent decision he made to cancel the Keystone Pipeline.

That would have not only created jobs but it would have helped us in energy independence.

But I want to go back to something. That’s the fact why is it that we’re talking about Israel having to make a strike against Iran? It’s because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel.

They’ve stated, as recently as August just before President Ahmadinejad came to — to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.

He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America.

This isn’t just an idle threat. This is a reality. And that’s why President Obama has — has failed the American people because for two and a half years he gave the Iran the luxury of time.

He met with them with no preconditions. It’s the doctrine of appeasement. He has changed the course of history because at the time when we needed a leader most, we didn’t have one.

That’s what I’ll do differently as President of the United States. I’ll lead.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Thank you. All right. I — I — I want to — I want to — we’re gonna continue this but we have another question from Paul Wolfowitz. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Paul Wolfowitz. I’m a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and my question is about development assistance.

Under George W. Bush, who was a conservative Republican, the United States spent billions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere and set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation to encourage governments of poor countries to pursue policies that promote economic growth and job creation.

Do you believe those are still wise expenditures? Or do you think we can no longer afford them?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Global Fund Bill and the Millennium Challenge in the United States Senate and someone who worked with the president on PEPFAR to deal with the issue of AIDS in Africa, I believe it’s absolutely essential.

Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothold.

We’re seeing it already. But the work that we’ve done in stabilizing that area, while humanitarian in nature, was absolutely essential for our national security.

And I hear people up here talking abut zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular. I think that’s absolutely the wrong course.

You want to — you want to spend more money on the military, zero out all the things we do to develop relationships around the world and we will spend a lot more money on the military.

It’s important for us to use all the assets we have. Promote our values. America is that shining city on the hill. It is — it is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in America — in the world.

We have done more good for America in Africa and in the third world by the things that we’ve done. And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Herman Cain?

CAIN: Here again…

BLITZER: All right, here’s the question. Can the United States afford to continue that kind of foreign assistance to Africa for AIDS, malaria — could run into the billions of dollars? CAIN: It depends upon priorities. Secondly, it depends upon looking at the program and asking the question, has that aid been successful.

In other words, let’s look at the whole problem. It may be worthwhile to continue. It may not. I would like to see the results.

Just like every program we have here domestically, what have the results been. Then we make a decision about how we prioritize. BLITZER: Ron Paul?

PAUL: I — I think the aid is all worthless. It doesn’t do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries.

And they’re used as weapons of war so you accomplish nothing. We should export some, maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their — their own wealth.

But this whole idea of — of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we — we’re in big trouble and — and — and nobody wants to cut anything.

So if you’re gonna keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don’t have to declare and — and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat — the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition.

And this is just aggravating it.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Congressman Paul, what they’re doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget. They’re cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget, which just happens to equal the trillion dollars we’re putting into “Obama-care.”

And so what you have is a president that has a priority of spending us into bankruptcy, but he’s not just spending us into bankruptcy, he’s spending the money foolishly.

We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of “Obama-care.” That’s the best way to save money, not the military.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Hold on one second because Ron Paul wants to respond to that point.

PAUL: Well, they’re not cutting anything out of anything. All this talk is just talk.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Believe me. They’re cutting — they’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases. There’s nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they’re not going — the budget isn’t going up as rapidly as they want it to. It’s a road to disaster. We had better wake up.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: OK. Let’s just talk about what they’re cutting with the first $350 billion, not the next 600 which is coming down the road. The first $350 billion, what do they cut? They stopped the F-22. They delayed aircraft carriers. They stopped the Navy cruiser system. They said long range Air Force bombers aren’t going to be built. They’re trying to cut our troops by 50,000. The list goes on.

They’re cutting programs that are cutting the capacity of America to defend itself. Look, let’s stand back for a moment, because we’ve been talking about Israel and Iran. What we’re talking about here is a failure on the part of the president to lead with strength.

And that’s why we have discussions about whether Israel should have to step in to stop the nuclear program, whether Iran is going to become nuclear. We have a president who pursued an agenda of saying we’re going to be friendly to our foes and we’re going to be disrespectful to our friends.

The right course in America is to stand up to Iran with crippling sanctions, indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Geneva — or the Genocide Convention, put in place the kind of crippling sanctions that stop their economy. I know it’s going to make gasoline more expensive. There’s no price which is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.

And the right course for Israel is to show that we care about Israel, that they are our friend, we’ll stick with them. If I’m president of the United States, my first trip — my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to stay on this subject.

Go ahead.

ALISON ACOSTA FRASER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA OFFICE OF STATE FINANCE: Hi, my name is Alison Acosta Fraser, and I’m the director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. And my question is this, the next president will have to make some very, very tough choices in order to solve the nation’s spending and debt crisis. Would you be willing to say that our national security is so paramount that cuts to the defense budget are unacceptable?

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich.

GINGRICH: No. I helped found the Military Reform Caucus in 1981 at the beginning of the Reagan buildup because it’s clear that there are some things you can do in defense that are less expensive.

It’s clear, if it takes 15 to 20 years to build a weapons system at a time when Apple changes technology every nine months, there’s something profoundly wrong with this system. So I’m not going to tell you automatically I’m going to say yes. (APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: But let me make a deeper point. There’s a core thing that’s wrong with this whole city. You said earlier that it would take too long to open up American oil. We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious.

If we were serious, we would open up enough oil fields in the next year that the price of oil worldwide would collapse. Now, that’s what we would do if we were a serious country. If we were serious…

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: One last thing, if we were serious, we would apply Strong America Now’s model of Lean Six Sigma, we would save $500 billion a year by having an efficient effective federal government. We would open up federal lands, increasing dramatically both jobs and the amount of revenue of the federal government.

There are lots of things you can do if you decide break out of the current mindless bureaucracy of this city and just get the job done, including, by the way, making the Millennium Challenge work and doing it in a way that we actually help people even more effectively and at a much lower cost by having public/private partnerships.

BLITZER: I’m going to bring Governor Huntsman in, but very quickly, Mr. Speaker, would you, if you were president of the United States, bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power?

GINGRICH: Only as a last recourse and only as a step towards replacing the regime. No bombing campaign which leaves the regime in charge is going to accomplish very much in the long run. You have to seriously talk about regime replacement, not just attacking them.

But I will also say — this is, I guess, where I disagree with my good friend Ron Paul. If my choice was to collaborate with the Israelis on a conventional campaign or force them to use their nuclear weapons, it will be an extraordinarily dangerous world if out of a sense of being abandoned they went nuclear and used multiple nuclear weapons in Iran. That would be a future none of us would want to live through.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, where do you stand on defense cuts?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let’s face the economic reality. Let’s face the deficit reality we have as a country. We have an economic deficit. And I’d argue that 70 percent debt-to-GDP is a national security problem because, at some point, you just don’t grow any more, when your debt becomes that.

I mean, look at Japan. They’re in their third decade of lost growth. Look at Greece. Look at Italy. So I’d say, aside from that, we’ve got another deficit in this country. It’s called the trust deficit.

People have lost trust in their institutions of power in America. They don’t trust Congress. They don’t trust the executive branch. They don’t trust Wall Street. The list goes on. We’ve got to fix both those deficits.

As it relates to defense spending, let’s be realistic about this. We can’t have an intellectually honest conversation about where we go with debt and spending with sacred cows. Everything’s got to be on the table. The Defense Department’s got to be on the table, for haven’t sake. But we need to have a Defense Department and a budget for the Defense Department. If we can’t find some savings in the $650 billion budget, we’re not looking closely enough.

But we need spending for the Department of Defense that follows a strategy. And that strategy needs to follow how we best protect the American people now that we’re in the second decade of the 21st century.

And I believe our national security strategy and our foreign policy increasingly needs to follow, number one, economic policy.

It used to break my heart sitting in Beijing, the second largest embassy in the world, looking at neighboring Afghanistan. We’d have 100,000 troops there. The Chinese would move in and take the mining concession. And I’d say there’s something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

When are we going to get with the program and determine that foreign policy will be driven by economics, that which plays right back to strengthening our core (ph)…

(APPLAUSE)

… and creates jobs here on the home front.

And, second of all, let’s face the reality that we have a counterterror threat for as far as the eye can see.

Professor Wolfowitz was just up here. I know he’s done a lot of work on — for as far as the eye can see, and that means not only in Afghanistan but every corner of the world. We’ve got to prepare for the reality that counterterrorism is here to stay. We need friends and allies who are in this fight with us. We need special forces response capability. We need defense spending that will match the realities of where we find ourselves.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me bring in Governor Perry into this conversation.

As you know, the so-called supercommittee failed. And as a result, unless Congress takes action next year — in an election year, that would be difficult — there’s not going to be any change in that automatic trigger as it’s called. That sequestration, $1.2 trillion cut, including $600 billion in defense, will go into effect.

Here’s the question. If you were president of the United States, would you compromise with Democrats in Congress in order to avoid that Washington gridlock that, if you believe the polls, the American people hate?

PERRY: I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised that a supercommittee failed. It was a super-failure. And I think we expected that. We had a president of the United States who is not a leader. He pitched this over to them and said, here, you all figure this out.

I’ve signed six balanced budgets as the head of the state of Texas. I worked with those legislators on a daily basis, or my staff.

This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process. And the idea — it was almost reprehensible to me. I’ve worn the uniform of this country. I’ve been the commander in chief of the 20-plus-thousand National Guard troops that we have in Texas, Dr. Paul.

But it was reprehensible, for me, for this president to stand in front of Americans and to say that that half a trillion dollars, $500 million-plus is not going to be on the table and we’re just going to have to work our way through it, putting young men and women’s life in jeopardy.

And I will tell you, as a commander in chief, as an American citizen, that is totally and absolutely irresponsible. Even his own secretary of defense said it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, if Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest.

BLITZER: Here’s the question, though. Would you compromise — all of you have said you wouldn’t accept any tax increases at all, even if there were 10 — 10 times as many spending cuts. So would you just let the gridlock continue, Governor Perry, or would you compromise under those circumstances?

PERRY: Listen, I’ve had to work with Democrats for the 10 years that I’ve been the governor of the state of Texas.

So the idea that you can’t sit down and work with people on both sides of the aisle, but just to, you know, throw us into — into that briar patch at this particular point in time and say, what would you do — we would never have gotten into that situation if I were the president of the United States. I’d have been there working day in and day out so that we had a budget that not only — I’ve laid out a clear plan to — flat tax of 20 percent; cut the spending; and put a 20 percent corporate tax rate in. And, as a matter of fact, they ought to make the legislature, the Congress, part-time, and that would make as big an impact in this city as anything I can think of.

BLITZER: Let me bring Senator Santorum into this, because I covered Ronald Reagan’s presidency. And, as you know — and I’ll read a quote. He wrote in his autobiography this: “If you got 75 of 80 percent of what you were asking for, I say you take it and fight for the rest later.”

If you got 75 percent or 80 percent of what you wanted, would you make a deal with Democrats, increase some taxes in order to move on and fight the next battle the next day?

SANTORUM: It all depends on what the 75 percent and 85 percent is. If the — if the things that you have to give up make what you’re trying to accomplish harder to do — in other words, reduce the deficit, what the Republicans — why the Republicans are drawing a line in the sand, rightfully so, it’s because what they’re — what the Democrats are attempting to do is increase taxes, which will slow down to the — this economy, which will increase the deficit, reduce tax revenues, ultimately, and — and increase government payments.

So you don’t work against yourself. You — you won’t — you — you take ideas from the other side that you may not find particularly valuable, like spending cuts that you may not want. There are spending cuts that I would like to, you know, I mean there’s things that it mentioned before, that I would stand — stand firm on.

But in a compromise, yes, you do give up some things that you think maybe are critical spending. But you don’t undermine the ability of this con — economy to grow because of politics. This president has poisoned the well. He’s campaigned all over this country, trying to divide group from group in order to — to — to win, you know, to — to position himself to win this election and rally his troops. And what he’s done is poisoned the well here in Congress.

I’ve worked together, I’ve got a long track record of bipartisan accomplishments where I kept to the principles. I use welfare reform as an example. Welfare reform, I stuck to my principles. We cut the welfare budget. We had — we had time limits. We block granted to the states and we put a work requirement.

Did I compromise on things?

Yes. I compromised on some — on some child care. I compromised on — on some transportation.

So I got 75 percent. But it 100 percent changed the welfare system because we…

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: — stuck to our principles.

BLITZER: Let — but let’s stay on this subject, because I know many of you want to weigh in.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: We have another question.

ALEX BRILL: My name is Alex Brill and I’m a research fellow in the economics department at the American Enterprise Institute. Even if the super committee hadn’t failed, the savings that they would have proposed would have been a drop in the bucket relative to the $11 trillion deficit our country may face in the subsequent decade. In the decades after that, without entitlement reform, we’ll borrow even more.

To strengthen our economy, to strengthen our country, what entitlement reform proposals would you make to address our long-term structural deficit?

BLITZER: Good question.

Speaker Gingrich?

GINGRICH: It’s a great question and it raises the — the core issue of really large scale change.

Yesterday in Manchester, I outlined a Social Security reform plan based on Chile and based on Galveston, Texas. In Chile, people who have now have the right to a personal Social Security savings account, for 30 years, the government of Chile has promised that if you don’t have as much savings as you would get from Social Security, the government would make up the difference.

In 30 years time, they’ve paid zero dollars, even after ’07 and ’08 and ’09, people slid from three times as much to one-and-a-half times as much, but they didn’t go below the Social Security amount. The result is in Chile, for example, 72 percent — they have 72 percent of the GDP in savings. It has — it has increased the economy, increased the growth of jobs, increased the amount of wealth and it dramatically solves Social Security without a payment cut and without having to hurt anybody.

So I think you can have a series of entitlement reforms that, frankly, make most of this problem go away without going through the kind of austerity and pain that this city likes.

BLITZER: Let’s talk about that, Congresswoman Bachmann.

Social Security, Medicare, health care — what would you cut first?

What would you tackle if you were president of the United States?

BACHMANN: Let me answer that in the context of the super committee, because I was involved in the middle of that fight as a member of Congress this summer. And my voice said this. I said it’s time for us to draw a line in the sand. We have sufficient revenues coming in to pay the interest on the debt.

But the real issue was, were we going to give Congress another $2.4 billion in borrowing authority?

In other words, another blank check to the president. Because, again, consider the context. A little of four years ago, we were just over $8 trillion in debt. We are now $15 trillion in debt in just over four years. Now we’re talking about — if the gentleman is correct — adding another $11 trillion in debt over 10 years, or potentially $8.5 trillion, according to the super committee.

All that they were asked to do is cut back on $1.2 trillion of that increase in debt. We aren’t even talking about the central issue, which is balancing the budget. We need to balance the budget and then chip away at the debt. This isn’t Monopoly money.

Because what we need to recognize is that when we are sending interest money over to China, with whom we are highly in hock, we’re not just sending our money. We’re sending our power.

What will happen is that our national security and our military will decrease and our money will increase China’s military. So think about that.

Our money will be used to grow China’s military at the expense of the United States military. That should give every American pause.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to stand by and all of you are going to weigh in. We’ve got a lot more to discuss, important issues that we’re talking about. Collect your thoughts for a moment.

More tough questions for the candidates including their plans for protecting the border, reducing illegal immigration — we’re live from Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. This is the CNN Republican National Security Debate.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN National Security Debate.

The next President of the United States will certainly have to tackle conflicts in the Middle East. You’re looking at these live pictures coming in from Cairo’s Tahrir Square right now, the middle of the night in Egypt.

Thousands of Egyptians are again protesting their government as the Arab Spring continues into the winter months.

The candidates will weigh in on this and much, much more. We’re being seen live, around the world right now. Remember, you can send in your questions and comments at cnnpolitics.com; at Twitter, remember hash tag #cnndebate.

The Republican National Security Debate — we’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to the historic Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C. We’re at the CNN Republican National Security Debate. Let’s go right to the audience. We have a question. Please, give us your name and your organization. TRULUCK: Thank you. My name is Phil Truluck. I’m executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Heritage Foundation. And I’d like to thank all the candidates for joining us tonight. I know some of you may want to be in other places, but we appreciate you being here and sharing your views with us.

Let’s — I’d like to turn it back a little bit, a little closer to home, and talk about what’s going on on the borders, our southern border. As all of you know, the drug-related crimes and violence are getting heavier and heavier in that area.

First, do you consider that to be a national interest threat? And, secondly, what could we be doing with the Mexican government to help stop these drug cartels?

BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. You represent the state with the longest border with Mexico right now. What do you think you should do, if you were President of the United States, as far as using the United States military?

PERRY: Well, let me kind of broaden it out. I think it’s time for a 21st century Monroe Doctrine. When you think about what we put in place in the — in the 1820s, and then we used it again in the 1960s with the Soviet Union. We’re seeing countries start to come in and infiltrate. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah are working in Mexico, as well as Iran, with their ploy to come into the United States.

We know that Hugo Chavez and the Iranian government has one of the largest — I think their largest embassy in the world is in Venezuela. So the idea that we need to have border security with the United States and Mexico is paramount to the entire western hemisphere.

So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, whether it’s putting sanctions against the banks, whether it’s working with them on security with Mexico, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure.

As the President of the United States, I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you’re from Texas. Do you agree with your governor?

PAUL: Not entirely.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: No, the drug was mentioned. I think that’s another war we ought to cancel, because it’s… (APPLAUSE)

PAUL: … to nobody’s benefit. And that’s where the violence is coming from. But, yes, we do have a national responsibility for our borders. What I’m, sort of, tired of is all the money spent and lives lost worrying about the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and forgetting about our borders between the United States and Mexico. We should think more about, you know, what we do at home.

We need better immigration services, obviously. But, you know, if you subsidize something or give people incentives, you get more of it. So if you give easy road to citizenship, you’re going to have more illegals. If you have a weak economy, which is understandable and we should have prevented, that’s understandable.

But giving — mandating to the states and to Texas that we have to provide free medical care and free education, that’s a great burden. It’s a great burden to California and all the border states.

So I would say eliminate all these benefits and talk about eliminating the welfare state because it’s detrimental not only to here but the people that come because that’s the incentive to bring their families with them.

BLITZER: But I just want you to clarify. When you say cancel the war on drugs, does that mean legalize all these drugs? PAUL: I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure.

(APPLAUSE)

You can — you can at least let sick people have marijuana because it’s helpful, but compassionate conservatives say, well, we can’t do this; we’re going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and they’re being helped with marijuana, if they have multiple sclerosis — the federal government’s going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison.

Why don’t we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol? Alcohol is a deadly drug. What about — the real deadly drugs are the prescription drugs. They kill a lot more people than the illegal drugs.

So the drug war is out of control. I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties. It magnifies our problems on the borders. We spend — like, over the last 40 years, $1 trillion on this war. And believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn’t worked.

BLITZER: Herman Cain, let me let you…

(APPLAUSE)

… weigh in.

CAIN: Yes. Allow me to answer the gentleman’s question. The answer is yes. An insecure border is a national security threat for the following reasons.

Number one, we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico. Secondly, 40 percent of the people in Mexico, according to a survey, already believe that their country is a failed state. Thirdly, the number of people killed in Mexico last year equals the number of people killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

So yes, so let’s solve the whole problem. Number one, secure the border for real. Number two, enforce the laws that are already there. We don’t need new laws. Number three, promote the current path to citizenship. Clean up the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. so people can come through the front door instead of sneaking in the side door. And, number four, to deal with the illegals that are already here, empower the states to do what the federal government is not capable of doing.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Let’s stay on this subject. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: I have a question about high-skilled immigration. We hear a lot about low-skilled immigration, so I want to ask you about high-skilled immigration.

What would you do to ensure that the United States is as welcoming as possible to the world’s skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs?

BLITZER: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: Well, as the son of a legal immigrant to this country, I strongly believe in legal immigration and believe we are that shining city on the hill, that our future — if you look at all of the jobs that are being created in our economy today, a huge percentage of them come from the legal immigrants of this county — country who have innovated, who created great products, who created great companies and employed lots of people.

That’s one of the reasons that — that I put together my economic plan, was to take all that great innovation that’s coming as a result, in part, of legal immigration and make sure that those products that are being created are actually made here in America.

That’s part of the problem that — you know, Reaganomics was criticized as trickle-down. Problem is, we’re not seeing that money trickle down to the blue-collar workers in America. And that’s why I put forth a four-point economic plan to revitalize manufacturing that begins with zeroing out the corporate tax for manufacturers; also, regulatory reform, repatriation of profits, if invested in this country, to pay no taxes; and finally, energy policy that will explode the energy industry in this country.

We do those things, we’ll not only have the innovation, which I support, coming from legal — legal immigrants, but we’ll have that money trickle down to blue-collar workers and we can see that income mobility that a lot of people are right in that is not happening in America.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, let me let you broaden out this conversation. Back in the ’80s — and you remember this well. I was covering you then. Ronald Reagan and you — you voted for legislation that had a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as you well remember. There were, what, maybe 12 million, 10 million — 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now.

Some called it amnesty then; they still call it amnesty now. What would you do if you were President of the United States, with these millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom have been in this country for a long time?

GINGRICH: Let me start and just say I think that we ought to have an H-1 visa that goes with every graduate degree in math, science and engineering so that people stay here.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: You know, about five blocks down the street, you’ll see a statue of Einstein. Einstein came here as an immigrant. So let’s be clear how much the United States has drawn upon the world to be richer, better and more inclusive.

I did vote for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Ronald Reagan, in his diary, says he signed it — and we were supposed to have 300,000 people get amnesty. There were 3 million. But he signed it because we were going to get two things in return. We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement.

We got neither. So I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border, as the governor said. I believe ultimately you have to find some system — once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes the guest worker program, you need something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.

If you’re here — if you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. period. If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.

The Creeble Foundation is a very good red card program that says you get to be legal, but you don’t get a pass to citizenship. And so there’s a way to ultimately end up with a country where there’s no more illegality, but you haven’t automatically given amnesty to anyone.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you agree with the speaker?

BACHMANN: Well, I don’t agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty. And I also don’t agree that you would give the DREAM Act on a federal level. And those are two things that I believe that the speaker had been for, and he can speak for himself.

But those are two areas that I don’t agree with. What I do think, though, is what Steve — what Steve Jobs said to President Obama. He had said to President Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn’t find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done.

That’s what we want to do. We do want to have people. And I agree with the speaker, people like chemists and engineers, and people who are highly skilled.

We think about the United States and what’s in the best interests of the United States. If we can utilize these workers, like Steve jobs wanted to, then we need to offer those visas. That will help the United States. But I don’t agree that we should make 11 million workers who are here illegally legal.

BLITZER: Let me let the speaker respond to that.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, two things, first of all, in the DREAM Act, the one part that I like is the one which allows people who came here with their parents to join the U.S. military, which they could have done if they were back home, and if they serve on it with the U.S. military to acquire citizenship, which is something any foreigner can do.

And I don’t see any reason to punish somebody who came here at three years of age, but who wants to serve the United States of America. I specifically did not say we’d make the 11 million people legal.

I do suggest if you go back to your district, and you find people who have been here 25 years and have two generations of family and have been paying taxes and are in a local church, as somebody who believes strongly in family, you’ll have a hard time explaining why that particular subset is being broken up and forced to leave, given the fact that they’ve been law-abiding citizens for 25 years.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, you want to respond?

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: If I understood correctly, I think the speaker just said that that would make 11 people — 11 million people who are here illegally now legal. That’s really the issue that we’re dealing with. And also, it would be the DREAM Act, the federal DREAM Act, which would offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens. We need to move away from magnets (ph), not offer more.

BLITZER: Let’s broaden it out.

Governor Romney, where do you stand? Are you with the speaker, that some of those illegal immigrants — I think — he didn’t say all — some of them, if they have roots, they belong to a church, for example, should be allowed to stay in this country? ROMNEY: Look, amnesty is a magnet. What when we have had in the past, programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.

The right course for our immigration system is to say we welcome people who want to come here legally. We’re going to have a system that makes that easier and more transparent. But to make sure we’re able to bring in the best and brightest — and, by the way, I agree with the speaker in terms of — I’d staple a green card to the diploma of anybody who’s got a degree of math, science, a Masters degree, Ph.D.

We want those brains in our country. But in order to bring people in legally we’ve got to stop illegal immigration. That means turning off the magnets of amnesty, in-state tuition for illegal aliens, employers that knowingly hire people that have come here illegally.

We welcome legal immigration. This is a party, this is a party that loves legal immigration. But we have to stop illegal immigration for all the reasons the questioner raised, which is, it is bringing in people who in some cases can be terrorists, in other cases they become burdens on our society.

And we have to finally have immigration laws that protect our border, secure the border, turn off the magnets, and make sure we have people come to this country legally to build our economy.

BLITZER: Just to precise, and I’ll give Speaker Gingrich a chance to respond. Are you saying that what he’s proposing, giving amnesty in effect, or allowing some of these illegal immigrants to stay, is a magnet that would entice others to come to this country illegally?

ROMNEY: There’s no question. But to say that we’re going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you’re all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing.

People respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you’ll do so. What I want to do is bring people into this country legally, particularly those that have education and skill that allows us to compete globally. (APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.

I do believe if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers, but I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation Plan.

I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, are you with the speaker or with the governor, Governor Romney?

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: Here we go again, Mitt. You and I standing by each other again and you used the words about the magnets. And that’s one of the things that we obviously have to do is to stop those magnets for individuals to come in here.

But the real issue is securing that border. And this conversation is not ever going to end until we get the border secure. But I do think that there is a way. That after we secure that border that you can have a process in place for individual who are law- abiding citizens who have done only one thing, as Newt says, 25 years ago or whatever that period of time was, that you can put something in place that basically continues to keep those families together.

But the idea that we’re having this long and lengthy conversation here, until we have a secure border is just an intellectual exercise. You’ve got to secure the border first. And I know how to do that. I’ve been dealing with it for 10 years.

And we have to put the boots on the ground and the aviation assets in place, and secure that border once and for all, and be committed to it.

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Yes, I don’t disagree with what Governor Perry indicated. Certainly we have to secure the border. And we talk about people who have been here 25 years, that is the extreme exception…

BLITZER: You would let them stay.

ROMNEY: … not the rule.

BLITZER: You would let them stay?

ROMNEY: I’m not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who get to go. The principle is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally.

The answer is we’re going to have a system that gives people who come legally a card that identifies them as coming here legally. Employers are going to be expected to inspect that card, see if they’re here legally. On that basis we’re going to be able to bring you to this country.

The number of people that we need to power our industries, whether that’s agriculture or high tech, we welcome people in here with visa programs. We have a whole series of legal programs. But the idea of focusing a Republican debate on amnesty and who we’re going to give it to, is a huge mistake.

Secure our border, protect legal immigration, and return to a system that follows the law.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another…

(APPLAUSE)

… quick break because we have a lot more to — I want to bring everybody into this conversation. We’re also going to broaden the conversation and go to the Middle East and see what’s going on in the so-called Arab Spring.

Don’t forget, Twitter — you can weigh in on what’s going on, #CNNdebate. Also, go to Facebook, CNNpolitics.com. Much more from historic Constitution Hall, here in the nation’s capital, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right. Welcome back to the CNN Republican national security debate. Let’s go right to the audience.

Please give us your name and your organization.

QUESTION: I’m David Addington. I’m a vice president with the Heritage Foundation.

(APPLAUSE)

Serious violence has erupted in Syria between the repressive al- Assad regime and some elements of the people of Syria. Syria borders a major ally of the United States, NATO ally, Turkey, and three other friendly countries, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

In your view, what are the interests of the United States in this region and what would you do to protect them?

BLITZER: Herman Cain, you may not know this, but today Governor Perry called for a no-fly zone, for the U.S. to participate in a no- fly zone over Syria. Would you go that far? Would you support that?

CAIN: No, I would not. I would work with our allies in the region to put pressure to be able to try and get our allies and other nations to stop buying oil from Syria. That would be one thing that I would do, but I would not support a no-fly zone.

The most effective tools that we have in any of these situations are a strong military, which it is getting weaker, unfortunately, and our own economic strength.

This whole discussion tonight about cutting and compromise, we didn’t spend enough time talking about the other part of the problem — growing this economy, because this administration has failed dismally at growing this economy. We can cut until the cows come home but it still would not solve the problem until we have effective economic growth.

BLITZER: Governor Perry, why would you support a no-fly zone over Syria?

PERRY: Obviously, that’s one of a multitude of — of sanctions and actions that I think work very well from the standpoint of being able to pressure that regime, overt, covert, economic sanctions.

I mean I think there are a number of ways. But when you put the no-fly zone above Syria, it obviously gives those dissidents and gives the military the opportunity to maybe disband, that want to get out of the situation that they’re in in Syria, as well.

So I think if we’re serious about Iran — and that’s what we’re really talking about here. We’re talking about Syria is a partner with Iran in exporting terrorism all across that part of the world and — and around the globe.

So if we’re serious about Iran, then we have to be serious about Syria, as well.

So I think a no-fly zone is an option of one of a multitude of options that we should be using. And we should put them in place if we’re serious about Iran not getting the nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, let me bring you into this conversation.

We just got a question from Twitter. I’ll read it to you.

“So many people view the Arab spring as a good thing. Given the recent violence in Egypt, do you worry this can go bad?”

And we’ve got some live pictures we’re going to show our viewers out there of Tahrir Square in Cairo right now. Thousands of people are protesting the military regime in Egypt right now.

What do you say to this person who sent this — this — this Twitter message to us?

HUNTSMAN: His — history will tell. We missed the Persian spring. The president failed on that front. We go into Libya, where, to my mind, we don’t have any definable American interests. We’ve got Syria now on the horizon, where we do have American interests. It’s called Israel. We’re a friend and ally. They’re a friend and ally. And we need to remind the world what it means to be a friend and ally of the United States.

And we have nuclearization in Iran. Centrifuges spinning. At some point, they’re going to have enough in the way of fissile material out of which to make a weapon. That’s a certainty.

We had a discussion earlier tonight about sanctions. Everybody commented on sanctions. Sanctions aren’t going to work, I hate to break it to you. They’re not going to work because the Chinese aren’t going to play ball and the Russiansaren’t going to play ball.

And I believe Iran has already — the mullahs have already decided they want to go nuclear.

Why?

They have looked at North Korea. They’ve got a weapon. Nobody touches them. They like at Libya. Libya gave up their weapon in exchange for friendship with the world. Look where they are.

So I say let’s let history be our guide. We saw the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1919. We saw the region transform and make itself into something different. We saw changes in 1947.

I think we do our national interests a disservice by jumping in too soon and taking up sides with people we don’t fully understand, Islamist groups, pan-Arab groups.

Our interest in the Middle East is Israel. And our interest is to ensure that Israel — that Iran does not go nuclear.

BLITZER: All right, let’s stay in the region.

We have another question from the audience.

KATHERINE ZIMMERMAN: I’m Katherine Zimmerman from the American Enterprise Institute Critical Threats Project.

The United States adopted a policy of disengagement with Somalia after its retreat following Black Hawk down.

Today, an al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab, controls significant territory in that country.

What can the United States do to prevent Al Shabab from posing the same threat that al Qaeda did from Afghanistan 10 years ago?

BLITZER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: You’re talking about al Qaeda, correct?

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

PAUL: You have to understand who the al Qaeda really is. The — the al Qaeda responds in a very deliberate fashion. As a matter of fact, Paul Wolfowitz explained it very clearly after 9/11.

He said that al Qaeda is inspired by the fact that we had bases in Saudi Arabia. So if you want to inspire al Qaeda, just meddle in — in that region. That will inspire the al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, he went on to say that that was a good reason for us to remove the base that we had had in 15 years in — in Saudi Arabia and that we should have done that.

So there is a response. Al Qaeda responds to that and they — they are quite annoyed with us. So if you drop — if you have a no- fly zone over Syria, that’s an act of war.

What if we had China put a no-fly zone over our territory? I don’t think — I don’t think we would like that.

And I think we should practice a policy of good will to other people. What about saying that we don’t do anything to any other country that we don’t have them do to us? When we have a no-fly zone over Iraq, it was for — meant to be regime change. And evidently, some want to have regime change.

What is our business? Why should we spend more money and more lives to get involved in another war? That’s an — that is the internal affairs of the other nations and we don’t want — we don’t need another nation to start nation building. We have way too many already. So this is just looking for more trouble. I would say why don’t we mind our own business?

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Romney, where do you stand?

ROMNEY: Wolf, that is a foreign policy. It’s different than President Obama’s, but similar in some respects. President Obama’s foreign policy is one of saying, first of all, America’s just another nation with a flag.

I believe America is an exceptional and unique nation. President Obama feels that we’re going to be a nation which has multipolar balancing militaries. I believe that American military superiority is the right course. President Obama says that we have people throughout the world with common interests. I just don’t agree with him. I think there are people in the world that want to oppress other people, that are evil.

President Obama seems to think that we’re going to have a global century, an Asian century. I believe we have to have an American century, where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.

President Obama apologizes for America. It is time for us to be strong as a nation. And if we are strong, with a military and economy that are so strong, no one in the world will try and attempt to threaten us or to attack our friends.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, are you with Governor Perry…

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: … on declaring a no-fly zone over Syria? ROMNEY: No, this is not — this is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria. This is the time for us to use not only sanctions, but covert actions within Syria to get regime change there. There are people in the military that are shifting over, that are — that are becoming part of the rebel effort.

We should support those efforts. We need to meet with the Alawites to make sure they understand that they have a future after Assad, that they don’t have to link with him. He’s getting pressure now from both Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia. They’re coming and putting pressure on him. The Arab League is putting pressure on him.

We — that’s the right way to go. And by the way, they have 5,000 tanks in Syria. A no-fly zone wouldn’t be the right military action. Maybe a no-drive zone. I mean, this is — this is a nation — this is a nation which is not bombing its people, at this point, and the right course is not military.

BLITZER: We’re ready to wrap it up. But let me have Governor Perry react.

PERRY: Yes, as I said, I said the no-fly zone is one of the options that we have. But I think you need to leave it on the table to make sure, because this is not just about Syria. This is about Iran, and those two, as a partnership and exporting terrorism around the world. And if we’re going to be serious about saving Israel, we better get serious about Syria and Iran, and we better get serious right now.

BLITZER: All right. Let’s take another question from the audience. This is last question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name is Mark Teese (ph) and I’m a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. And my question has to do with the unexpected. During the 200 Presidential debates, Governor George W. Bush was never asked about the threat from Al Qaida, yet the battle with Al Qaida dominated his presidency. What national security issue do you worry about that nobody is asking about, either here or in any of the debates so far?

BLITZER: All right. Let’s go down the line and start with Senator Santorum. Give us a quick answer. What do you think?

SANTORUM: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time and concern — and Rick mentioned this earlier — about what’s going on in Central and South America. I’m very concerned about the militant socialists and there — and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together.

I’m concerned about the spread of socialism and that this administration, with — time after time, whether it was the delay in moving forward on Colombia’s free trade agreement, whether it was turning our back to the Hondurans and standing up for democracy and the — and the rule of law.

And we took the side with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for a corrupt President. We’ve sent all the wrong signals to Central and South America.

BLITZER: Thank you.

SANTORUM: You know, maybe the first trip I would take to Israel, but my second trip, and third and fourth, would be into Central and South America. We need to build a solid hemisphere and those people — and the people in south of our border need to know that we are going to…

BLITZER: All right.

SANTORUM: … solidarity with them and build strong alliances.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

I want to do this quickly, if we can, because we don’t have a lot of time.

Congressman?

PAUL: I worry most about overreaction on our part, getting involved in another war when we don’t need to, when we have been attacked, and our national security has not been at threat. And I worry a lot about people never have come around to understanding who the Taliban is and why they are motivated.

Taliban doesn’t mean they want to come here and kill us. The Taliban means they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us.

BLITZER: Governor Perry?

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: I think, obviously, the big issue out there, and we’ve talked about it before, but I happen to think it’s China and how we’re — we’re going to deal with China.

And Communist China — when I think back about Ronald Reagan, and he said that the Soviet Union was destined for the ash heap of history, and he was correct, and I happen to think that Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues.

When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day in that country; when you have the cybersecurity that the PLA has been involved with, those are great and — and major issues, both morally and security-wise that we’ve got to deal with now.

BLITZER: All right. We’ve got to keep it brief. But, go ahead…

(APPLAUSE)

… Governor Romney. ROMNEY: Rick, in my view, is right with regards to long-term security interests, and that’s — and that’s China, although that’s very much on our agenda.

Immediately, the most significant threat is, of course, Iran becoming nuclear.

But I happen to think Senator Santorum is right with regards to the issue that doesn’t get enough attention. That’s the one that may come up that we haven’t thought about, which is Latin America. Because, in fact, Congressman, we have been attacked. We were attacked on 9/11. There have been dozens of attacks that have been thwarted by our — by our security forces. And we have, right now, Hezbollah, which is working throughout Latin America, in Venezuela, in Mexico, throughout Latin America, which poses a very significant and imminent threat to the United States of America.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Mr. Cain?

(APPLAUSE)

CAIN: Having been — having been a ballistics analyst and a computer scientist early in my career, cyber attacks: that’s something that we do not talk enough about, and I happen to believe that that is a national security area that we do need to be concerned about.

BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: I — I helped create the Hart-Rudman Commission with President Clinton, and they came back after three years and said the greatest threat to the United States was the weapon of mass destruction in an American city, probably from a terrorist. That was before 9/11.

That’s one of the three great threats. The second is an electromagnetic pulse attack which would literally destroy the country’s capacity to function.

And the third, as Herman just said, is a cyber attack. All three of those are outside the current capacity of our system to deal with.

BLITZER: Thank you. Congresswoman?

BACHMANN: Well, I would agree with what my colleagues said up here on the stage. And also, we need to remember, we won the peace in Iraq. And now President Obama is intentionally choosing to give that peace away.

This is a significant issue because we’re taking the terrorist threat away from the Middle East, bringing it to the United States.

We talked about Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is real. In my home state of Minnesota, we’ve just had two convictions of two women that are financing terror with Al-Shabaab. This threat, I believe, now is in the United States and now the threat has come home and that’s what we have to deal with.

BLITZER: Governor Huntsman?

HUNTSMAN: I guess I could say China because I know a little bit about the subject matter, but they’re in for real trouble ahead.

So I have to say that our biggest problem is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in.

How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home? We have no choice. We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically.

BLITZER: Thank you to…

(APPLAUSE)

… all of you. And thanks to all of you as well. We have to leave it right there. We want to thank our partners, the American Enterprise Institute. We want to thank the Heritage Foundation. Thanks very much for watching. I’m Wolf Blitzer here at Constitution Hall.

(APPLAUSE)

Campaign Buzz November 22, 2011: CNN GOP National Security Republican Presidential Debate at Constitutional Hall, Washington, DC — Frontrunner Newt Gingrich Takes Center Stage on Immigration & Patriot Act

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Before the sparring began at the debate in Washington on Tuesday, the Republican presidential primary candidates paused as the national anthem was sung.

IN FOCUS: CNN GOP NATIONAL SECURITY REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE

Fact checking the GOP national security debate — CBS News, 11-22-11

Debate Highlights G.O.P.’s Lack of a Unified Security Vision: Most of the presidential candidates vowed to put any necessary steps to protect the nation ahead of worries about civil liberties…. – NYT, 11-22-11

Live Blogging the National Security Debate: Follow along for live updates, analysis and fact checks during the Republican national security debate…. – NYT, 11-22-11

Defense cuts, immigration policy: Key moments in Tuesday night’s GOP presidential debate: Key moments in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate…. – AP, 11-22-11

“I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.” — Newt Gingrich

“I think the speaker just said that he would make 11 people, 11 million people who are here illegally now, legal.” — Rep. Michele Bachmann

“A no-fly zone wouldn’t be the right military action — maybe a no-drive zone. — Mitt Romney

“We’ve got to get on our feet domestically.” — Jon Huntsman

“Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to — to get — to get a foothol.” — Rick Santorum

 

  • Republican Presidential Hopefuls Debate National Security, Foreign Aid: US Republican presidential hopefuls debated how to deal with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran’s nuclear program Tuesday evening in their latest televised debate. Questioned about US aid to Pakistan, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would cut the aid … – Voice of America, 11-22-11
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  • Gingrich shows humane side on immigration: In his first debate as the Republican frontrunner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took a political gamble Tuesday by wading into the volatile issue of limited amnesty for long-time illegal immigrants. … – CNN, 11-22-11
  • 2012 CNN foreign policy debate: Mitt Romney channels Rudy Giuliani: For one night only, anyway, but Mitt Romney just turned to Ron Paul as a foil to make the point about how the US was attacked on 9/11, which was why the nation is at war. FIghting with Paul as a hawk was a part of Rudy Giuliani’s debate strategy…. – Politico, 11-22-11
  • Patriot Act, security prompt GOP sparring in CNN National Security Debate: The Republican candidates for president outlined their visions for fighting terrorism and keeping the country safe during a CNN debate Tuesday held just down the street from the White House … – CNN, 11-22-11
  • Gingrich Calls for Regime Change in Iran: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called for replacing the leadership of Iran and said that could be accomplished within a year, adopting a more aggressive posture toward the US … – WSJ, 11-22-11
  • Gingrich at center stage, national security in the spotlight: Republican presidential candidates argued Tuesday night over what was more important — the need to fight terrorism or protect civil liberties — as they sought to define themselves on national … – USA Today, 11-22-11
  • Washington foreign policy debate: Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich mix it up: Some of Newt GIngrich’s critics have been taking him on over his past stands on immigration, and Michele Bachmann joined them onstage, pointing out that the former House Speaker supported, as she said, the federal DREAM Act. Gingrich disagreed. … – Politico, 11-22-11
  • GOP divides on foreign policy questions: The Republican presidential candidates sparred in a national security debate Tuesday night, dividing over the war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, foreign aid and more. The night was a stark contrast to the overall unity within the Republican Party…. – Politico, 11-22-11
  • Gingrich says cutting off Iran from gasoline, sabotaging its refineries would: Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich says the United States could “break Iran within a year” if allies worked together on a strategy instead of focusing on specific tactics. Gingrich says that ending gasoline sales to Iran and … – WaPo, 11-22-11
  • Gingrich ‘prepared to take the heat’ with talk of amnesty: In his first debate since jumping into the lead in the polls, Newt Gingrich took the lead on a controversial topic Tuesday night when he suggested that his fellow Republicans might reconsider their outright opposition to amnesty for … – LAT, 11-22-11
  • GOP debate recap: Yes, Herman Cain’s obsession with the topography of Iran showed up. No, Michele Bachmann’s friend, the Seven-Foot Doctor, didn’t. Probably the newsiest thing that happened in tonight’s Republican debate on national security was that Newt Gingrich went where Rick Perry should never have gone and tried to make a case for moderation on immigration…. – WaPo, 11-22-11
  • Candidates Vie For Air Time: Among the many things that pundits and party operatives alike will be considering during tonight’s GOP debate on CNN – the 11th debate of this primary season – is the following question: Does it appear as though some candidates are being asked more … – ABC News, 11-22-11
  • Networks walk a tightrope over crowded debates: Keeping the crowded Republican presidential debates fair, lively and topical at the same time can seem like the equivalent of juggling while walking a tightrope. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is the next television personality on stage. … – CBS News, 11-22-11
  • Too Much Debate? Why the Republican Frontrunner Keeps Changing: Debates are doing in the Republican candidates one by one, and yet they can’t seem to stop talking. And we can’t seem to stop watching. Tuesday night’s debate was the 11th political face-off among the Republican candidates in a year that … – TheWrap, 11-22-11
  • Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul clashed over the Patriot Act: Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul clashed over the Patriot Act at the start of Tuesday’s debate for GOP presidential candidates, with Gingrich saying terrorism means “all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. … – CNN, 11-22-11
  • At GOP debate, candidates spar over Patriot Act: It only took a few minutes for Newt Gingrich to display the bluntness that has become his signature quality during the Republican presidential debates. Gathered at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, … – LAT, 11-22-11
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  • Gingrich, Paul tangle over Patriot Act as GOP candidates open national: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul are tangling over the Patriot Act as they open a Republican presidential debate on national security. Gingrich says he supports the anti- terrorism law that civil liberty activists object … – WaPo, 11-22-11
  • DC debate: Michele Bachmann says technology has changed: Michele Bachmann opened with a response to the Patriot Act question by saying she’s “with the American people, with the Constitution,” but went on to say, without directly answering the Patriot Act question, that, “We can’t forget that technology is … – Politico, 11-22-11
  • Foreign policy debate: Ron Paul cites Oklahoma City on counter-terrorism: Ron Paul delivered the first philosophical dispute of CNN’s national security debate, disagreeing with Newt Gingrich’s support for the Patriot Act and pointing to the Oklahoma City attack as a threat dealt with through criminal law. … – Politico, 11-22-11
  • Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul Clash Over Patriot Act Extension: Saying “we will be in danger for the rest of our lives,” Newt Gingrich on Tuesday supported an extension of Patriot Act provisions to fight terrorism. Speaking at a CNN debate on national security at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC…. – Sunshine State News, 11-22-11
  • Patriot Act a new litmus test in GOP debate: Republican candidates staked out contrary stances on renewing the Patriot Act at the onset of a national security debate on Tuesday, adding another latest litmus test on how to best protect the United States…. – The Hill, 11-22-11
  • Gingrich Supports Patriot Act Powers to Protect US ‘In Danger’: Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republican presidential front runner, said that the US must strengthen tools to detect and prevent terrorism because “all of us will be in danger for the rest of our … – BusinessWeek, 11-22-11
  • CNN national security debate: What to watch for: Eight Republican candidates will gather for the billionth — oops, sorry, twelfth— time tonight in Washington, DC for a debate focused on national security…. – WaPo, 11-22-11
  • 2012 GOP Hopefuls Face Off On National Security: The supercommittee’s embarrassing collapse adds a tricky new task for the combatants in yet another GOP debate Tuesday: persuading voters they can end the partisan dysfunction crippling Washington…. – New York Daily News, 11-22-11

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

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


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

STATS & POLLS

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

IN FOCUS

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

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

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

Doug Mills/The New York Times

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

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

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

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

112TH CONGRESS

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: SCOTUS UPHOLDS ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

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

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS — ELECTIONS

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

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

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

QUOTES

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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

Political Buzz May 26, 2011: President Obama Signs Patriot Act Extension Bill

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.

    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.

    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote.

    A short-term expiration would not have interrupted ongoing operations but would have barred the government from seeking warrants for new investigations…. – CBS News, 5-27-11

  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: The Patriot Act is here to stay. Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

    President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline.

    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said.

    The nail-biting finish was in large part due to Republican freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Tea Party favorite held up the legislation, arguing the Patriot Act is an invasion of privacy and gives the government too much power to monitor people’s lives.

    The Senate passed the bill 72-23, and the House voted in favor of it 250-153.

    The extension allows law enforcement officials to continue the use of roving wiretaps – those authorized for a person versus a communications line or device.

    It also allows for court-ordered searches of business records relevant to terrorist investigations and permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-Americans without confirmed ties to terrorist groups…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11

  • Obama Uses Autopen to Sign Patriot Act Extension: Where in the world is President Obama? Turns out it doesn’t matter. For the first time in United States history, a bill has been signed into law by a mechanical autopen, which affixed the president’s signature at the direction of Mr. Obama, who is in Europe.

    Congress on Thursday passed legislation extending the Patriot Act for four years. (House vote | Senate vote) But with Mr. Obama abroad and the existing legal authorities set to expire, the White House concluded that a mechanical signature would do.

    “Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security,” Nick Shapiro, an assistant press secretary in the White House, said before the vote on Thursday. “As long as Congress approves the extension, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it.”

    With that declaration, Mr. Obama turned a machine that is ubiquitous in government and business for routine transactions — letters, ceremonial photos, promotional materials — into the ultimate stand-in replacement for the leader of the free world…. – USA Today, 5-27-11

  • Obama Says World Needs U.S.-British Leadership: In a rare address to both houses of the British Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, President Obama said Wednesday that the United States and Britain remained “indispensable” nations for peace and stability and the “greatest catalysts for global action” in a time of war, terrorism and economic insecurity.

    Highlighting the need for a “new era of cooperation” between the nations that already enjoy a special relationship, Mr. Obama stressed their shared values in a speech that drew a straight line from the beaches of Normandy to the NATO bombing mission in Libya.

    “It is wrong to conclude that the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil means the end of American and European leadership,” he said. “Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.”

    Mr. Obama’s speech came hours after a joint news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in which the two leaders renewed their calls for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to leave office. Mr. Cameron said the two allies “should be turning up the heat” on the Libyan leader.

    After the pomp and ceremony of the previous day, with Queen Elizabeth II welcoming Mr. Obama to Britain and showing him around Buckingham Palace herself, the second day of Mr. Obama’s trip turned to geopolitics in meetings with Mr. Cameron, and his address to Parliament…. – NYT, 5-25-11

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