Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2014: Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Statement on the Attacks at Canada’s Parliament Hill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Parliament Hill Shooting in Canada — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Shooting Incident in Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14 

Oval Office

4:00 P.M. EDT

Q    Can you say something about Canada?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, thank you very much.  I appreciate — thank you.  I had a chance to talk with Prime Minister Harper this afternoon.  Obviously, the situation there is tragic.  Just two days ago, a Canadian soldier had been killed in an attack.  We now know that another young man was killed today.  And I expressed on behalf of the American people our condolences to the family and to the Canadian people as a whole.

We don’t yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting.  We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan, or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions.  But it emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism.  And I pledged, as always, to make sure that our national security teams are coordinating very closely, given not only is Canada one of our closest allies in the world but they’re our neighbors and our friends, and obviously there’s a lot of interaction between Canadians and the United States, where we have such a long border.

And it’s very important I think for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, that Canada and the United States has to be entirely in sync.  We have in the past; I’m confident we will continue to do so in the future.  And Prime Minister Harper was very appreciative of the expressions of concern by the American people.

I had a chance to travel to the Parliament in Ottawa.  I’m very familiar with that area and am reminded of how warmly I was received and how wonderful the people there were.  And so obviously we’re all shaken by it, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re standing side by side with Canada during this difficult time.

Q    What does the Canadian attack mean to U.S. security, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we don’t have enough information yet.  So as we understand better exactly what happened, this obviously is something that we’ll make sure to factor in, in the ongoing efforts that we have to counter terrorist attacks in our country.

Every single day we have a whole lot of really smart, really dedicated, really hardworking people — including a couple in this room — who are monitoring risks and making sure that we’re doing everything we need to do to protect the American people.  And they don’t get a lot of fanfare, they don’t get a lot of attention.  There are a lot of possible threats that are foiled or disrupted that don’t always get reported on.  And the work of our military, our intelligence teams, the Central Intelligence Agency, the intelligence community more broadly, our local law enforcement and state law enforcement officials who coordinate closely with us — we owe them all a great deal of thanks.

Thank you, guys.  Appreciate you.

END
4:16 P.M. EDT

Canadian Political Headlines October 22, 2014: Live Blog: Canadian parliament in lockdown after shooting — Timeline

CANADIAN POLITICAL HEADLINES

POLITICAL HEADLINES

Canadian parliament in lockdown after shooting

Source: UK Telegraph, 10-22-14

Shooter reported to have been killed after opening fire at National War Memorial and bursting into Parliament…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: Readout of US President Barack Obama’s Call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Readout of US President Barack Obama’s Call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14 

President Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express the American people’s solidarity with Canada in the wake of attacks on Canadian Forces in Quebec on October 20 and in Ottawa on October 22. President Obama condemned these outrageous attacks, reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between our people. The President offered any assistance Canada needed in responding to these attacks. Prime Minister Harper thanked the President and the two leaders discussed the assault and agreed to continue coordination between our governments moving forward.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Statement on the Tragic Shootings in Ottawa, Canada at Parliament Hill — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

On the Tragic Shootings in Ottawa, Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made the following statement in response to the shootings in Ottawa, Canada this morning, when a Canadian soldier was shot in the wake of another attack in Quebec earlier this week:

“The thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House go out to the families of those who were affected by today’s shooting in Canada, as well as to the family of the soldier who was killed earlier this week. The President was briefed earlier today in the Oval Office by his top homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco. The details about the nature of this event are still sketchy, which is not unusual in a chaotic situation like this one.

“Canada is one of the closest friends and allies of the United States. And from issues ranging from the strength of our NATO alliance, to the Ebola response, to dealing with ISIL, there’s a strong partnership and friendship and alliance between the United States and Canada. The United States strongly values that relationship, and that relationship makes the citizens of this country safer.

“Officials inside the U.S. government have been in close touch with their Canadian counterparts today to offer assistance. That includes officials here in the White House. We have been in touch with the Canadians about arranging a phone call between the President and Prime Minister Harper, at the Prime Minister’s earliest convenience.”

Political Musings February 20, 2014: Obama owes Harper a pack of beer for Canada’s women’s hockey gold

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama owes Harper a pack of beer for Canada’s women’s hockey gold

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After waging a pack of beer for each of the US-Canada hockey match-ups at the Sochi Winter Olympic games United States President Barack Obama now owes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a pack of beer, after Canada’…READ MORE

Political Headlines February 20, 2014: Obama owes Harper a pack of beer for Canada Women’s hockey gold

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama owes Harper a pack of beer

Harper and Obama shake hands
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toluca, Mexico during the Three Amigos Summit

After waging a pack of beer for each of the US-Canada hockey match-ups at the Sochi Winter Olympics US President Barack Obama now owes Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a pack of beer, after Canada’s Women’s hockey team won gold beating Team USA 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

Another pack of beer is up in the air when the US and Canada’s men’s hockey teams meet in the semi-final on Friday, Feb. 21. Obama and Harper made the bet during the Three Amigo’s Summit in Mexico this past week. Canada is the defending champions in both Women’s and Men’s hockey.

   I’m betting @barackobama one case of Canadian beer per hockey game this week. #teamusa is good, but #WeAreWinter#GoCanadaGo @WhiteHouse

— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) February 20, 2014

.@pmharper and I bet on the women’s and men’s US-Canada hockey games. Winner gets a case of beer for each game. #GoTeamUSA! -bo

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 20, 2014

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: North American Leaders Summit Roundup

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

North American Leaders Summit Roundup

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper’s Press Conference at Three Amigos Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper

Source: WH, 2-19-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Patio Central
Palacio de Gobierno
Toluca, Mexico

7:25 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.  Members of the media.  Your Excellency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama; Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper.  Once again, I would like to welcome you to our country.

It is a great honor to have hosted you for the North American Leaders Summit here in the State of Mexico, and Toluca, its capital city — a state that I had the great honor of being the governor of before I took office with the greatest honor in the world of politics, and that is to lead the course of my country.

That is why I am very glad that we have had the opportunity of having this meeting.  And I’d like to congratulate myself for creating a space where we have had dialogues, where we have outreach to our countries, and where we have strengthened our friendship.  I can be certain that the warm space where we have met is very different from what the teams of men and women representing Mexico in Sochi are having in Russia.  They are in very cold weather and fighting hard to win a medal.  So be welcome to this very warm weather.

I would like to summarize for the media and for your delegations the scope of our meetings.  I would like to share with you that we have two highlights in our meetings.  First we had a bilateral with President Barack Obama and with his delegation and their counterparts from Mexico to address the following, and I would like to share this with you.

First of all, we assessed the breakthroughs related to the agreements made during President Obama’s past visit in May to our country, and now during his fifth visit — and I must note that Mexico ranks top of the list of the most visited countries by President Obama during his term.  And we were able to identify the level of progress of the agreements made back then; how much we have advanced the exchange between high level officials to precisely boost the trade and commercial relationship that Mexico and the U.S. have.

We have also analyzed the possibility of setting forward new mechanisms to build and fund strategic projects.  We have agreed to work on a proposal that would help us find different mechanisms to fund projects so that we can give a new life to our infrastructure, to have more agile and have safer commercial transactions between our countries.

Specifically, we talked about education.  We have set the task to have more academic exchanges so that more Mexican students can study in the United States and, reciprocally, students from the United States come to Mexico to study.  The number of students so far is somehow low, considering the potential that we have.  And out of the 14,000 students from Mexico that go to the United States to study, we have set a goal and that is to increase year by year this figure and reach 100,000 students a year that visit the United States, and 50,000 students from the U.S. coming to Mexico to study.

We have revised our security agenda and we have agreed to maintain a strategic dialogue, to coordinate efforts so we can face a common issue — security in both of our countries and, specifically, security at the border.

On the other hand, I would like to refer to the outcome of the North American Leaders Summit.  Therefore, I would like to share with you highlights in terms of the agreements reached in this framework.  We have worked on four main topics.  The first one is to foster shared and inclusive prosperity.  We have agreed to work on a plan to boost competitiveness.  We also have agreed to work on a North America transport plan which would give us better infrastructure in our three countries to make the commerce that happens between our three nations thrive.

We also agreed to standardize and expedite all the procedures that take place in our customhouses.  We have also agreed to enable the movement of individuals, and by this have Trusted Travelers Programs.  We have, each one, a program of this nature with a purpose in mind that all the travelers that are part of the Trusted Travelers registers in our countries are considered as a vetted traveler in North America.

Additionally, in terms of the second topic, we have addressed areas of opportunity.  And I must insist, in terms of our binational agenda with the United States, we have added up Canada to work on a program to train professionals by increasing our academic exchanges and ensuring mobility of students between our three countries.

We have also agreed to foster sustainable development, working towards the mitigation of the effects of climate change. And in the area of sustainability, we have also agreed to work on the preservation of the Monarch butterfly.  It is a landmark species in North America.  This is a species present in our three countries, and we have agreed to work a taskforce with a presentation from our three countries to preserve the Monarch butterfly.

Then, another topic is citizen security and regional topics. We have agreed to give privilege to the exchange of information, and we have also privilege to coordinate efforts between law enforcement authorities.  We will reinforce the measures aimed to fight money laundering and illicit financial flows.  And for that purpose we need to integrate our financial systems further.

We have also restated our commitment to support and cooperate with the Central America region as well as the Caribbean because they are partners in this hemisphere.  We have committed to foster development, economic growth and citizen security as well.

Basically, I have summarized the commitments made during the summit.  And fourthly, we have committed, the three of us, to give follow-up to all the agreements made.  Besides making agreements, we have committed to give follow-up to each one of those agreements and we have committed to make them happen.

Finally, I would like to share with you that in order to reach our goals we need to identify that North America is quite valuable.  The Free Trade Agreement executed 20 years ago and the intense dialogue that we have between our three countries in the North American region is very valuable and every exchange is based on trust.  And we share a very good relationship between all of us who lead our countries.

This North America Leaders Summit has been a very good opportunity to specify what our commitments will be and what are the tasks for the future.  And it has also served as a space to restate our friendship, the good relationship that we have and the respect that we pay to each other.  And we have committed to work hard to make a significant contribution, to make North America a more competitive region — I would dare to say the most competitive region in the world.  And this is a region that has a true call for prosperity.  And we will work to provide better well-being to the citizens of our countries.

We have made great strides.  We create plenty of jobs due to the economic relationship that we have managed to achieve, but we want more.  We want more development.  We are aware of the potential that we find in North America.  And I make a pledge so that the seventh summit of leaders of North America serves its purpose.

Once again, we welcome, and I would like to say that I hope you have had a very pleasant stay in Toluca and I hope that this visit has been very fruitful.  And I hope that we have been able to build an even stronger relationship.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas noches to President Peña Nieto.  To the people of Toluca and the people of Mexico, thank you so much for your extraordinary hospitality.  Thank you again, Enrique, for welcoming us to your hometown and home state, which — like the beautiful surroundings tonight — reflects Mexico’s proud history as well as the economic dynamism of today’s Mexico.

I want to thank President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Harper for their partnership in deepening the extraordinary ties between our countries — especially the trade that supports good jobs for our people.  For the United States, Canada and Mexico are two of our largest trading partners with trade that supports millions of American jobs.  Thanks in part to our efforts to boost U.S. exports, American exports to Canada and Mexico continue to grow faster than our exports to the rest of the world.

Together, our countries have strengths that give North America a tremendous competitive advantage — the skills of our workers, manufacturing that’s growing, and new sources of energy. So we have to take advantage of these competitive advantages, and we need to do it together.  All of this positions us to be a powerhouse in the global economy.  And that’s why we’re here, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be more competitive and create more jobs in Canada, in Mexico, and in the United States.

First, we’re focused on making it easier to trade.  Earlier today, I signed a new executive order to make it easier for companies that want to export and import.  Instead of dealing with dozens of different federal agencies and long paper forms, we’re going to create a one-stop shop online, so companies can submit all their information in one place and save themselves time and money.  We’re going to keep investing in infrastructure — like roads, bridges, border crossings — so our goods are getting to market faster.  We’ve agreed to keep working to make it easier for our businesspeople and tourists to trade and travel.  And we’re going to step up our efforts to streamline and eliminate regulations or the red tape that can sometimes stifle trade and job creation.

We’ve agreed to keep working to complete negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including strong protections for our workers and the environment, so that we can compete in the fast-growing markets of the Asia Pacific.  And because it will grow the U.S. economy and make the United States more attractive to investment — and because we have to do right by our families and our values — I’ve reiterated that immigration reform remains one of my highest priorities.

I’m also very pleased that we’ve agreed to keep expanding educational partnerships, as Enrique mentioned, so our young people develop the skills they need to succeed in the global economy.  And this builds on my initiative that we call 100,000 Strong in the Americas.  We want more students from the United States studying throughout the hemisphere, and we want more students from places like Mexico and Canada studying in the United States — so that they’re developing familiarity and partnerships and friendships that will serve them and serve our countries well for decades to come.

Second, we continue to deepen our clean-energy partnerships, which create jobs and combat climate change.  Yesterday, I announced that the United States will develop new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks — standards that reduce carbon pollution.  And today, all three of our nations have agreed to work together to meet high fuel standards for these heavy-duty trucks.

And more broadly, we agreed to join with our Central American and Caribbean partners on a regional energy strategy.   And this builds on the commitment I made in Central America last year to help our partners across the region reduce their energy costs and become more competitive.  On a global level, we agreed to keep standing together as we push for an international agreement to phase down the production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons.

Number three, we know that realizing our full potential as individual countries and as a region means confronting the criminals and narcotraffickers who unleashed so much violence on our citizens.  Here in Mexico, the security forces and the Mexican people continue to make enormous sacrifices in that fight, and our three nations are united against this threat.  In the United States, we continue to be committed to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and we’ll continue our unprecedented efforts to combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash.

And, finally, given our shared commitment to democratic values and human rights, I want to take this opportunity to address the situation in Venezuela and Ukraine, and the unacceptable violence in those two countries, which the United States strongly condemns.

In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people.  So, along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protestors that it’s detained and engage in real dialogue.  And all parties have an obligation to work together to restrain violence and restore calm.

With regard to Ukraine, along with our European partners, we will continue to engage all sides.  And we continue to stress to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government that they have the primary responsibility to prevent the kind of terrible violence that we’ve seen, to withdraw riot police, to work with the opposition to restore security and human dignity and move the country forward.  And this includes progress towards a multiparty technical government that can work with the international community on a support package and adopt reforms necessary for free and fair elections next year.

Ukrainians are a proud and resilient people who’ve overcome extraordinary challenges in their history, and that’s a pride and strength that I hope they draw on now.  Meanwhile, I’ve urged the military in Ukraine to show restraint and to let civilians pursue the dialogue necessary for progress.  We’ve obviously seen reports of a truce between the government and the opposition.  If the truce is implemented, it could provide space for the sides to resolve their disagreements peacefully.

And going forward, we’ll continue to do whatever we can to support Ukrainians as they seek a peaceful resolution and respond to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a strong, unified democracy that’s fully integrated into the international community.

So, again, I want to thank Enrique and the people of Mexico, and the people of Toluca, for their wonderful hospitality.  If we stay focused on our shared vision — a North America that’s more integrated and more competitive — then progress in each of our countries will mean more prosperity and opportunity for everyone.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  (As interpreted.)  Allow me to start out by thanking President Peña Nieto for his generous hospitality.  We have had a wonderful stay in this wonderful country, in Mexico, and we are eager to come back soon.

Today, I had fruitful meetings and dialogues with my commercial partners from Mexico in regard to services, information, and also shared and fundamental values and, of course, a democratic and peaceful world.

Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of NAFTA.  As time can tell us, this treaty was successful, and it started guaranteeing prosperity from one extreme to the other of the hemisphere.  The volume of exchanges is fourfold now, and is over $30 billion.  And we have now seen exponential growth and can hope for exponential growth in years to go.

We are in agreement to say that we can still grow the success of NAFTA, to implement new ways, for instance, in regard to the Trans-Pacific alliance.  And so these negotiations should be for the best.  We need to create employment.  This is the key to revitalize the economy and to foster prosperity not only for the Canadian populations, but for our populations at large.

That’s why our government will keep on working and expanding the free trade and commerce with our main partners in North America, as well as with Asia Pacific region and worldwide, since we want to have access on the other side of the Atlantic, since we have subscribed to the free exchange agreement with Europe.

Today, President Obama, President Peña Nieto and myself have discussed and have delved into many topics, especially the state of the world economy at a local, regional level, and competiveness — North American competitiveness.  We are truly enthusiastic to collaborate, with this idea of collaborating together.  We shall keep on working together with my homologues [counterparts] and to take a profit of all the occasions for the well-being of our populations.  And we will host the forthcoming population of the summit in Canada.

And I would like to add a word in regard to the situation in Ukraine.  There’s been a truce, but it is essential that we take action.  And at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government has to be held responsible for settling this situation.  The Ukrainian government took actions — actions that were not only unpopular, but actions that put at risk nature and the aspirations of becoming an independent nation.

(In English.)  My sincere thanks to President Peña Nieto and the Mexican people for their generous hospitality.  We’ve had a wonderful time here in beautiful Mexico, and I look forward to returning again soon.

Today we had productive meetings with Canada’s closest friends and trading partners — partners with whom we share goods, services and information, and also fundamental values and a vision for a democratic and peaceful world.

This year we mark the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  And as only time can reveal, the agreement — statistics alone — has been overwhelmingly successful and is responsible for creating prosperity from the bottom to the top of the continent.  There has been a fourfold growth in trilateral trade over the last 20 years that now exceeds a trillion dollars. And it is estimated that the NAFTA marketplace will continue to expand exponentially in the decades to come.

We all agree that there is enormous potential to build on the success of NAFTA in new ways, for example, most notably through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We’re therefore focused on bringing those negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Developing trade is one of the keys to job creation.  It is a key to economic vitality, and it is a key to long-term prosperity not just for the Canadian people, but for all of our peoples.  That’s why our government will continue to work to expand trade with our two core trading partners in North America, in the Asia Pacific region more generally, and around the world  — just as we did last year, when we expanded our access across the Atlantic through the conclusion of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

In our meetings today, Presidents Peña Nieto, Obama and I discussed a range of topics as have already been detailed by my colleagues, including the state of the global economy, international regional security, and North American competitiveness.  We share a genuine enthusiasm for closer collaboration.

The Presidents and I will continue to work together to address the challenges of the 21st century and to seize the many promising opportunities that the future holds for our peoples.  And I do look forward to hosting the next North American Leaders Summit in Canada.

And I’d also just like to conclude with a word on the situation in Ukraine.  We obviously are encouraged to hear the news of a truce.  While this is good news, this kind of news, these kinds of words are only meaningful if they are put into action.  And ultimately, it is the regime that is responsible for resolving the current situation.  It is the regime that created this situation — not by taking decisions that were merely unpopular, but by undertaking decisions that went against the very nature and aspirations of Ukraine as an independent state.  And for that reason, we hold the government responsible and urge them to take all the steps necessary to resolve the situation and to put Ukraine back on the democratic and Euro-Atlantic path that the Ukrainian people desire.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  (As interpreted.)  We will have a round of questions.  Jason McDonald will introduce the Canadian journalist asking the question.

MR. MCDONALD:  Omar Sachedina from CTV News.

Q    Mr. President, good evening to you.  Canada has offered to work with the United States on joint rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.  You’ve said the Keystone XL pipeline won’t be approved if it significantly worsens climate change.  The State Department report has concluded that Keystone will not have a significant effect on climate change.  So my question to you is, what more needs to be done on both sides of the border for this project to go ahead?

And, Prime Minister, I’d love for you to be able to weigh on this as well.  Et en français aussi, s’il vous plaît.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I’ve stated previously, there is a process that has been gone through, and I know it’s been extensive, and at times I’m sure Stephen feels a little too laborious.  But these are how we make these decisions about something that could potentially have a significant impact on America’s national economy and our national interests.

So the State Department has gone through its review.  There is now a comment period in which other agencies weigh in.  That will be evaluated by Secretary of State Kerry, and we’ll make a decision at that point.

In the meantime, Stephen and I, during a break after lunch, discussed a shared interest in working together around dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.  And this is something that we have to deal with.  I said previously that how Keystone impacted greenhouse gas emissions would affect our decision, but, frankly, it has to affect all of our decisions at this stage, because the science is irrefutable.  We’re already seeing severe weather patterns increase.  That has consequences for our businesses, for our jobs, for our families, for safety and security.  It has the potential of displacing people in ways that we cannot currently fully anticipate, and will be extraordinarily costly.

So I welcome the work that we can do together with Canada.  One of the wonderful things about North America is we have this amazing bounty of traditional fossil fuels, and we also have extraordinary businesses that are able to extract them in very efficient ways.  And that’s something that we should welcome because it helps to promote economic growth.  But we only have one planet, and so I believe that ultimately we can both promote economic development and growth, recognizing that we’re not going to immediately transition off of fossil fuels, but that we do have to point to the future and show leadership so that other countries who will be the main emitters fairly soon — China, India, other emerging markets — so that they can look at what we’re doing and we have leverage over them in terms of them improving their practices as well.

So this will be a joint effort.  I’m very eager to consult with Stephen around those issues.  And Keystone will proceed along the path that’s already been set forth.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, obviously, President Obama and I had an exchange on this.  My views in favor of the project are very well known.  His views on the process are also equally well known.  And we had that discussion and will continue on that discussion.

I would just say two things about the process.  First, on the issue of climate change, which is a shared concern, Canada and the United States have similar targets at the international level.  We already cooperate in several sectors in terms of emissions reductions.  But in terms of climate change, I think the State Department report already was pretty definitive on that particular issue.

The other thing I’d just draw attention to, just because I think it’s useful to point out the benefits to Canada, is the reform that we had done of environmental review and assessments of projects in Canada.  As you know, a couple years ago we moved to reform our system so that we have a single review wherever possible — a single review, a multi-dimensional review that happens over a fixed timeline.  And I think that is a process that is tremendously useful in giving investors greater certainty in terms of the kind of plans they may have in the Canadian economy.

(As interpreted.)  And now I shall repeat my comments in French.  (Speaks in French.)

MODERATOR:  From the traveling U.S. press, goes to Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press.

Q    Señor Presidente, muchas gracias.  Ha sido un placer.  Prime Minister — do you worry that longstanding opposition to trade deals in the U.S. from both the President’s party and some Republicans pose a threat to the Trans-Pacific Partnership?  And do you — in your mind, is it essential that Congress approve it, or at least give the President fast track authority this year, or can it wait until after the U.S. elections in November?

Mr. President, if you’d like to chime in on that as well — you mentioned parochial interest today; I’d be interested in how you intend to bring your Democrats along.  But I had a question for you on something else that you raised.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  How many questions do you got, Jim?

Q    Just one, sir.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Because you know I’ve got to answer that one, too, right?  That was a pretty slick move.  (Laughter.)

Q    The common denominator in the strife in Ukraine and Syria is the support that those two governments get from Russia, and I’m wondering, sir, if you believe that President Putin bears some responsibility for the intransigence of those two regimes.  And to some degree, has this gone beyond just those two countries, and has it become a tug of war between two world powers?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me answer very briefly on the trade issue.  It’s not accurate, Jim, to say that my party opposes this trade deal.  There are elements of my party that oppose this trade deal, there are elements of my party that oppose the South Korea free trade agreement, the Colombia free trade agreement and the Panama free trade agreement — all of which we passed with Democratic votes.

So what I’ve said to President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Harper is we’ll get this passed if it’s a good agreement.  And the key at this point is to make sure that our countries, which hold ourselves up as champions of free trade, resolve our legitimate national interests in these negotiations so that we can present a united front against a number of the other participants in the TPP negotiations who don’t have as much of a tradition of free trade.  And that is to our advantage, precisely because North America has this amazing competitive advantage, and we are already relatively open markets.

And part of our goal here is to make sure that the Asia Pacific region — which is growing faster than anyplace else in the world, has a larger population than anyplace else in the world — that they have a model of trade that is free and fair and open and allows our businesses to compete and allows our workers to make goods and deliver services that those markets are purchasing.  And we can only do that if we raise the bar in terms of what our trade models look like.

And I’ve said this to some of my own constituents who are opposed to trade:  Those who are concerned about losing jobs or outsourcing need to understand some of the old agreements put us at a disadvantage.  That’s exactly why we’ve got to have stronger agreements that protect our intellectual property, that open up markets to our agricultural products; that make sure that when it comes to government procurement or sovereign wealth funds in these other countries, that they’re not taking advantage of our businesses and preventing us from competing there.  That’s exactly why we’ve got to get this done.  And I’m very appreciative of the shared vision and commitment that Prime Minister Harper and President Enrique Peña Nieto have on this issue.

Now, with respect to Syria and the Ukraine, I do think it is worth noting that you have in this situation one country that has clearly been a client state of Russia, another whose government is currently — been supported by Russia; where the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country.  And we’ve now seen a great deal of turmoil there that arose organically from within those countries.

I don’t think there’s a competition between the United States and Russia.  I think this is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of people inside of Syria and people inside of the Ukraine who recognize that basic freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections, the ability to run a business without paying a bribe, to not be discriminated against because of your religion or your beliefs — that those are fundamental rights that everybody wants to enjoy.

Now, Mr. Putin has a different view on many of those issues, and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that.  And our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.  Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or chemical weapons, or towns being starved because a despot wants to cling to power.

Those express our values and our national interests, and we will continue to express those national interests.  There are times, I hope, where Russia will recognize that over the long term they should be on board with those values and interests as well.  Right now, there are times where we have strong disagreements.  And when I speak to Mr. Putin, I’m very candid about those disagreements, even as we will continue to pursue cooperation with Russia on areas where we had shared concerns.

But I want to emphasize this:  The situation that happened in Ukraine has to do with whether or not the people of Ukraine can determine their own destiny.  And my government and Vice President Biden, and I personally, have expressed to President Yanukovych the need for him to recognize the spirit of the Ukrainian people and work with that, as opposed to trying to repress it.  And so we’ll continue to stand on the side of the people.

My hope is, at this point, that a truce may hold, but Stephen is exactly right — ultimately, the government is responsible for making sure that we shift towards some sort of unity government, even if it’s temporary, that allows us to move to fair and free elections so that the will of the Ukrainian people can be rightly expressed without the kinds of chaos we’ve seen on the streets and without the bloodshed that all of us I think strongly condemn.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  On the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as I said, we are wanting to see and committed to seeing a good, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  I think it’s in all of our interest for the reasons that have already been laid out.  That said, the government of Canada’s position is always clear in these matters that we will only come to an agreement when we are convinced the agreement is in the best interest of Canada.  And we will stay at the table as long as it takes to get to that particular situation.

And I think we have the track record to prove it.  Our government, the current government of Canada, has signed more trade agreements than all previous Canadian governments combined. What I would say is this — I’m not going to comment on the process in Congress.  What I would say is this — the reason I said what I said about working until we get an agreement that is in the interest of Canada is we will have to have an agreement that can be sold to the Canadian Parliament and ultimately to the Canadian people.  And that’s what we’re aiming for.

(The Prime Minister repeats his remarks in French.)

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  The Mexican stand has been very clear, and specifically our take on the TPP have always stated it, it is of the interest of Mexico.  We have been part of the negotiation rounds to eventually reach an agreement of this important opportunity that the TPP offers.  We can expand the potential of North America into the Asia Pacific region.  Mexico would do its best for the sake of Mexico to be on the side of the solution.  We will overcome disagreements and eventual roadblocks that the negotiation rounds present.  And we hope that it is this spirit that we reach the agreement.

Mexico has made a commitment and has shown political will to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We hope that the deal happens.  That is the Mexican stand, and we will work to the best of our ability to reach this goal.

Now, on behalf of Mexico, Miguel Reyes Razo, from the Mexican Editorial Organization, will ask a question.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Good evening, everyone.  By virtue of the fact that we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the efforts made by Mexico, the United States and Canada, we have NAFTA for 20 years.  I would like to ask Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of my country, what is the outlook of the northern part of this continent in terms of development?  And at the same time, Mr. President Peña Nieto, I would like to know, what are the challenges for the development that we have hoped for, that we are expecting?

And I would like to ask the President of the United States of America, Mr. Obama, and Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada — what is the engagement that we should expect from you? What is your actual commitment to make this region, North America, thrive in economical terms?  Now, we have 13 months and a half of your administration, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.  And you, Canada and the United States, partners and neighbors of this country, what is your take?  What is your take on this 13 months and a half of the Mexican President?  Thank you very much for your reply.

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. Miguel, I believe that we have been very candid in terms of the huge strength that we see in North America after 20 years of the free trade agreement.  Our trade has been able to thrive.  We have more commercial exchanges.  We have more investment in the region.

And today we have integrated added value chains between our three countries.  That means that we are adding value to products that are offered in this great market.  We are fully aware of the economic growth since, so far, we are fully aware of the creation of jobs in North America.  That is why we have committed in this summit to take on actions that would help us strengthen our economic ties even further.  We have committed to enable trade, to have better infrastructure, to have safer exchanges, and to make our trade be easier.  So these are the agreements that we have made today.

And we have also acknowledged the enormous potential.  And the future that we see in the horizon would be based on the strengths that we have built upon over the course of the last 20 years.  And let us acknowledge that we are three countries that we are like-minded in terms of our values.  We are three democratic countries.  We are three countries who believe in free trade.  And our countries have found in this instrument a space to create jobs and to have more development in our nations.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, as we’ve said I think throughout our meetings today, America’s success, Mexico’s success, Canadian success are all bound together.  I think that if you just look at the facts, Mexico has made enormous strides over the last several decades.  And, in part, that is because we’ve seen a greater integration of Mexico in the world economy.  I think the United States and Canada have played constructive roles in that.  Our ability to trade and engage in commerce with Mexico obviously has created jobs and opportunities in our country, as well.  And so it has been a mutually beneficial partnership — based on self-interest, but also as Enrique said, based on common values.

We’ve seen a consolidation of democracy here in Mexico, and I think the kinds of reforms that Enrique has initiated over the last 13 months are ones that will put Mexico in an even stronger competitive footing in the world economy in the years to come.

And I recognize there are still implementation issues that will be involved, and there will be a healthy debate here in Mexico, but I’m confident, given the talent of the Mexican people, given the resources of the Mexican people, given the growing capacity of Mexican businesses, and given the fact that we, as a North American entity, constitutes a huge trading bloc and economic powerhouse around the world, that we should anticipate Mexico’s growth to continue, standards of living to continue, jobs and opportunities to continue.  And that’s what we hope for all our countries.

I’m confident that the partnership that we’ve developed is good for the United States, creates jobs in the United States, helps businesses in the United States.  And if we continue to cooperate and try to reduce some of the barriers that have in the past slowed down our commercial exchanges, as well as educational exchanges and scientific exchanges, then we’re going to be successful.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  (As interpreted.)  Allow me, this is our perspective.  While Canada has seen great success, but the development of Mexico throughout this time period that is 20 years has been unbelievable, socially, economically, politically. And Mexico is becoming a world of power.  And we see this accelerating process with the support of President Peña Nieto.

You have made comments on the challenges to meet.  I think that the greatest one is the need to keep on increasing the flow of goods and services and information across our borders at a time where risks and threats to security are also increased across the borders.  And that will be the greatest challenge to meet.

(In English.)  Look, I think the NAFTA relationship, as I’ve said before, has been tremendously successful for all of us. But I think, looking back 20 years, the development of Mexico on all levels — economic, social, political — over the period has been incredible.  It’s a process that is accelerating under President Peña Nieto’s very bold vision for the future, and Mexico is increasingly becoming a global economic player.

You asked about challenges.  I think the biggest single challenge is in an era where we are seeing and need to see even greater movement of goods, services, people, investments, information flows across our borders, that at the same time, the risks and the threats to security across those borders continue to rise.  So the big challenge will be how we continue to grow that human and trade flow, while at the same time minimizing the risks.

MODERATOR:  (As interpreted) President Peña Nieto, would you like to take the floor so you can officially close this meeting?

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, I will.  Thank you very much.

Once again, I would like to congratulate myself for this summit.  We have built a climate that is based on trust, respect, and we have worked towards a relationship that it’s very clear in terms of the responsibilities of each one of the heads of state. And I am certain that this relationship will result in a greater integration, a stronger friendship, and whatever we do for the sake of North America will benefit our peoples.

I would like to bear testimony of how grateful I am towards the authorities of the state, the Governor of the State of Mexico, Eruviel Ávila.  I’d like to thank you for enabling the summit to take place here.  I would like to thank the Chief Justice of the State of Mexico.  They provided us with their facilities.

And I would like to thank the inhabitants of the capital city of the State of Mexico, Toluca, for their hospitality.  I thank them.  And I’d like to thank all of them for the inconveniences and all the preparation work and all the security operations needed for the summit.  I’m very grateful towards them.  And I’m very grateful for the hospitality given to the President of the United States, Barack Obama; and the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

Thank you very much and have a safe trip home.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:20 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper’s Speech to North American Business, Civil Society and Education Leaders at Three Amigos Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Travels to Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit

Source: WH, 2-19-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside of President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the North American Business, Civil Society and Education leaders during the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico.President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, the President traveled to Toluca, Mexico for this year’s North American Leaders’ Summit, along with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama, President Peña Nieto, and Prime Minister Harper to North American Business, Civil Society and Education Leaders

Source: WH, 2-19-14 

Salon del Pueblo
Palacio de Gobierno
Toluca, Mexico

5:03 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT PEÑA NIETO:  (As interpreted.)  Your Excellency, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America; Your Excellency, Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada; ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:  We are here gathered with representatives from the public, the private, and the social sectors.  All of you have walked along with us in the construction road to a more competitive North America.  And by this, we will have a higher level of development for our peoples.

Members of the media, Mexico welcomes you with open arms to celebrate the North America Leaders Summit, Toluca 2014.  Besides being Toluca, my hometown, this is the place where I was entrusted by the citizens to serve as the governor of this state, the state of Mexico.  The state of Mexico is a clear symbol of the productive integration of North America due to its geographic location and its connectivity.  Here we have seen the settlement of advanced automobile facilities and very important logistic hubs.  Both are a true example of value chains, global value chains that make North America excel.

That is why, from Toluca, the three leaders of North America confirm today our commitment to position our region as one of the most dynamic and competitive of the whole world.

I celebrate the fact that we have gathered here with prominent representatives from the academia, from the private sector, and from the civil society from North America.  Your contribution has been vital to bring Canada, the U.S. and Mexico closer.  With a clear vision in mind, all of you pushed from the onset the great idea that gathers us today — an integrated North America with goals and shared efforts.

(Drop in audio feed.)

Once, the Free Trade Agreement area was the largest free trade area with an unprecedented push of trade exchanges, regional investment, and the creation of millions of jobs.  With the same innovative spirit, two decades after, we are bound to go beyond and enhance all together the progress that each one of our countries has made, because individually all our countries have moved forward as well.

Therefore, the principal topics of this seventh summit are very clear:  First, inclusive and shared prosperity.  Number two, new opportunity areas.  Number three, citizen security.  And fourth, regional and global topics.  It is upon these four topics today we will work together to boost the economic growth of our countries and a generation of quality jobs, and by this, increase the wellbeing of our societies.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada, the United States and Mexico share strengths that make us move forward.  We are a community of more than 450 million inhabitants where talent and creativity of our peoples excel.  Trade exchanges from the three countries are over $1 trillion; in Spanish we use billions, in English we use trillions.  We have the support and thrive of our entrepreneurs and the capabilities of technological innovation coming from our universities and large companies.

We have principles, we have institutions that make us be solid democracies.  We have natural resources, endless natural resources and new opportunities so we can take advantage of them sustainably.

All of these are factors that lay a solid groundwork for North America’s region, and this is how we will make it a more attractive and competitive region in the world for the upcoming years.  I would like to invite you, respectfully, so that each one of us from the area where you have the responsibility to act, let’s make North America a more competitive and a more prosperous region for the sake of the inhabitants of our countries.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  Buenas tardes.  Bonjour.  I want to thank Enrique for his extraordinary hospitality and for bringing us here to his beautiful home city.  I want to thank the people of Toluca and of Mexico for your great hospitality.

We’re all here on business, which means I’m not here as long as I’d like.  I have not, for example, sampled some of Toluca’s legendary chorizo.  (Laughter.)  And hopefully the next time I stop by, I’m going to be able to have some of that.

All of us — Stephen, Enrique and I — are focused on how we can deepen what are already incredible ties between our three nations.  And I appreciate that all of you are here today, because governments cannot do it alone.  The strength of the relationship between Canada, Mexico and the United States is not just a matter of government policy; it’s not just a matter of legislation.  There is an incredible richness to the relationship that comes from our people, from our businesses, from our commercial ties, from the students who are traveling back and forth, from the cultures that are shared between us.

And that strength is in some ways unique throughout the world.  If you think about North America, to have three borders this long in which we share a common set of values, a common set of principles, a commitment to democracy, a commitment to free markets, a commitment to trade where we are allies and interact peacefully, that is a precious gift.  And it’s one that I think all three of us are committed to building and nurturing for future generations.

And for me this is very personal.  Some of my closest advisors and allies and political friends are the children of Mexican immigrants who have made an extraordinary life and contribution in the United States.  My brother-in-law is Canadian, so you know I have to like Canadians — (laughter) — although I will note that I think we are going to have both the men’s hockey teams and the women’s hockey teams battling it out.  (Laughter.)  So for a very brief period of time, I may not feel as warm towards Canadians as I normally do — at least until those matches are over.

But each of you experiences these connections in very concrete ways.  Enrique already spoke about the volume of trade that takes place, and the interactions between our businesses, and the subsidiaries of companies in each country that are operating in the other.  And so much of the cross-border trade that exists is part of an integrated supply chain that allows us, all three of us as countries, to successfully sell our products and services all around the world.

And so we have every incentive to make this work.  And so a lot of our conversation has focused on how do we reduce any continuing trade frictions; how do we make sure that our borders are more efficient; how do we make sure that the educational exchanges between our young people are expanded so that our young people understand their opportunities will be brighter and expanded if in fact they’ve had the opportunity to study in Canada or to study in Mexico, if they know Spanish, if they know French.

And we use these forums to make concrete progress.  Our staffs work incredibly hard to make them successful.  But, frankly, until our leaders come around, until the three of us meet, sometimes it doesn’t all get done.  And this becomes a forcing mechanism for us to move forward on commercial progress, joint security progress, progress on educational and scientific exchanges.

But — and this is the last point I want to emphasize — there are always going to be parochial interests in each of our countries, so that’s appropriate and that will express itself politically, and we have to be responsive to our own constituencies.  If, in fact, we’re going to continue to build and strengthen the ties between our three countries, then you can’t just leave it to politicians alone.  All of you are going to have to speak out and speak up on the importance of this relationship.

We want to make sure that we’re your partners and allies in this process, but when people understand what this means in terms of job creation in the United States, job creation in Canada, job creation in Mexico, how this relationship enhances our security, how it improves our capacity to heat our homes and grow our food and make sure that young people have opportunities in the future — when they hear that from you, it’s that much more persuasive.

And so I would encourage all of you to continue to make your voices heard.  You’ll have certainly a partner in me, and I’m sure that you’ll have a partner in Stephen and Enrique as well.

I thank you for participating here today.  And once again, Enrique, thank you for the extraordinary hospitality in this beautiful state and this beautiful city.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Bon après-midi.  Buenas tardes.  Good afternoon, everybody — wonderful day and we’re delighted to be here in Toluca.  And it’s easy to see why you’re so proud of your hometown.  It’s a wonderful spot here.

And, Barack, it’s always great to see you.  And I like my brothers-in-law, too.  (Laughter.)  And I’ll probably like them no matter who wins the hockey game.  (Laughter.)  Anyway.

I want to also thank all of you being here, in particular, obviously, the delegation that has accompanied me from Canada.

(As interpreted.)  Today we have this opportunity to make this North American market more competitive.  You are entrepreneurs, you are job creators, employment creators all over this continent.

(In English.)  — with so many business people here, as well as academics and others, to discuss how to make North America, which is these three economies combined, which is nearly one-quarter of the world’s economy more prosperous and more competitive.

And it’s particularly fitting that it would be you as civil society and business leaders who would lead such a discussion, for although it was NAFTA and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement before it that opened up the opportunities, this is a trade alliance that, in fact, consists of very little top-down infrastructure.  It has been businesses, people on the ground, social interactions, academic interactions which have advanced relations, particularly economic relations that go well beyond trade.

Today, Canadian, American and Mexican companies do much more than sell things to each other.  You increasingly make things together through integrated supply chains.  Now, for example, we talk about the fact, in Canada obviously, that the Canadian-American trade relationship is the largest in the world — certainly, the U.S. is our largest export market.  But Canadian exports to the United States contain an average of 25 percent American content.  Likewise, Mexican exports to the United States include an average of 40 percent U.S. content.

(As interpreted.)  So this is why we want to tighten our relationships and increase the competitiveness in the region.  And we call on the entrepreneurs — of course, the Canadian and U.S. companies are grabbing occasions and opportunities in Mexico — throughout the continent to create employment seedbeds.

(In English.)  Jobs include organizations as diverse as TransCanada, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Canada, the Canola Council, Linamar, Scotiabank and many others that I know are represented with us here today.  And they have tremendous growth prospects in fields such as energy, in education, agri-food, information and communications technologies, banking and financial services, and many, many others, particularly when one looks at not just the rapid transformation in this country over the past 20 years, but the very aggressive reforms that are being undertaken by President Peña Nieto’s administration.

(As interpreted.)  And having said this, the world, the entire world is not what it used to be in 1994.

(In English.)  Different realities from 20 years ago are realities we must adapt to today.  They include obviously the ongoing uncertainty, market uncertainty that remains from the global recession and also from a global economy that is much more competitive from many other regions.

(As interpreted.)  We must work together to be able to break barriers and for the benefit of our populations.

(In English.)  And so, as Canadians, Mexicans and Americans, we need to look for ways to work together and to look forward.

Thank you for being here.  (Applause.)

END                5:21 P.M. CST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech before Bilateral Meeting on North American Leaders Summit and Condemning Ukrainian Violence

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama before Restricted Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 2-19-14 

Governor’s Office
Palacio De Gobierno Del Estado De Mexico
Toluca, Mexico

1:00 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me thank President Peña Nieto for his wonderful hospitality in hosting us here today.  And it’s a special treat to be able to visit his home town of Toluca.

This is my fifth visit to Mexico, and I think it underscores the incredible importance of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, not only on commercial issues and security issues, but because of the intimate person-to-person relations that exist between our two countries.

I want to congratulate President Peña Nieto on the outstanding efforts that he’s made during the course of this year on a whole range of reforms that promise to make Mexico more competitive and increase opportunity for the people of Mexico.  And I’m also very interested in hearing President Peña Nieto’s strategies as he embarks on dealing with some of the reforms in the criminal justice system and around security issues, which I know are very pressing on his mind and where we have some excellent cooperation between the United States and Mexico.

More broadly, the North American Leaders Summit gives us an opportunity to build on the enormous progress that we’ve already made in making sure that North America is the most competitive region in the world and that we are able not only to continue to integrate our economies effectively to create jobs both in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but that we’re able to project American and Mexican and Canadian goods and services around the world toward the benefit of our people.

And the cooperation ranges from how do we make our borders more efficient to moving forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that offers the opportunity to open up new markets in the fastest, most populous region of the world, the Asia Pacific region.

We’ll also have the opportunity to discuss how we can work together more closely on scientific and educational exchanges.  We’re particularly interested in making sure that young people in Mexico and the United States and Canada are able to study and travel in each country, and we’re trying to expand those kinds of exchanges.

So this is a wonderful opportunity for us to build on the work that we’ve already done over the last year.

With the President’s indulgence, let me say one last thing, and that is about the situation in Ukraine, which obviously has captured the attention of the entire world.

The United States condemns in strongest terms the violence that’s taking place there.  And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as both the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to assure that that violence ends.

But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way; that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.

And I want to be very clear that as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we are going to be watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters.  We’ve said that we also expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful.  And we’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.  And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.

So the United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine, and ultimately our interest is to make sure that the Ukrainian people can express their own desires.  And we believe that a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe, and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity.

But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future, it is important that it is the people themselves that make those decisions.  And that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.

And I do think there is still the possibility of a peaceful transition within Ukraine, but it’s going to require the government, in particular, to actively seek that peaceful transition, and it requires the opposition and those on the streets to recognize that violence is not going to be the path by which this issue will be resolved.

Thank you very much.

END
1:10 P.M. CST

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Political Musings August 5, 2013: Canadian PM Stephen Harper defends XL Keystone pipeline as job creator countering President Obama’s statement

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Harper defends XL Keystone pipeline as job creator countering Obama’s statement

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to the press from Quebec City on August 2, 2013 about the safety and job creation the oil pipelines projects would create. Harper discussed his support for the Energy East project, an West-East… READ MORE

Political Musings July 5, 2013: President Barack Obama hints at fate of Keystone XL pipeline in climate change speech

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama hints at fate of Keystone XL pipeline in climate speech

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Last Tuesday, June 25, United States President Barack Obama gave a major address on his plans for climate change. Environmentalists lauded Obama’s policy plan; he was finally fulfilling a long ignored campaign promise. However, Canadians were left parsing…READ MORE

Political Musings June 25, 2013: PM Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Harper and Obama discuss Keystone XL oilsands pipeline on G8 summit sidelines

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Canadian PM Stephen Harper attended the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17th and 18th as part of a wider working visit to Europe, where he also addressed the British Parliament on June…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 2, 2012: Three Amigos Summit: President Barack Obama Meets with Canadian PM Stephen Harper & Mexican President Felipe Calderon in One Day North American Leaders’ Summit — Speeches: Joint Statement & Press Conference

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

photo040212_01.jpg

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, US President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon meet at the White House. Photo by Paul Chiasson/CP

U.S., Canada and Mexico to Boost Trade

Source: AP, 4-2-12
President Obama, center, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon walked to a joint press conference at the White House on Monday.

President Barack Obama says the U.S., Canada and Mexico are launching a new bid to pare back regulation in hopes of boosting trade and creating more jobs.

At a three-way North American summit on Monday with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, Mr. Obama said the three will “go through the books” to simplify regulations and eliminate others that aren’t needed.

Three-way trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico now exceeds $1 trillion, and President Obama says he wants to see that number rise.

The three leaders also discussed immigration and the war on drugs during their one-day summit. Mr. Obama praised Mr. Calderón for “great courage” in standing up to Mexico’s cartels….READ MORE

Boosting Economic Growth Throughout North America

Source: WH, 4-2-12

President Obama today hosted the leaders of Mexico and Canada at the White House for a summit aimed at promoting economic growth and and creating jobs in all three countries.

Last year, U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada exceed $1 trillion for the first time. And finding ways to continue boosting exports was one goal of today’s talks.

At a press conference in the Rose Garden, President Obama was able to point to an initative that will help to accomplish that objective:

I’m pleased to announce that our three nations are launching a new effort to get rid of outdated regulations that stifle job creation. Here in the United States, our efforts to cut red tape and ensure smart regulations will help achieve savings and benefits to businesses, consumers, and our country of more than $100 billion. And we’re already working to streamline and coordinate regulations with Canada and Mexico on a bilateral basis. So now our three nations are going to sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger.

This builds on conversations between the U.S. and Canada that were announced when Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the White House back in December.

In today’s talks, the leaders also discussed security, energy, and efforts to combat drug cartels.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Joint Statement by North American Leaders

Source: WH, 4-2-12

We, the Leaders of North America, met today in Washington, DC to advance the economic well-being, safety, and security of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.  Rooted in deep economic, historical, cultural, environmental, and societal ties, North American cooperation enhances our ability to face global challenges, compete in the international economy, and achieve greater prosperity.  We reaffirm our commitment to further develop our thriving political and economic partnership with a consistent and strategic long-term vision, as progress on our common agenda directly benefits the peoples of our region.

Broad-based, sustainable economic growth and job creation remains our top priority.  For the first time, in 2011 our total trilateral merchandise trade surpassed USD 1 trillion.  Our integration helps maximize our capabilities and makes our economies more innovative and competitive globally. Working together, we strive to ensure that North American economic cooperation fosters gains in productivity for all of our citizens, enhancing our respective national and bilateral efforts to achieve that goal.

To that end, we pledge to introduce timely and tangible regulatory measures to enable innovation and growth while ensuring high standards of public health, safety, and environmental protection.  We will continue to reduce transaction costs and improve the existing business environment.  We have launched the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council and the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council during the past two years, pursuing a shared objective that we commit to complement trilaterally in four sectors:  certain vehicle emission standards, railroad safety, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Workplace Chemicals, and aligning principles of our regulatory approaches to nanomaterials.  This is particularly important to small- and medium-sized businesses, which are the engines of growth.  By eliminating unnecessary regulatory differences, smaller businesses are better equipped to participate in an integrated North American economy.  Success in these efforts opens the way to additional North American regulatory cooperation.

Continued North American competitiveness requires secure supply chains and efficient borders.  We remain committed to achieving this through cooperative approaches.  To this end, the United States and Mexico released the Declaration Concerning Twenty-first Century Border Management in May 2010 and the United States and Canada released the Beyond the Border Action Plan:  A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness in December 2011.  We are committed to the mutually-reinforcing goals of these important initiatives and to their full implementation.  By also supporting the work of multilateral organizations to foster improved collaboration, integration, and standards, we better identify and interdict threats before they reach our borders, as well as expedite the legitimate movement of goods and people throughout North America in a more efficient, secure, and resilient manner.  We also have instructed our trade and commerce ministers to identify sectors where we can deepen our regional cooperation through increased trade and investment.

As leading sources of innovation and creativity, our three countries are committed to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR).  We commit to promote sound enforcement practices and an effective legal framework for IPR enforcement in the areas of criminal enforcement, enforcement at the border, civil and administrative actions, and distribution of IPR infringing material on the Internet consistent with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which the United States and Canada have recently signed.  Mexico will continue to work on a comprehensive reform to its legal system to achieve the high standards pursued under ACTA.

Energy cooperation reduces the cost of doing business and enhances economic competitiveness in North America.  We recognize the growing regional and federal cooperation in the area of continental energy, including electricity generation and interconnection and welcome increasing North American energy trade.  We commit our governments to work with all stakeholders to deepen such cooperation to enhance our collective energy security, including the safe and efficient exploration and exploitation of resources.  We support coordinated efforts to facilitate seamless energy flows on the interconnected grid and to promote trade and investment in clean energy technologies.

Enhanced electricity interconnection in the Americas would advance the goals of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to reduce energy poverty and increase the use of renewable sources of energy.  We recognize Mexico’s leadership in supporting inter-connections in Central America and reaffirm our support to bring affordable, reliable, and increasingly renewable power to businesses and homes in Central America and the Caribbean while opening wider markets for clean energy and green technology.

We pledge to continue our efforts to advance a lasting global solution to the challenge of climate change.  We are pleased with the outcome of the climate conference in Durban, with respect to both operationalizing the Cancun agreements and laying the groundwork for a new legal agreement applicable to all Parties from 2020, support the activation of the Green Climate Fund, and underline the importance of climate finance and investment in the context of meaningful mitigation.  We plan to work together, including through the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, to secure a successful outcome at the 18th U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Doha, Qatar.  We continue to advance the transition to a clean energy economy and cooperate to reduce global rates of deforestation and land degradation.   We also intend to deepen our trilateral cooperation and work with other interested partners to accelerate efforts aimed at reducing emissions of “short-lived climate pollutants,” noting the recently launched Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants in which we are all actively engaged.  Reducing our emissions of these substances, which include methane, black carbon, and many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), offers significant opportunities to reduce the rate of global warming in the near term, in the context of our broader efforts to address climate change, while also yielding many health, agricultural productivity, and energy security benefits.

As our societies and economies become more reliant on networked technology, we recognize the growing importance of an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet.   We reaffirm the importance of multi-stakeholder governance bodies for the Internet and underscore that fighting cybercrime is essential to promoting economic growth and international security.   We recognize the seminal contribution of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, and believe the Convention should be adopted as widely as possible.  To that end, we look forward to Canada’s ratification and Mexico’s completion of the necessary preparations for its signature of the Convention.

At the 2009 North American Leaders’ Summit, we committed to build upon our successful coordinated response to the H1N1 pandemic, which stands as a global example of cooperation, to jointly prepare for future animal and pandemic influenza to enhance the health and safety of our citizens.  Today we announce the culmination of that effort—the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza (NAPAPI)—which provides a collaborative and multi-sectoral framework to strengthen our response to future animal and pandemic influenza events in North America and commit to its implementation.

All of our citizens are adversely affected by transnational organized crime.  We commit to direct our national efforts and deepen our cooperation against all facets of this common challenge based on the principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust, and respect.  We intend to further share expertise and information and to cooperate in key areas such as countering arms trafficking and money laundering consistent with our laws and constitutions.

We are committed to strengthening security in the Americas through capacity building support.  We intend to enhance our cooperation with our partners in Central America.  In 2012, our governments will launch a consolidated Central America Integration System (SICA)-North America Security Dialogue to deepen regional security coordination and cooperation.   We will remain actively engaged in the ongoing SICA-Group of Friends of Central America collaborative process, to align international assistance and programs supporting the implementation of the Central American Regional Security Strategy.  We also welcome the recent High Level Hemispheric Meeting on Transnational Organized Crime, and recognize the relevance of closer collaboration and information sharing among all relevant national agencies.

We reiterate our commitment to Haiti and call upon Haitian political actors to work together and take concrete steps toward strengthening governance and the rule of law, which are fundamental to increased trade, investment, and long-term development and prosperity.  We note the urgency and importance of parliamentary confirmation of a new government, and for that government to confirm the timeline for Senate and local elections.  We also encourage Haiti to continue to pursue the development of the Haitian National Police so it can take full responsibility for Haiti’s security.

To further strengthen nuclear security on the North American continent, we worked together, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to convert the fuel in Mexico’s research reactor to low enriched uranium and provide new low enriched uranium fuel in exchange for the highly enriched uranium fuel, as pledged during the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 and announced at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012.

Our strengthened dialogue on priority issues in the North American agenda is reflected in the frequent formal and informal ministerial and technical meetings across a wide range of issues among our three countries, including the work of the NAFTA Free Trade Commission and the North American Commissions for Environmental Cooperation and for Labor Cooperation to continue to enhance our region’s prosperity, protect the environment, and improve working conditions in North America.  Taking into account our common security and defense challenges, such as transnational criminal organizations, as well as opportunities to strengthen cooperation in the field of disaster relief, we welcome the recent expansion of our ministerial-level dialogue through the North American Defense Ministers Meeting held March 26-27, 2012 in Ottawa.

As partners in the Americas, we are committed to work together within the Inter-American System and in the framework of the VI Summit of the Americas, to be held April 14-15 in Cartagena, Colombia.  We fully support the Summit’s theme of “Connecting the Americas:  Partners for Prosperity.”  The Summit provides an opportunity to leverage the ties that connect the Americas to advance democratic, transparent, accountable governance that promotes inclusive, sustainable, market-based economic growth in the decade ahead.  Deepening our shared interests and values will benefit the people of the Americas and bolster positive global engagement by countries from across the region.  We pledge to work together to ensure the Summit strengthens a shared commitment to work in equal partnership toward these goals.

In light of the importance of the Americas to our collective economic wellbeing, we are committed to working together to advance the principles approved by the Inter-American Competitiveness Network in Santo Domingo and to support the Pathways to Prosperity initiative which underscores the importance of empowering small businesses; facilitating trade; building a modern work force; and developing stronger labor and environmental practices to encourage inclusive economic growth.

We also recognize the value of our common understandings on the major challenges faced by the world today, and acknowledge the importance of promoting growth and of preserving and deepening trade as keys to the global economic recovery.  Canada and the United States support the efforts of the Mexican Presidency of the G-20 this year, and, together with Mexico, we commit ourselves to deepening our shared dialogue on economic governance therein, especially as we work to enhance North American competitiveness and prosperity.   The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provides an opportunity to further deepen our trade relationship and create jobs.  The United States welcomes Canada’s and Mexico’s interest in joining the TPP as ambitious partners.

President Obama and Prime Minister Harper welcome President Calderon’s offer for Mexico to host the next North American Leaders’ Summit.

Joint Press Conference by President Obama, President Calderon of Mexico, and Prime Minister Harper of Canada

President Obama hosts the leaders of Mexico and Canada at the White House for a summit aimed at promoting economic growth and and creating jobs throughout North America.

President Obama holds a joint press conference
President Obama holds a joint press conference, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/2/12

Rose Garden

1:54 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon, everybody.  It is my pleasure to welcome two great friends and partners — President Calderón of Mexico and Prime Minister Harper of Canada.

Now, I’ve worked with Stephen and Felipe on many occasions.  We’ve joined our international partners from APEC to the G20.  From our last summit in Guadalajara, we remember Felipe’s hospitality and that of the Mexican people — including some very good mariachi and —

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  Mexican food.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  — some tequila, if I’m not mistaken.  (Laughter.)  I can’t reciprocate the music, but, Felipe, Stephen and I are proud to welcome you here today.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  Thank you.

Between us, we represent nearly half-a-billion citizens, from Nunavut in the Canadian north to Chiapas in southern Mexico.  In between, the diversity of our peoples and cultures is extraordinary.  But wherever they live, they wake up every day with similar hopes — to provide for their families, to be safe in their communities, to give their children a better life.  And in each of our countries, the daily lives of our citizens are shaped profoundly by what happens in the other two.  And that’s why we’re here.

Today, we focused on our highest priority — creating jobs and opportunity for our people.  In the United States, our businesses have created nearly four million new jobs; confidence is up and the economy is getting stronger.  But with lots of folks still struggling to find work and pay the bills, we are doing everything we can to speed up the recovery.  And that includes boosting trade with our two largest economic partners.

As President, I’ve made it a priority to increase our exports, and I’m pleased that our exports to Canada and Mexico are growing faster than our exports to the rest of the world.  In fact, last year trade in goods with our two neighbors surpassed $1 trillion — for the first time ever.  This trade supports some 2.5 million American jobs, and I want more trade supporting even more jobs in the future.

So today, Prime Minister Harper led us in a very good discussion about how our three countries can improve our competitiveness.  We agreed to continue making our borders more efficient and more secure so it’s faster and cheaper to travel and trade.  We’re expanding cooperation to create clean energy jobs and combat climate change — an area in which President Calderón and Mexico have been a real leader.

I’m pleased to announce that our three nations are launching a new effort to get rid of outdated regulations that stifle job creation.  Here in the United States, our efforts to cut red tape and ensure smart regulations will help achieve savings and benefits to businesses, consumers, and our country of more than $100 billion.  And we’re already working to streamline and coordinate regulations with Canada and Mexico on a bilateral basis.  So now our three nations are going to sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger.

This is especially important, by the way, for our small and medium-sized businesses, which, when they start exporting, often start with Mexico and Canada.  So this is going to help create jobs, and it’s going to keep us on track to meet my goal of doubling U.S. exports.

More broadly, I reiterated my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, which would be good for workers and good for business.  I’m pleased that Canada and Mexico have also expressed an interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Consultations with our TPP partners are now underway on how new members can meet the high standards of this trade agreement, which could be a real model for the world.  And I very much appreciated President Calderón updating us on preparations for the next G20 summit, which he will be hosting in June.

Our other major focus today was the security that our citizens deserve.  Criminal gangs and narco-traffickers pose a threat to each of our nations, and each of our nations has a responsibility to meet that threat.  In Mexico, President Calderón has shown great courage in standing up to the traffickers and cartels, and we’ve sped up the delivery of equipment and assistance to support those efforts.

Here in the United States, we’ve increased cooperation on our southern border, and dedicated new resources to reducing the southbound flow of money and guns, and to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States, which helps fuel — helped to fuel this crisis.  And today each of us reaffirmed our commitment to meeting this challenge together — because that’s the only way that we’re going to succeed.

Beyond our borders, these cartels and traffickers pose an extraordinary threat to our Central American neighbors.  So we’re teaming up.  Defense ministers from our three countries met last week as a group — for the first time ever.  And we’re going to be coordinating our efforts more closely than ever, especially when it comes to supporting Central America’s new strategy on citizen security, which will be discussed at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia next week.

So, again, I want to thank Stephen and Felipe for being here.  When I came to office I pledged to seek new partnerships with our friends in the Americas, a relationship of equality and shared responsibility built on mutual interest and mutual respect.  That’s what we’ve done.  And it wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership and sense of purpose that these two outstanding leaders have brought to all our efforts, including our efforts today.  As a result, I believe our nations and our citizens will be more secure, more prosperous and in a better position to give their children the lives that they deserve.

So with that, let me turn it over to President Calderón.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  Thank you, President Obama.  (As interpreted.)  Your Excellency, Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America; Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, ladies and gentlemen of the press; Mr. Ambassadors; legislators; friends:  First of all, I would like to thank President Barack Obama for his extraordinary hospitality and that of his government in hosting this Summit of the Leaders of North America.

And briefly, I would also like to express on behalf of the government of Mexico, the people of Mexico, my family and my own behalf, my most sincere sympathies to the family and relatives of former President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado for his lamentable death yesterday.  Tomorrow we will be rendering homage to him in Mexico.

The reasons for which we are here today at this Summit of North American Leaders with President Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Canada, we’ve come through a work day that has been very fruitful and fluid with an exchange of opinions and progress to the benefit of our respective citizens.

I’m also very thankful to my two colleagues for the openness with which we have broached some very complex items on our working agenda.  I recognize and value their enormous commitment to our common region.

The leaders of North America share a vision of a strong, solidary, safe, competitive region that is able to successfully face head on the challenges of today.  We agree that our common challenges can only be faced together.  And therein lays the importance of having dialogue, strong dialogue, amongst our three countries.

The data that President Obama has just given us is very important, that our trade has exceeded $1 trillion for the first time.  And I think that that is not separate from a reality that has to be underscored.  In this very complex world full of economic problems and severe crises, Canada, the United States and Mexico are three countries that are growing right now and generating jobs today.

And that growth and those millions of jobs, many of them have to do precisely with the greatest trade exchanges that we have ever seen amongst these great nations.  I would say that the potential of North America tied to these three countries is such that within our own nations we have a great deal to do to make the most of these opportunities for greater exchanges amongst our peoples.

As we’ve mentioned today, we have progressed on various fronts.  For instance, we’ve advanced on the deregulation in our countries — in our own countries, as well as amongst our countries.  We have progressed as well in harmonization of certain standards that facilitate trade.  We’ve also progressed, in our case, on the bilateral relationship in border infrastructure.  And all of this has led, of course, to the benefit of Canadian, Mexican and American families.

Another line of ideas, I would also say that the three nations have renewed their decision to strengthen cooperation at the international level, particularly in issues as sensitive as the security of our citizens.  We have reiterated the values upon which our societies were founded:  democracy, liberty, justice, the respect for human rights.  And today the political dialogue amongst us is perhaps stronger than ever.

We have renewed certain principles of our existence and of our challenges:  The principle of shared responsibility, the exchange of information, and especially the strengthening of our institutions that has to be the guide of our cooperation.

Clearly, I expressed to President Obama and to Prime Minister Harper that the fight that Mexico is experiencing for a safer North America also requires a strengthening of national actions, amongst other things, to stop the traffic of weapons, to combat with greater strength money laundering, and, of course, to reduce the demand for drugs that strengthens criminal organizations.  I also expressed to President Obama and to Prime Minister Harper that Mexico recognizes the commitment that they have undertaken to progress along those lines.

It’s also necessary to strengthen the regional security focus, and in order to do this, we need to include our neighbors and Central American partners, who are also facing serious problems and who need our solidarity.  The three countries have agreed to establish a joint dialogue mechanism with the Central American Integration System — SICA — in support of the efforts undertaken by Central American nations to fight organized crime and in favor of regional security that benefits us all.

Of course, in this meeting, we have broached the topic of the regional economy.  The leaders of North America agree that the United States, Canada and Mexico must continue to delve deeper into our successful economic relationship so as to generate more jobs and greater well-being in all three countries.

Our governments recognize that it is absolutely necessary to continue to fully comply with the NAFTA, as well as to explore new means of strengthening regional competitiveness.  And I am convinced that if we work together, we will become much more competitive than many areas of the world that we are competing with today.

Mexico’s position is that the solution to the complex economic situation experienced by the world today is not a return to protectionist practices that only isolate countries, reduce competitiveness of economies, and send investment scurrying, but that part of the problem and part of the investment that we need to see in the world economy is to see a delving deeper into our economies and making the most of our advantages that show our economic complementarity in terms of investment, labor, technologies, natural resources.  And only then will we be able to have success in a world that competes ferociously by regions.

The three countries have renewed our commitment to broaden the productive — the supply chains of the region that will be even more interconnected, supporting especially the small and medium-scale companies.

Mexican exports to the world represent 37 percent of — or have, rather, 37 percent of American content.  In other words, so American exports are American exports, and they generate millions of jobs for the region.  And in that lays the need to work even more in this region on a clear trilateral deregulation, for instance, in nanomaterials and emissions standards for some vehicles.

Today we also agreed to work in a coordinated fashion on actions that we will be adopting to modernize infrastructure and for border management.  After 10 years — the last two years, we’ve seen three new border crossing areas between Mexico and the United States, after 10 years not having seen one new route.  And we continue to work in a coordinated fashion to make our border more dynamic so that it’s a border of opportunities for progress on both sides of that border.

Tomorrow, here in Washington, our ministers of economy and of trade will be meeting within the framework of the Free Trade Commission of the NAFTA so as to continue to work towards achieving these objectives.

Today, we’ve seen that prosperity in the region depends on greater integration with full respect of our sovereignties in all fields.  And in this context, I’d like to reiterate the interest of my country to join forces as soon as possible to the TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its negotiations.  Because we know that Mexicans can contribute to a quick and successful conclusion of this project.  If we join forces in this region where we see the greatest growth in the world, we will be generating benefits for our families, our workers, and also substantially improving the competitiveness of the three countries in this context.

We are convinced that the experience and participation of Mexico will enrich this free trade project of the latest generation that encompasses countries in Asia, Oceania, and America.  Our country has a clear commitment to economic freedom.  We even have the support of the private sector so as to enter into the TPP.  We are a nation that believes in free trade as a true tool to foster growth and development, and we have acted as a result of this.

I would also like to thank the United States and Canada for renewing their support to Mexico and its presidency of G20.  As you know, in June of this year Mexico will host the summit of the leaders of the G20 in Los Cabos.  We are convinced, over and above the topics that we will be dealing with there, that the complex international environment needs to be an opportunity so that the world can redefine its development models with a firm commitment to the well-being of peoples and the care for the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this summit, the representatives of the United States, Canada and Mexico have undertaken an open, constructive dialogue, just as corresponds to countries that share values.  We’ve talked about the enormous challenges facing us so as to work together in a globalized world.  And as a result, we will be working on building a new era that consolidates the right conditions for development in North America on the basis of a successful partnership, as we have seen so far today.

My dear President Obama, thank you for your hospitality.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Harper.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Well, first of all, I’d like to begin by thanking you, Barack, for so graciously and so warmly  — literally — hosting us here today.  And I’d also like to begin by offering my sincere condolences to you, Felipe, and through you, to the people of Mexico on the passing of former President Miguel de la Madrid, who I gather had much to do with the NAFTA partnership that we enjoy today.

Canada places the highest the value on the friendship and partnership among our three countries.  We form one of the world’s largest free trade zones, which has been of great benefit to all of our nations.  We’re also effective collaborators in the G20, in responding to the challenges of the global recession and instability of these past few years.

As affirmed in our budget last week, our government is focused on creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

I’m especially pleased that the United States has welcomed Canada’s and Mexico’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We also had useful discussions on continued cooperation in managing our borders, streamlining regulation, securing global supply chains, and advancing clean energy.

In addition, we’ve announced a broadened plan for North American pandemic preparedness, and a new North America-Central America dialogue on security to fight transnational organized crime.

Finally, we discussed the agenda for the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Colombia.  Canada looks forward to continue to working with the United States and Mexico to promote democratic principles, regional stability, and market-based economic growth with our partners in the Western Hemisphere.

And once again, Barack and Felipe, I look forward to continuing our useful discussions in Cartagena.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Outstanding.

All right, I think that we’re going to take a question from each press delegation.  So I’ll start with Julianna.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  After last week’s arguments at the Supreme Court, many experts believe that there could be a majority, a five-member majority, to strike down the individual mandate.  And if that were to happen, if it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who’ve become insured as a result of the law?

And then a President for President Calderón and Prime Minister Harper.  Over the weekend, Governor Mitt Romney said that the U.S. used to promote free enterprise around the world, and he said, “Our President doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do, and I think over the last three or four years, some people around the world have begun to question that.”  My question to the both of you is whether you think that American influence has declined over the last three to four years.

And, President Obama, if you’d like to respond to that, too.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, on the second part of your question, it’s still primary season for the Republican Party.  They’re going to make a decision about who their candidate will be.

It’s worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism, and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism.  But I will cut folks some slack for now because they’re still trying to get their nomination.

With respect to health care, I’m actually — continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.  And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional.  That’s not just my opinion, by the way; that’s the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.

I think it’s important — because I watched some of the commentary last week — to remind people that this is not an abstract argument.  People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.

The law that’s already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it.  There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law.  Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition.  That’s part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law.  Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.

So that’s just the part that’s already been implemented.  That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.

And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care.  So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this.  And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.  And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.  Well, this is a good example.  And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.

Q    You say it’s not an abstract conversation.  Do you have contingency plans?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’m sorry.  As I said, we are confident that this will be over — that this will be upheld.  I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld.  And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  (As interpreted.)  Your question was a little local for me, and so I’m glad that the President of the United States answered it.  But I would take advantage of this moment to say that after increasing the budget line for the folk insurance six-fold, and after having built more than 1,000 new clinics in the country, we’re getting close to reaching universal coverage of health care — full, free health care coverage for all people up to 18 years of age, including cancer coverage.  Of the 112 million Mexicans, 106 million will have efficient, effective universal health care coverage.

So I would say that I would hope that one of the greatest economies in the world, such as the United States, could follow our example in achieving this, because it was a great thing.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Well, I don’t think you really expect me to intervene in the U.S. presidential election.  Let me just say this.  For Canada — and this is something that I think transcends governments in Canada or administrations here in the United States — for Canada, the United States is and always will be our closest neighbor, our greatest ally and our best friend.  And I believe that American leadership is at all times great and indispensable for the world.

And I think over the past few years we’ve done great things together in terms of the response both through the G20 and bilaterally on the recession and the recovery.  We had, under your leadership, Barack, that successful intervention in Libya.  Our trade relationship is the biggest in the world and growing.  And so I think it’s been a tremendous partnership.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Somebody from the Mexican press corps.

Q    Good afternoon.  For President Calderón, you were saying — you were referring to weapons.  We’d like to know what President Obama said in terms of what’s going to be done to stop the traffic of weapons.

And, President Obama, I’d like to know what plans your government has in the presidential election process in Mexico.  What was discussed in terms of the interviews with the candidates in Mexico City?  And I’d also like to know, for the government of the United States, there’s a threat for the country in this sense on weapons, Mr. President.  Weapons have come into the country.  Are there military leaks of letting the arms come through?  What’s going to be done?

And for Prime Minister Harper, is the visa requirement going to be removed for Mexicans?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That’s a lot of questions.  (Laughter.)  Go ahead, go first.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  (As interpreted.)  My position on this subject is very clear, and I would repeat it here.  Let me broach it from another angle.  It’s been shown that when there is an excessive, quick availability of weapons in any given society, there is an increase in violence and the murders that goes on many years afterwards.

This phenomenon took place in many places of Africa after their civil wars.  We’ve see in El Salvador, Guatemala, in Eastern Europe, in Kosovo, in Bosnia.  It’s happened — it’s taken place in many different areas of the world.  And we sustain that the expiry of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest period of violence we’ve ever seen.

During my government, we have seized over 140,000 weapons in four years.  And I think that the vast majority have been assault weapons — AK-47s, et cetera.  And many, the vast majority of these weapons were sold in gun shops in the United States.  Along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, there are approximately 8,000 weapons shops.  If we do our accounts, that means that there are approximately nine weapons stores for each Walmart that exists in the United States and Mexico.

So a good deal of our discussion did touch upon this.  But I recognize, at the same time, the administrative effort that’s been undertaken, particularly by President Obama and his administration, so that the agencies for control of illegal actions curb this export of guns and weapons to Mexico.  We’ve seen a much more active effort in this sense than in any other time in the past.

I have a great deal of respect for the U.S. legislation, especially the Second Amendment.  But I know that if we don’t stop the traffic of weapons into Mexico, also if we don’t have mechanisms to forbid the sale of weapons, such as we had in the ‘90s, or for registry of guns, at least for assault weapons, then we are never going to be able to stop the violence in Mexico or stop a future turning of those guns upon the U.S.

So if I am against the traffic of weapons in Mexico, I’m against the traffic of weapons anywhere, be that within any circumstance.  The government of Mexico will never be able to accept anything that has to do with opening this.

President Obama has been very clear on the position of his government.  We understand the work being done by the agencies to stop the criminals.  But this cannot be an obstacle to the cooperation that we have to have amongst Mexico and the United States to stop these criminal activities that underlie this issue, which is one of the greatest obstacles and problems for Mexico.

I understand the internal problems from a political point of view in the United States, and I mentioned this publicly in Congress in the United States, and I said things exactly the way I believe them.  I said them outright.  There’s a great deal of discrepancy between points of view.  It’s a very complex political issue.  But it is very important to underscore it.

And I believe that’s the only part of the question that I can answer, and I would say that what President Obama has already answered was very well done.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Just very briefly, with respect to the presidential elections in Mexico, Vice President Biden met with the candidates to express sentiments that are similar to the ones that Stephen just expressed here with respect to U.S. elections.  And that is that the friendship between our three countries, the partnership between our three countries, extends beyond and is more fundamental than any particular party or any particular election.  And that’s the message we have to send with respect to Mexico.

I’ve had a excellent working relationship with Felipe.  I expect to have an excellent working relationship with the next Mexican President, whoever that candidate may be, because the underlying common interests that we have economically, socially, culturally, the people-to-people relationship that we have, is so important that it transcends partisan politics.

And with respect to the issue of guns, I’ve made very clear in every meeting that I’ve had with Felipe — and we’ve actually put into practice efforts to stop illegal gun trafficking North to South.  It is a difficult task, but it’s one that we have taken very seriously and taken some unprecedented steps.  We will continue to coordinate closely with the Mexican government because we recognize the toll that it’s taken with respect to families and innocent individuals inside of Mexico.

And this is part of our broader comprehensive cooperation in weakening the grip of narco-trafficking within Mexico.  And we recognize that we have a responsibility to reduce demand for drugs, that we have a responsibility to make sure that not only guns, but also bulk cash isn’t flowing into Mexico.  And I — obviously President Calderón takes very seriously his responsibilities to apply effective law enforcement within Mexico.  And I think he’s taken courageous steps to do that.

So we’re going to keep on partnering together in order to continue to make progress on this very important issue.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  You asked me about the visa requirement.  The visa requirement is the really only effective means we have in Canada today to deal with large-scale bogus refugee claims under our refugee determination system.

Legislation that is being implemented — and in fact, there’s legislation before parliament to enhance those changes  — that legislation will in the future, in years to come, will give us tools other than visa requirement to deal with that particular problem.  But as of today that remains the only tool at our disposal.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Okay.  And finally from —

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Yes.  Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News.

Q    Hello, gentlemen.  I have a couple of questions on two critical issues that you were discussing today — one on trade and one on crime.  On trade, Prime Minister Harper, why is Canada’s position at the negotiating table on the Trans-Pacific Partnership so important to Canada?  And secondly, to get us there, to be a player, are you willing to give up as a precondition our supply management system?

And, President Obama, you said earlier that there needs to be high standards for a country to be there.  I’m wondering whether you think, yet, Canada has met those high standards — whether you want us to drop our traditional supply management system.

And on crime, we in Canada read about the challenges that Mexico has on the drug cartels and the horrible violence that occurs down there.  But perhaps it’s possible that many Canadians, and perhaps even Americans, don’t see it as affecting their lives — perhaps it doesn’t affect their communities.  So on that issue, why do you three gentlemen think that a three-country coordinated approach is necessary to protect our citizens?

And, Prime Minister, I think you being the only person that can speak both English and French, if you can do that, please.

PRIME MINISTER HARPER:  Sure.  First of all, in response to the question on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this is — our desire to be part of that negotiation is part of Canada’s ambitious trade agenda.  As you know, we are currently in negotiations with over 50 countries around the world, including the European Union and Japan and India.  So this was obviously a logical extension of our desire, the desire of our government to dramatically broaden our free trade relationships around the world.

Canada’s position on Trans-Pacific Partnership is the same as our position in any trade negotiation.  We expect to negotiate and debate all manner of issues, and we seek ambitious outcomes to free trade agreements.  In those negotiations, of course, Canada will attempt to promote and to defend Canada’s interest not just across the economy but in individual sectors as well.

On the question of security, look, the security problems are — the security challenge, particularly around the drug trade, is a serious regional problem throughout our hemisphere that has real impacts — not the kind of governance and security impacts we see maybe in Central America and the Caribbean and elsewhere — but has real, serious impacts on the health and safety of communities in our country as well.  And as these criminal networks are transnational, it’s important that our attempts to fight them be equally transnational.  And that’s why we work together on these initiatives.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, with respect to the TPP, as is true of any process of arriving at a trade agreement, every country that’s participating is going to have to make some modifications.  That’s inherent in the process, because each of our countries have their idiosyncrasies; certain industries that have in the past been protected; certain practices that may be unique to that country but end up creating disadvantages for businesses from other countries.  And so it’s a process of everybody making adjustments.

I don’t think Canada would be unique in that.  Are there areas where we’d like to see some changes in terms of Canadian practices?  Of course.  I assure you that Canada will have some complaints directed at us, and every member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership eventually would have to make some modifications in order to accommodate the larger interest of growing the overall economy and expanding trade and ultimately jobs.  So I don’t anticipate that there’s something unique about Canada that wouldn’t be true for any of the other aspirants to forming this Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With respect to the transnational drug trade, first and foremost, I think we should be concerned about what’s happening in Mexico and Central America because when you have innocent families and women and children who are being gunned down on the streets, that should be everybody’s problem, not just our problem — not just their problem.

There’s a sense of neighborly regard and concern that has to be part of our calculus and our foreign policy.  But more practically, the United States shares a border with Mexico.  If you have this kind of violence and the power of the drug trade as a whole expanding in countries that are so closely affiliated with us — in Central American countries — if you start getting a larger and larger space in which they have control over serious chunks of the economy, if they’re undermining institutions in these countries, that will impact our capacity to do business in these countries.  It could have a spillover effect in terms of our nationals who are living in those countries, tourists that are visiting these countries.  It could have a deteriorating effect overall on the nature of our relationship.  And that’s something that we have to pay attention to.

And, as I said, I think the Mexican government has taken this very seriously at great cost to itself.  We have an obligation to take it just as seriously, in part because we are the ultimate destination for a large chunk of this market.

And that — Stephen and I were trading notes — in places like the United States and Canada, this is not just an issue of — that traditionally was very urban.  This is disseminated across our communities.  And you go into rural communities and you’ve got methamphetamine sales that are devastating young and old alike, and some of that is originally sourced in Mexico.  And so even in the remotest, most isolated parts of Canada or the United States, they’re being impacted by this drug trade, and we’ve got to work cooperatively in order to deal with it.

PRESIDENT CALDERÓN:  (As interpreted.)  And I’d like to look at it from another standpoint.  The security of North America is absolutely tied to each of its member states.  There cannot be full security in this country or in Canada or in Mexico if we do not have a system that actually enables the cooperation mechanisms to act in facing threats that have no borders, that are transnational by their very nature.  And these are threats that are not just tied into drug trafficking, which is transnational of course.

And I’ll give you two examples of success stories that I was mentioning this morning.  One, the attempt to take to Mexico one of the children of Qaddafi — one of Qaddafi’s children.  This implied an international and very North American operation because it was headed up by a Canadian businesswoman who hired an American company, which hired, in turn, Mexican pilots and counterfeiters.  And this multinational operation could have been — would not have been avoided without the international security mechanisms that we didn’t have before, but that now we have.

Also, being able to avoid the assassination of the Saudi ambassador here in Washington would not have been possible without the mechanisms and cooperation that we have today.

So thinking that what happens in Mexico doesn’t have anything to do with the security of the citizens of this country or of any other citizen of North America is a mistake.  We have to understand that we are all tied to one another.

Now, security, understood in the regional sense — in order to understand that, we have to understand where the greatest threats to security actually lay.  The United States has a clear idea of its threat, of its security priorities, its threats of terrorism, of international terrorism, terrible attacks on the U.S. people.  Another threat clearly is in the power of transnational organized crime, which I insist is not crime or organizations that are strictly Mexican in nature.  They don’t have a nationality, and they don’t operate in just one country.  They’re probably operating right here in this city.

In Washington, for instance, the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants is higher by 10 — more than 10 or 20 than the largest number in any of the big cities in Mexico.  These are international organizations that have a growing destructive capacity, that act well beyond borders and threaten anyone, anywhere.

It is true, the efforts that we undertake clearly make it possible to contain that threat and to prevent it from acting in society — not just in the United States or Canada, but even in Mexico.  And that explains why, for instance, despite the perception of my country, last year 23 million tourists came to our country by plane, plus another 7 million in cruise ships, plus another 50 million who crossed the border, the land borders.

So that’s also why there are 2 million Mexicans living comfortably in Mexico, and many more living also here who came to visit us here and wanted to see us in the White House.  And that’s also why 1.6 million Canadians come to Mexico every year.  So that’s 5 percent of the Canadian population that travels to Mexico every year.

And that also explains why, despite the fact that a state such as Texas recommends that none of its young people should travel to anywhere in Mexico, that’s why there are hundreds of thousands of young Texans who go to Mexico, enjoy it, and why we haven’t seen one single incident with U.S. spring-breakers in Mexico this past spring, for instance.

Great concern, because these are multinational criminal organizations and the mechanisms, of course, to face them, to defeat them, have to be multinational.  In addition to the solidarity — expressions of solidarity of President Obama, who says that he cannot stand aside from the expressions of threat that is facing a neighbor of his, vulnerability from an institutional point of view in Mexico and Central America is an issue that also impacts and jeopardizes all of the citizens of North America.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everyone.

END
2:44 P.M. EDT

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 Highlights May 22, 2011: Obama Addresses AIPAC — Reaffirms His Position on Israel’s 1967 Borders — Canada Objects, Palin, & Gingrich Criticize

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.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama to AIPAC: Israelis, Palestinians should negotiate a new border: President Obama said his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines did not mean the future state of Palestine would have those exact borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said on Sunday morning to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    Last week, Obama said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should be based on the pre-’67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps. He also said the difficult issues of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees should be deferred for later. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called such borders “indefensible.”
    “If there is a controversy, it’s not based on substance,” Obama said Sunday. “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Obama Challenges Israel to Make Hard Choices: President Obama struck back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday, defending his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should be focused on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenging Israel to “make the hard choices” necessary to bring about a stable peace.
    Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, offered familiar assurances that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s long-term security was “ironclad.” But citing the rising political upheaval near Israel’s borders, he presented his peace plan as the best chance Israel has to avoid growing isolation.
    “We cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace,” Mr. Obama said. The world, he said, “is moving too fast.”
    Administration officials said it would be up to Mr. Obama, during an economic summit in Paris next weekend, to try to talk his European counterparts out of endorsing Palestinian statehood in a coming United Nations vote, a prospect that would deeply embarrass Israel. Some French officials have already indicated that they are leaning toward such an endorsement.
    “He basically said, ‘I can continue defending you to the hilt, but if you give me nothing to work with, even America can’t save you,’ ” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and a fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
    The appearance by Mr. Obama on Sunday punctuated a tense week in which he and Mr. Netanyahu made their separate cases about Palestinian statehood to American audiences. Mr. Netanyahu will address the same group on Monday and will speak before Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of Republican lawmakers…. – NYT, 5-22-11
  • Obama seeks to reassure Israel on Mideast policy in speech at AIPAC conference: President Obama sought to reassure Israel and its supporters of “ironclad” U.S. support Sunday in a speech to a Jewish lobbying group that also warned that time could be running out for a peace accord with Palestinians.
    Obama, wading afresh into a topic that evoked anger from Israeli leaders last week, insisted again that 1967 boundary lines should be the starting point for talks on a new Palestinian state. But he allowed that the dividing line would be negotiated to accommodate Israeli settlements and security needs.
    “Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at its annual conference in Washington.
    While sticking to the views he outlined in a Middle East policy speech Thursday, Obama more clearly aligned his position on borders to one espoused by the George W. Bush administration in 2004. The Bush White House had concluded that a return to the precise boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was “not realistic,” because of the presence of large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
    Acknowledging that Israel faced “hard choices” and security risks, Obama argued that stalling on peace negotiations posed even greater dangers for the country’s survival. The Arab Spring movement and changing demographic forces — including growing numbers of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — present long-term challenges to Israel that will be resolved only by the creation of separate homelands for Jews and Palestinians, he said.
    “No matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”
    “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,” he said.
    Obama said he was not surprised by the uproar over his Thursday speech but added that “if there is controversy, it is not based on substance.”
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” he said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.:”… – WaPo, 5-22-11
  • Obama to AIPAC: I won’t back down on Israel-Palestine border issue: Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, President Obama repeated his position that Israel-Palestine peace negotiations must acknowledge the 1967 borders as a starting point. But he also emphasized that US commitment to Israel’s security is ‘ironclad.’
    President Obama is not backing down on how to solve the Israel-Palestine border issue in achieving peace in the Middle East.
    Speaking Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – which identifies itself as America’s leading pro-Israel lobby – Obama reiterated his stance: Any negotiation has to begin by acknowledging the 1967 borders before the Six-Day War in which Israel occupied land in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
    Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, Obama sought to clarify what he had meant on Thursday regarding the 1967 borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.”
    “The ultimate goal is two states for two people,” he said, “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people – and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”… – CS Monitor, 5-22-11
  • Mideast Obama restates call for ‘1967 lines’ in Israeli-Palestinian talks: Unwilling to retreat from Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry outbursts, Barack Obama warned thousands of ardent pro-Israelis that finding a lasting peace with Palestinians begins with Israel’s pre-1967 frontiers.
    The U.S. President’s tone was soothing and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee placatory, but he didn’t budge from his statement last week that has sparked a furor and the remarkable spectacle of an Israeli prime minister publicly disputing an American president in the Oval Office.
    As Mr. Obama reiterated Sunday, it remains the obvious – if not explicitly stated position by any previous president – that negotiating boundaries for a Palestinian state begins with Israel’s frontiers before the lightning war of June 1967, when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan, seizing and occupying the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the revered walled city of old Jerusalem.
    “If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance,” Mr. Obama said, added that he has said nothing new or startling, although his reference to “1967 lines” drew scattered boos from the audience that has been explicitly told to respectively receive speakers, even if they disagree.
    “It was my reference to the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed swaps – that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now,” Mr. Obama said. He said his position has been “misrepresented” although he didn’t call out Mr. Netanyahu – who will deliver his own version of the way forward Monday to the 10,000-plus AIPAC at the most powerful pro-Israeli group’s annual convention. (The blunt-speaking Israeli leader – whose relationship with Mr. Obama has ranged from distant to frosty – will give a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.)
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.” “Delay will undermine security,” he added…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Obama Quotes Talmud at AIPAC, Tells Hamas “Release Shalit”: In an address aimed at placating his disgruntled Jewish supporters, President Barack Obama told his audience of over 10,000 at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday that “a strong and secure Israel is in the interest of the United States and the bond between our two vibrant democracies must be nurtured.”
    He maintained that he did not say anything fundamentally new in his Thursday speech, when he mentioned the “1967 borders” as a basis for future peace
    Taking intense criticism from pro-Israel supporters since then, when he called for Israel to negotiate a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he sought to heal wounds by enumerating actions taken by the US to foster Israel’s security…. – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-22-11
  • Obama, at AIPAC, takes on the 1967 borders issue: An interesting morning at the AIPAC policy conference. Then again, how could it not be with President Barack Obama addressing more than 10,000 participants only days after giving a major policy address on the Middle East?
    I half expected a purely political speech, reaffirming his strong support for Israel, using key slogans like Israel’s qualitative military edge and banging away at Iran, and avoiding his call the other day for peace negotiations kith the Palestinians based on the 1967, with negotiated land swaps.
    In an almost stern tone, he referred to how his comments have been “misrepresented” – presumably by those pro-Israel activists who say he called for a return to the exact borders of 1967, which polite critics call “indefensible” and less polite ones call “Auschwitz borders.”
    He said that “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means that “the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
    Then, an almost chiding tone: “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”
    His core argument: with the winds of change sweeping across the Arab world, with growing attempts to delegitimize Israel – which he promised his administration would “steadfastly” oppose – and with the Palestinian effort to bypass direct negotiations with its UN General Assembly gambit, the “status quo is unsustainable” and time is running out…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-22-11
  • Protests Break Out at AIPAC During Obama’s Speech: KnightNews.com has a crew in Washington D.C. where protests against Israeli and US foreign policy are breaking out outside the AIPAC convention.
    KnightNews.com ilive streamed video of the protests, and we have concluded the live stream to go inside the conference and get video interviews with the other side. An updated video story with both sides will be posted as soon as possible. The protests came before, during and after US President Barack Obama spoke at the conference…. – Knight News, 5-22-11
  • ’67 lines not top Mideast peace hurdle: US lawmaker: Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist remains the primary impasse for Mideast peace, and not the recently revised dispute over territorial lines, the Republican US House majority leader said Sunday.
    Representative Eric Cantor, the most senior Jewish member in House history, also told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference that it was time for the Arab world and Palestinians in particular to stop “scapegoating” Israel and to earn their statehood by renouncing violence.
    A Palestinian “culture infused with resentment and hatred” over the Jewish state is stymieing the peace process, which has all but frozen in recent months, and whose future is in turmoil with the Palestinian Authority recently signing a unity pact with Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group.
    “It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Cantor said told some 10,000 delegates at AIPAC’s annual policy conference.
    “This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the ’67 lines,” he said to a rousing standing ovation.
    “And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.”… – AFP, 5-22-11
  • Several GOP presidential hopefuls to attend AIPAC Conference: As President Barack Obama’s Mideast speech this week came under fire from many in the Republican Party for not being supportive enough of Israel, several GOP prospective presidential candidates will be appearing this week at a major event sponsored by a key American Israeli lobbying organization.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will attend a policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Ari Goldberg, a spokesman for the group, confirmed to CNN.
    Obama will be making his first appearance as president before an AIPAC event when he addresses the conference Sunday morning. Several leading members of Congress are also scheduled to speak at the event…. – CNN, 5-21-11
  • Palin slams Obama, supports Israel: Former Alaska governor says US should defend Israel against enemies, adds her primary goal is to make sure Obama not reelected
    Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    In an interview for Fox News on Saturday, Palin went on to speak in support of the Jewish state: “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times,” she said. “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our enemies in Israel.
    “More than ever we should be standing strong with Israel and saying ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she added.
    She continued to attack Obama, saying his foreign policy “really makes no sense.”
    “I’m going to call him our temporary leader because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said.
    Palin, who has yet to decide whether to run for president in the coming elections, wasn’t the only Republican to express disapproval of Obama following his tense weekend meeting with Netanyahu.
    Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a prominent contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Obama “threw Israel under the bus.”
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said.
    Tim Pawlenty, another Republican presidential hopeful, called Obama’s demand for Israel to return to 1967 borders a “disaster waiting to happen.”… – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Ottawa won’t back Obama’s Mideast peace proposal: The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel.
    At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.
    Israel quickly rejected U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal for the talks to be guided by the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s border, if it’s others issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    Pressed by reporters, federal officials said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.
    “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them,” said the federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    The Prime Minister’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution.
    “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Israel ‘approves new West Bank settler homes’: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has approved the construction of 294 new homes in Beitar Ilit settlement on the occupied West Bank, anti-settlement NGO Peace Now reported on Sunday.
    It also said that work had started on more than 2,000 settler homes since the end in September of Israel’s 10-month freeze on Jewish construction on Palestinian land.
    Peace Now made its announcement as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington preparing to address the US Congress and a powerful pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
    It said Barak has also approved building of homes for the elderly and a shopping centre in the settlement of Efrat…. – AFP, 5-22-11

QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.: THE PRESIDENT: ….Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech. I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.
    On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad. (Applause.)
    A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
    America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people. (Applause.)
    We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.
    Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. (Applause.)
    You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.) Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. (Applause.) At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
    Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.
    You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. (Applause.) As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” (Applause.)
    So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.) When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. (Applause.)
    And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. (Applause.) And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Applause.)
    Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. (Applause.) And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. (Applause.) No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. (Applause.) And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. (Applause.) And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. (Applause.)
    And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. And that is why on Thursday I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims — the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians since at least the Clinton administration.
    I know that stating these principles — on the issues of territory and security — generated some controversy over the past few days. (Laughter.) I wasn’t surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm to tell me that. Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that. But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. (Applause.) So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.
    Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
    Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.
    Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.
    And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.
    And those are the facts. I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.) Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you. (Applause.)
    Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. (Applause.) And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric. (Applause.)
    But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.
    There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.
    I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat. (Applause.) Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. (Applause.) And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. (Applause.) And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. (Applause.)
    Now, that is what I said. And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.
    By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.) It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. (Applause.)
    If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. (Applause.) The world is moving too fast. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.
    Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment. I respect that. And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.
    Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed. (Applause.) And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized. And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone. (Applause.)
    But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace. For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible. Peace is possible.
    The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.” And that lesson seems especially fitting today.
    For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.
    And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. This is not idealism; it is not naïveté. It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. (Applause.) That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.
    Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. – Transcript
  • Gene Simmons Slams President Obama’s Israel Policy: ‘He Has No F-Ing Idea What The World Is Like’Breitbart, 5-22-11
  • Sarah Palin Criticizes Obama on Israel; Calls Him ‘Temporary Leader’: In an interview with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine on Saturday, Palin spoke in support of the Jewish state, saying, “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times.
    “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our friends in Israel.”
    Obama has been drawing fire from Republicans after delivering a major speech on Thursday. In it, he stated, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    Also rejecting Obama’s stance, Palin stated on Fox, “To tell Israel that now they have to pull back from their homeland, that they have to concede even more, and that they have to negotiate with terrorists, with Hamas, having been a part now joining in the unity government under Palestinian authority, we’re flirting with disaster under President Obama’s very clouded, very murky foreign policy as it applies to Israel.”
    What the U.S. should be doing more than ever is “standing strong with Israel and saying, ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she continued.
    Palin commented, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    “I’m going to call him a temporary leader, because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said on Fox.
    “We the people need to rise up, saying we’ll take a stand for Israel. We’ll be on their side, no matter if our ‘temporary leader’ sides with terrorists and demands Israel negotiate with terrorists.
    “Until President Obama is replaced by a president who understands the importance of treating our friends right and being strong against our enemies – until that happens – it’s ‘We the People’ who have to rise up and make sure that Israel knows they have friends here.”… – Christian Post, 5-21-11
  • Newt Gingrich Leads Criticism on Obama’s Israel-Palestine Remarks: Republican presidential hopeful and Catholic convert Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy a “disaster” during Sunday’s CBS program “Face the Nation.”
    Outspoken Gingrich said Obama’s remarks were “extraordinarily dangerous,” and further stated that “a president who can’t control his own border probably shouldn’t lecture Israel about their border.”
    Gingrich was referring to Obama’s comments this week that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations be based on border demarcations from before the six-day war in 1967, in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip among other territories. Furthermore, he stated that potential agreements should include land swap deals to reflect changes over recent decades.
    Gingrich said on “Face the Nation:” “I think that defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible.
    “You have Hamas, which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. The idea that somehow we’re supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas’ policy is the destruction of Israel and as long as missiles are being fired into Israel and terrorists are preparing to try to kill Israelis.”
    Gingrich is not the only one condemning Obama’s stance towards Israel; Congressman Ron Paul has also issued a blistering critique of Obama’s recent proposals.
    “Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs,” the Texas Republican said in a press statement.
    “There can only be peace in the region if those sides work out their differences among one another. We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington,” he added…. – Christian Post, 5-22-11
  • MK Katz Warns AIPAC, ‘Obama Put a Gun to Israel’s Head’: “Don’t fall for U.S. President Barack Obama’s magical oratory. He put a gun to Israel’s head and asked it to commit suicide,” National Union chairman and Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz MK wrote the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday.
    The legislator continued, “I urge you not to be captured by his magic tongue because he actually is asking you for your votes and your money.”
    MK Katz wrote to AIPAC committee members, “The People of Israel, in the Diaspora for 2,000 years, developed a sense of who loves us and who hates us. President Obama knows very well that former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban described the 1967 borders as ‘Auschwitz borders.'”
    “The People of Israel will not fall for the false charm of posters, slogans, cellophane wrappers of sweetened drugs of death”, he concluded. – Israel National News, 5-22-11
  • Livni on Obama speech: US and Israel have shared interests: Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday commented on US President Barack Obama’s speech to AIPAC earlier, saying “The principle of Israel’s security and the need to arrive at a two-state solution, one of which is the State of Israel, is first of all an Israeli interest. Therefore, we need to be going in this direction in our partnership with the US.”
    “It’s important to understand that the entire world looks at the relationship between Israel and the United States, especially those who still do not accept our existence here. And part of Israel’s deterrence capability comes from the understanding that we are working together [with the US]. Therefore, there is a very important message coming from Washington these days,” Livni said.
    She stressed, “The things that Obama mentioned represent a long-standing American policy. We have shared interests. This is very important to Israel, so that it can once and for all advance the process to prevent unilateral moves at the United Nations.” – JPost, 5-22-11
  • Eric Cantor: Israel is America’s Most Loyal Ally: Republican Eric Cantor, the GOP majority leader in the House of Representatives, addressed the attendees of the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
    Speaking of his immigrant roots and of his pride of being Jewish, Cantor told the audience that “America needs Israel as it is our most stable and loyal ally,” adding that “America must do everything in its power to protect Israel. It is okay to vilify Israel but it is not okay to scapegoat Israel.”
    He addressed the conflict between Israelis and Arabs and said that the root of the conflict is not the so-called 1967 lines (the 1949 armistice lines which defense experts have said would be indefensible), but rather the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel. Israel wants to live in peace, said Cantor, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has to stop promoting hate and should come to the negotiating table. Until that happens, noted Cantor, there can be no peace, particularly with Hamas being part of the PA government…. Israel National News, 5-22-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words: Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow….
    Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.
    The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.
    We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.
    Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

February 4, 2011: Crisis & Protest in Egypt; President Obama, U.S. and the World React

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.

CRISIS IN EGYPT & THE MIDDLE EAST:

The President Discusses the Situation in Egypt
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/1/11

IN FOCUS

  • Egypt News— The ProtestsNYT
  • Hosni MubarakNYT
  • Latest Updates on Day 10 of Egypt ProtestsNYT

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit: The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
    Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
    The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
    Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now…. – NYT, 2-3-11
  • Israel ponders border security, enlarged military amid Egypt unrest: Israelis are looking fearfully beyond the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, expecting it will force them to stiffen security across an extensive southwestern border and perhaps reoccupy a strategic corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
    In the long term, it may require Israel to expand its military force and budget if a new Egyptian government comes under the sway of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, or otherwise casts into doubt the long-standing peace accord between the two nations.
    Israel has relied for three decades on the assumption that it would never again fight a land war against the Arab world’s most populous state, or worry about Egypt openly supporting militants in the Gaza Strip or elsewhere…. – WaPo, 2-4-11
  • Canada’s cautious position on Egypt linked to support for Israel: On the surface, the Conservative government’s statements on the crisis in Egypt might seem a carbon copy of those churned out by the White House. But there has been one major difference — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staunch support for Israel and strong backing within Canada’s Jewish community could offer clues about why.
    President Barack Obama’s administration, along with major European countries, have called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside now and allow for a transition of power. But the Canadian government has markedly refrained from asking for Mubarak’s ouster. Instead, it has spoken in broad terms about the need to respect human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy.
    Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on Thursday condemned the detention of Canadian journalists in Cairo, but did not wade into the question of Mubarak’s presidency.
    During an emergency House of Commons debate late Wednesday night, Conservative MPs repeatedly noted their concerns about Israeli security and the need to uphold the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord. “In order for us, here in Canada, to recognize and support the future Egyptian government, it must meet four basic conditions: first, it must respect freedom, democracy and human rights, particularly the rights of women; second, it must recognize the State of Israel; third, it must adhere to existing peace treaties; and fourth, it must respect international law,” Cannon said…. – Canadian Press, 2-2-11
  • Kerry-McCain resolution calls on Mubarak to step down: Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain are calling on embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic government. The two former presidential candidates, Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008, have been among the leading voices of their parties on international affairs in general and the violent unraveling of Egypt’s power structure specifically. The two co-wrote a resolution, passed by the Senate on a voice vote tonight, that calls on Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government…. – Boston Globe, 2-3-11Resolution Copy
  • Yemen’s President Is Latest To Vow Exit: President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he won’t run for re-election when his term ends in 2013, and that he won’t attempt to pass on the presidency to his son, abruptly ending his bid to change the constitution to erase all term limits on the post. Opposition leaders called the president’s concessions insufficient and urged their supporters to join renewed mass protests Thursday. Ahead of that rally, most major commercial banks in the capital, San’a, reported large withdrawals from thousands of citizens, as fears grow that the protest will turn violent.
    Separately, Jordan’s largest political group, the Islamic Action Front, said it plans mass protests Friday over the appointment of a new prime minister, Maruf Bakhit, who started talks Wednesday on the formation of a new government…. – WSJ, 2-3-11
  • Obama Continues to Monitor Tense Egypt Situation: President Obama returned to the White House after a brief trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday, and has been holding more consultations with his advisers on the situation in Egypt. The United States pressed harder on the Egyptian government and military to stop a wave of violence.
    The president moved quickly past members of the press corps without comment, and into the Oval Office where over the past few days of the Egyptian crisis he has met with advisers and spoken twice by telephone with President Hosni Mubarak.
    In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mr. Mubarak referred to those conversations and said, according to excerpts, while he is a “very good man” Mr. Obama didn’t understand the culture of Egypt. In the same interview, Mr. Mubarak said he was “very unhappy” with violence in Egypt, which he blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but said he could not step down and risk the chaos he says would ensue…. – VOA, 2-3-11
  • US, UK condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt: The United States and Britain condemned the intimidation of foreign reporters covering protests against President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday and said the Egyptian government must not target journalists.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned assaults on American journalists in Cairo as concern rose about the possibility of an intensified round of rioting on Friday.
    “This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said, reading a statement…. – Reuters, 2-3-11
  • Tens of thousands turn out for rival rallies in Yemen: Anti-government protesters in Sana are met with a competing rally across town by the president’s supporters, who get logistical support from the army…. – LAT, 2-3-11
  • Egypt’s VP uses state TV to blame unrest on ‘foreign agendas’: Egypt’s new Vice President Omar Suleiman took to state TV Thursday night to make a play for Mubarak to hang on until presidential elections in September…. – CS Monitor, 2-3-11
  • The Arab reform dodge: Cosmetic concessions aren’t enough: LIKE EGYPTIAN President Hosni Mubarak, Arab rulers around the Middle East are trying to head off the swelling popular discontent in their countries while retaining political control…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
  • GOP divided over Obama response to Egypt: As chaos roils Egypt, Republican lawmakers and the GOP’s potential presidential candidates are divided over President Barack Obama’s response though united in concern that an Islamic regime could rise to power in a nation that is an important U.S. ally in the precarious Middle East.
    Compared with recent verbal sparring on domestic issues, the debate between Democrats and Republicans on Egypt is somewhat muted. That’s perhaps because the two parties differ little over U.S. policy toward Egypt. Both view the country as a linchpin to a peaceful Middle East. And while supportive of democracy there, both also express concern about the influence of extremists in a post-Mubarak government, a particular worry of Israel.
    Trying to set the tone for their party, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the country’s two top elected Republicans, have deferred to the Democratic president. They are signaling an unwillingness among the GOP leadership in Congress to pick a fight, in line, at least on this issue, with the tradition that politics stops at the waters’ edge in the midst of foreign crises. “America ought to speak with one voice,” said McConnell…. –
  • The Pentagon View of Egypt: What the Uprising Means for the U.S. MilitaryABC News, 2-3-1
  • Why Obama’s position on Egypt’s Mubarak was too little, too late: The images that have come out of Egypt over the past week are stunning: tens of thousands of largely unarmed protestors facing tanks, teargas, and live ammunition and who are still demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. But throughout the upheaval, the United States response has been guarded, if not inadequate. After days of tepid statements and measured acknowledgements of the Egyptian people’s “legitimate grievances,” even an eventual call for “free and fair elections,” the Obama administration would still not publicly call for Mr. Mubarak’s departure…. – CS Monitor, 2-2-11
  • Journalists Are Targets of Violence in Cairo: As chaos gripped central Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday, journalists covering the scene on the ground found themselves the targets of violence and intimidation by demonstrators chanting slogans in favor of President Hosni Mubarak. One prominent American television correspondent, Anderson Cooper of CNN, was struck in the head repeatedly.
    Reporters Without Borders said it had received dozens of confirmed reports of violence against local and international journalists in Egypt. Tala Dowlatshahi, a spokeswoman for the group, said to “expect more foreign journalists to be targeted.” The attacks were reported by Al Jazeera, CNN and Twitter users almost as soon as violent clashes began in the square, also known as Liberation Square, eliciting a strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department…. – NYT, 2-2-11
  • Uprising in Egypt Splits U.S Conservatives: Glenn Beck blasts the uprising in Cairo as a threat to our way of life. Michelle Goldberg on how the rebellion is splitting U.S. conservatives—and the fallout for the 2012 presidential campaign. Plus, full coverage of Egypt’s protests…. – The Daily Beast, 2-1-11
  • Obama Urges Quick Transition in Egypt: President Obama declared on Tuesday night that an “orderly transition” in Egypt “must begin now,” but he stopped short of demanding that President Hosni Mubarak leave office immediately. Mr. Obama used his four-and-a-half minute speech from the Cross Hall of the White House to embrace the cause of the protestors in Egypt far more fully than he has at any previous moment since the uprising against Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year-rule began.
    He praised the Egyptian military for refusing to fire on the protestors. And by declaring that Mr. Mubarak had to begin the process of transition immediately, he seemed to be signaling that the United States would not stand by if Mr. Mubarak tried to slow-walk the process, or manipulate its results.
    But if he pushed Mr. Mubarak, he did not shove him. Mr. Obama said there would be “difficult days ahead,” a clear signal of recognition that the transition period could be messy. Only a few hours before, Mr. Mubarak had declared he would not run for re-election, but planned to stay in office through September. Mr. Obama never discussed that timetable in his public response, and he did not declare exactly what steps he wants the Egyptian leader to take to start the process of transition.
    But he made clear that the process started by the protestors could not be reversed. “We’ve born witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country,” Mr. Obama said, casting it as a natural successor to other moments of transition in a society that goes back thousands of years…. – NYT, 2-1-11
Netanyahu and Mubarak
Reuters Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, left, and President Hosni Mubarak at a meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Jan. 6.
  • Israel wary of transition in Egypt, concerned about regional stability: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s quickening collapse and increasing political turmoil in Jordan have prompted concerns in Israel that its historic peace treaties with those countries may not withstand the convulsion sweeping the region.
    A change of power in Egypt and instability in Jordan could have profound consequences for Israel, which depends on the peace accords – its only two with Arab countries – as a cornerstone of its security. The treaties struck by Israel with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 remain unpopular among the residents of the two Arab nations, and Israel has relied on the strength of Mubarak’s regime and the Jordanian monarchy to keep them intact.
    Not all of the recent developments have been bad from the Israelis’ perspective: Newly appointed Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman has become a trusted interlocutor on regional security issues, and the United States will push to ensure that the peace accords remain in place. But the fast pace of events may change how Israel perceives its position, and make it less willing to offer territorial concessions as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians. The country is still digesting the rise in Lebanon of a new government chosen by the Shiite Hezbollah, one of its chief antagonists, and may now sense instability on all sides.
    Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened top intelligence analysts and senior cabinet members in Tel Aviv for a day of urgent consultations Tuesday to weigh the changes underway in Egypt and assess the strength of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, an Israeli official said. Abdullah sacked his cabinet Tuesday amid clamors for more economic and political reform. After the meetings, Netanyahu said the international community “must demand that any Egyptian government preserve the peace accord with Israel.”… – WaPo, 2-1-11
  • Quiet Acts of Protest on a Noisy DayNYT, 2-1-11
  • Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak: If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday. Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.
    “We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”… – Reuters, 1-31-11
  • Turbulence Rocks an Israeli Ally: The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship. Israel’s military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt; and the principle of trading conquered land for diplomatic ties began with its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt more than with any other foreign leader, except President Obama. If Mr. Mubarak were driven from power, the effect on Israel could be profound. “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy,” a senior official said. “For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”… – NYT, 1-30-11
  • Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure. Mrs. Clinton, making a round of Sunday talk shows, insisted that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people. But she said on “State of the Union” on CNN that the United States stood “ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom.” And she emphasized that elections scheduled for this fall must be free and fair. President Obama reinforced that message in phone calls on Saturday and Sunday to other leaders in the region, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as the administration tried to contain the regional reverberations…. – NYT, 1-30-11
  • U.S. cautiously prepares for post-Mubarak era: Mindful of other allies in the region, U.S. officials have been careful not to abandon the Egyptian leader, urging him to implement a transition to democracy. But they are also preparing for the possibility of his ouster…. – LAT, 1-30-11
  • What impact will the uprising in Egypt have on the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, China, and the EU? The Mark’s experts weigh in.The Mark News, 2-2-11

QUOTES

Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka's supporters. 

Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka’s supporters.
  • Press Secretary Gibbs on Egypt, Violence & Journalists: During his gaggle with the press aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opens the session with pointed remarks about recent developments in Egypt…. – WH, 2-3-11
  • Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt: Good evening, everybody. Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt. We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people. We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.
    And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe. And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.
    First, we oppose violence. And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets. And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.
    Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future. And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.
    Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.
    Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear — and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak — is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
    Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
    Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt. And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.
    Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.
    To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.
    There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers. That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets. It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers. And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum — a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day. – WH, 2-1-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Time for Mubarak to ‘step down’: US Senator McCain: Top US Senator John McCain, shortly after talks with President Barack Obama, urged embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to “step down and relinquish power.” “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres Mubarak 2 step down (and) relinquish power,” McCain said in a post on the microblogging site Twitter roughly an hour after discussing the bloody political crisis in Egypt with Obama. “It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people (and) its military,” said the lawmaker, Obama’s rival for the US presidency in 2008 and the top Republican on the US Senate Armed Services Committee…. – AFP, 2-2-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • New York Times: Room For Debate: Mubarak’s Role and Mideast Peace: What does the crisis in Egypt mean for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?… – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Gil Troy: Anxiety and Skepticism: Egypt’s uprising has already undermined most Israelis’ sense of security and their willingness to take risks for peace with the Palestinians. Israelis now worry about the biggest risk they ever took for peace: the withdrawal from Sinai in 1982.
    A radical Egypt downgrading or abrogating its peace treaty with Israel would top the litany of failed peace-making attempts and reinforce the argument of right-wing skeptics against trading land for peace with the Palestinians. Moreover, a hostile Egypt would reinforce the sense of betrayal so many Israelis have felt since 2000, as the failure of the Oslo peace process triggered a wave of Palestinian terror, the withdrawal from Lebanon boosted Hezbollah, and disengagement from Gaza brought Hamas to power.
    Israelis have longed for greater intimacy with the Egyptian people, always speaking of “peace with Egypt” not with Mubarak. Yet this “cold peace” has been government to government not people to people. Israelis have accepted the limits, given their alternatives.
    Mubarak’s Egypt has served as an important counterweight to Ahmadinejad’s Iran. The recent Wikileaks documents suggested some of the benefits Israel enjoyed from its alliance with Mubarak, including diplomatic support, intelligence sharing and military cooperation. Most important have been decades of non-belligerency. With the loss of that sense of security on its southern border, Israelis will be much more reluctant to cede control of their eastern border to an independent Palestine.
    This week’s hysterical headlines in the Israeli press about the potential loss of Egypt, the dip in Tel Aviv stocks, the debate about whether President Obama can be trusted to support American allies, all suggest that Israel’s strategic doctrine is being hastily rewritten.
    The prospects of peace become even more unlikely if Egypt turns Islamist. Israel’s safest border will suddenly look menacing. Hamas will look stronger in Gaza with an Islamist Egyptian regime not even pretending to try to stop the flow of arms. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will look like a less viable peace partner with fundamentalism ascendant, and any pro-peace or pro-Western Palestinians demonized as collaborators. Moreover, Israeli policymakers will feel caught, doubting Mahmoud Abbas as another unelected autocrat while fearing the popular Palestinian street more than ever.
    Israelis find themselves once again in dissonance with the international community. Many Israelis wish they could wholeheartedly support this popular move against an aging dictator. But the bitter experience of the last ten years suggests that skepticism is in order. – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Khaled Fahmy: Mubarak Fails to Quell Protests as Turmoil Spreads to Yemen: “I expect the demonstrations to continue,” said Khaled Fahmy, professor of history at American University in Cairo, in a telephone interview. “He really hasn’t offered much. What I’ve seen is that he has burned bridges. There is no trust between him and the people.” SF Chronicle/Blomberg, 2-2-11
  • Yale History prof sign letter to Obama regarding Egypt: As protests against the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak continue in Egypt, three Yale professors joined over 150 academics in signing an open letter to President Barack Obama yesterday, calling on Obama to support Egypt’s democratic movement. The letter reads:
    For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday ‘political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,’ your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.
    Alan Mikhail, an assistant professor of history who researches Egypt during the Ottoman period, said he saw the letter as a “small gesture” academics could make, regardless of whether it sways Obama’s opinion.
    “It seems like a small gesture that I as a historian could do, to show support for the people in Egypt who are protesting, and sometimes putting their lives on the line, for a better society and a better government,” Mikhail said. “Is [Obama] going to read it? I have no idea. He’s a very busy guy.”… – Yale Daily News, 2-2-11
  • Kent Schull: Professor to students: Write your members of Congress about Egypt: In an effort to support the millions of Egyptians protesting their authoritarian government, one University of Memphis professor is asking students to flock to their keyboards. Kent Schull, assistant history professor, has expertise in modern Middle East history and said he thinks students should write to their state and U.S. representatives.
    “These people are really trying to get a better life for themselves, and that resonates with all of us,” he said. “We all want basic freedoms that we all feel we have a right to, and this is what the Egyptian people want, and I think the United States has to put the Egyptian people’s interest ahead of our own international interest.”
    “You have a huge gap between the rich and poor,” he said. “Egypt has a lot of its money coming from tourism and from small manufacturing depths from agricultural production, and the people that control that — they have a lot of money, but the vast majority of the population is very poor.”
    Schull said that the U.S.-Egypt alliance is based, in part, on geography and natural resources. “Egypt has been a very close trade partner with the United States,” he said. “(It’s) a very close political partner for trying to keep stability within the Middle East. Without Egypt as an ally, then it would be very tough to get Saudi Arabia’s oil to us.”
    The U.S. doesn’t want Egyptian people viewing it as a country that funds a dictator, Schull said. “The U.S. has been walking this fine line and probably needs to throw its support very squarely behind the Egyptian people going for democratic change,” he said. Schull said that the more representatives and senators hear from Americans about supporting these Egyptian protests, the more likely it is that “maybe they’ll listen.”… – Daily Helmsman, 2-2-11
  • Charles Wilkins: Wake Forest Professor: Economy Plays Role In Egyptian Protests: The violence is escalating in Cairo. Protestors for and against President Hosni Mubarak are clashing, surrounded by burning buildings and gun fire. Hundreds have been hurt since Wednesday when the protests turned violent. So what’s causing the un-rest in Egypt? Wake Forest University Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History, Charles Wilkins, says it started with pent up anger and the resentment of Egypt’s government
    The economy also plays a role. “Economics of it are very important. We have high unemployment, we have low wages and high cost of living. We have basically a housing shortage,” says Charles Wilkins. “It’s a young generation that’s actual rebeling. This is a politically active and aware population that want to see change.”
    Wilkins also credits the internet with helping protestors coordinate their efforts and making them more powerful. He says the protests in Tunisia a few weeks ago gave Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians the courage to question their governments…. – WFMY News 2, CBS Newspath, CNN Newsource, 2-3-11
  • Historians worry about Egyptian antiquities: The fighting has intensified in Tahrir Square. It has become a battle field. That is where the Egyptian Museum is located, filled with antiquities and the history of Egypt. There are concerns among historians about the fate of the museum and its huge collection.
    “In a situation like this where anything could happen you are always worried,” Professor Carol Redmount director of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley said.
    “On the one hand in a situation like this you are always concerned, these things are irreplaceable, they’re national treasure, international treasures, they tell is about our human history,” Redmount said. “But the Egyptian people will do whatever they can to protect it.”
    Redmount has reason to be concerned. Earlier this week vandals broke into a museum and smashed statues and glass. It is likely the next wave will steal items.
    “You can try to sell it on the antiquities market, now everyone is going to be looking for these things on the antiquities market,” Redmount said. “They’ve been looting the site with shovels, which is better than bulldozers, at the same time we don’t know how much damage has been done,” Redmount said… – ABC Local SF, 2-2-11

Political Highlights June 28, 2010: Obama at the G20, Passing Financial Reform & Kagan’s Confirmation Hearings Begin

Political Highlights

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Commends Congress for Finalizing Wall Street

President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press regarding the congressional agreement on Financial Reform from the South Lawn of the White House June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • President Obama at the G8 in Photos: The President spent today at the G8 Summit in Canada, which focused amongst other things on the Muskoka Initiative on maternal and child health (MCH). See an array of photos from the day below…. – WH, 6-25-10
  • Poll: Obama’s ratings fall amid Gulf oil spill: President Barack Obama’s job performance rating has dropped to the lowest level of his presidency as Americans grow less confident in his leadership, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday. Obama’s rating stood at 45 percent in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, down 5 points from early last month. For the first time in the survey, more people — 48 percent — say they disapprove of Obama’s job performance. A majority of respondents, 62 percent, said the country was on the wrong track. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed rate Obama positively on “strong leadership qualities,” down from 70 percent when he became president and a drop of 8 points since January…. – Reuters, 6-23-10
  • GOP: generic optimism over poll: Republicans must be giddy over the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Thanks to the BP oil spill in the gulf, the administration’s problems getting a public handle on the disaster and the stubborn economy, President Obama’s job approval rating dropped from 50 percent last month to 45 percent now. His disapproval rating is now 48 percent. To make matters worse, 60 percent of those polled say the nation is on the wrong track. Republicans surely are smiling over who poll respondents said they wanted ruling Congress after the November midterms. For the second survey in a row the GOP came out on top. They were favored 45 to 43 over Democrats. WaPo, 6-25-10
  • Confidence Waning in Obama, U.S. Outlook: Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The survey also shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation’s economy and environment. Sixty-two percent of adults in the survey feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election. Just one-third think the economy will get better over the next year, a 7-point drop from a month ago and the low point of Mr. Obama’s tenure. WSJ, 6-23-10
  • Cherry-picking polls: Obama’s leadership numbers tumble and would you believe Senator Charlie Crist?: As one result, a new CBS News Poll finds most Americans believe Obama reacted too slowly to the catastrophe (61%) and has no clear plan to deal with it (59% nationwide, 64% in the gulf area). Forty-five percent say Obama has no clear plan for developing new energy sources and 54% still say he has no clear plan for developing new jobs, 16 months after he signed his own massive jobs plan and numerous expensive sales trips to sell its benefits…. – LAT, 6-22-10
  • Rasmussen: McCain 47%, Hayworth 36%: Longtime Senator John McCain continues to lead Arizona’s Republican Primary by double digits but remains in the same narrow range of support he’s drawn since January. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the state Voters shows McCain picking up 47% support, while challenger J.D.Hayworth earns the vote from 36%. Navy veteran and Tea Party activist Jim Deakin picks up seven percent (7%) support. One percent (1%) like another candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) are undecided…. – Tucson Weekly, 6-22-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of

President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada as as they walk with other G8 leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92: Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92. He had been in failing health for several years. Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem. But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”… – NYT, 6-28-10
  • M.D. Ginsburg, 78, Dies; Lawyer and Tax Expert: Martin D. Ginsburg, a tax lawyer and professor of tax law and the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, died Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 78. The cause was cancer, according to a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, which announced the death…. – NYT, 6-28-10
  • Obama’s G20 Attendance Signifies Debt Reduction Plan: The G20 Summit in Toronto has been taking place, ensuring that world leader’s from 20 of the largest countries have been able to discuss some of the key issues concerning international finance.
    One of the main issues has been the deficits which many countries are having to contend with – the UK included. Britain has recently announced that they are going to be making billions of dollars worth of cuts to their public sector, in order to try and reduce the public sector net borrowing deficit.
    Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to reducing America’s deficit today, agreeing with other nations at the event to reduce oustanding debt by half over a three-year period. However, the President warned about how being too proactive over this matter could result in what is known as a ‘double dip’ recession, meaning that previous economic difficulties could return on a far worse scale. As it is, some European leaders believe that Barack Obama’s plans are ineffective in some ways, particularly because of how levels of unemployment in America have remained fairly constant…. – News Quench, 6-27-10
  • Oops! Joe Biden’s smart mouth gives GOP more ammo with botched Wisconsin trip: Would you call it a disastrous trip? Maybe not disastrous, but memorable. You will hear about Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the Wisconsin custard shop many times over the course of the next five months. The simple campaign-like stop will give conservatives even more ammunition in an upcoming midterm election season that already looks ominous for President Obama…. – LAT, 6-27-10
  • Obama’s high court pick Kagan faces Senate hearing: Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, faces a potential grilling by Republicans as she begins her Senate confirmation hearing on Monday even as Obama rejected as “pretty thin gruel” arguments advanced by her critics.
    Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that will hold the hearings, made it clear that Kagan can expect tough questioning on whether she has what it takes to be a Supreme Court justice. “This is a confirmation, not a coronation,” said Sessions, appearing on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “She has the least experience of any nominee at least in the last 50 years,” Sessions said…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
  • White House launches plan to boost broadband: U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to free up airways would nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available for wireless devices, an administration official said on Monday. The plan would make available 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next 10 years, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
  • Palin in Tyler: Says Obama falls short on leadership: Sarah Palin fired up an enthusiastic Texas crowd late Saturday by criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying he’s falling short on leadership. “You asked for the job, Mr. President, so buck up,” Palin said to voracious applause inside the nearly packed Oil Palace. Organizers said the event drew about 5,000 people…. – AP, 6-27-10
  • US legislation could help Obama at G-8 talks: President Obama came to the summit table this weekend with a strong hand to press his case to foreign leaders for tougher financial regulations, after Congress agreed to a far-reaching overhaul of the American regulatory system. The opposite is true for his effort to persuade other governments to keep stimulating their economies rather than attacking deficits. While Congress allowed Obama to pack the big victory on banking regulation as he left for the Group of 20 summit, the Senate separately dealt him a significant setback that no doubt resonated with the foreign leaders here pushing fiscal austerity: Democratic leaders shelved an economic stimulus package of aid for the long-term unemployed and financially squeezed states, along with assorted tax cuts…. – NYT, 6-27-10
  • Senate Democrats poised to start energy bill: Legislation could include a carbon cap on utility companies. Many Democrats hope a summer discussion on energy will establish a strong contrast with Republicans before this fall’s election… – LAT, 6-27-10
  • GOP: Obama’s panel is biased Critics contend spill inquiry panel has no oil experts, only drilling foes: The presidential commission investigating offshore drilling safety and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill came under fresh fire Thursday with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama of stacking it with environmental activists. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., charged the Obama administration with keeping oil and gas drilling experts off its seven-member commission in favor of people who philosophically oppose offshore exploration. And Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said there was a huge conflict of interest in putting environmental advocates on a panel responsible for investigating the spill and recommending new safety mandates for offshore drilling…. – Houston Chronicle, 6-27-10
  • Specter ready to press Kagan to take a stand: Elena Kagan wrote 15 years ago that Supreme Court confirmation hearings had become a “vapid and hollow charade” filled with blather instead of rigorous thought. For a lifetime appointment, she argued, there should be a substantial exchange of ideas. When her own turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins Monday, however, Kagan probably will stick to platitudes…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-27-10
  • 3 Democrats urge U.S. to not sue Arizona: A trio of U.S. House Democrats from Arizona is making a last-ditch effort to discourage President Barack Obama’s administration from suing the state over its controversial new illegal-immigration law. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords support a comprehensive approach to border security and immigration reform, something Congress has failed to pass despite years of trying. All three, who could find themselves in difficult re-election battles this year, want the administration to focus on practical steps to repair the broken U.S. immigration system and shore up border security instead of suing Arizona. A federal legal challenge could come from the Justice Department as early as this week…. – The Arizona Republic, 6-27-10
  • ‘McChrystal downbeat on Afghan war before sacking’: US General Stanley McChrystal issued a highly critical assessment of the war in Afghanistan just days before he was sacked by President Barack Obama, a British newspaper reported Sunday. The Independent on Sunday said leaked military documents showed McChrystal had briefed defence ministers from the countries involved in the war earlier this month and warned them to expect no progress in the next six months…. – AFP, 6-27-10
  • Vice President Biden to visit Gulf Coast region to see BP’s oil spill first hand: Vice President Biden will visit the Gulf Coast on Tuesday to check on progress in the ongoing fight against the massive oil spill, officials said Friday. Biden will visit the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle, where miles of beach are closed as murky plumes of oil loom not far offshore. The trip will be the vice president’s first since the crisis in the Gulf began. President Obama has visited the region four times in recent months…. – NY Daily News, 6-26-10
  • GOP: Schwarzenegger ‘a great disappointment’: Gov. has few friends in Calif. party, massive deficit, low approval ratings… – WaPo, MSNBC, 6-26-10
  • Former VP Cheney hospitalized: Former Vice President Dick Cheney was admitted to the hospital Friday after experiencing discomfort, the latest health scare for the 69-year-old Republican leader who has a long history of heart disease. Cheney was expected to remain at George Washington University Hospital over the weekend, said spokesman Peter Long…. – AP, 6-25-10
  • Democrats Fix Strategy for Undefined Climate and Energy Bill: Emotions surged during a “thrilling” caucus gathering in which Democrats plotted to bring a vote on climate legislation to the floor this summer. They promised to challenge resistant Republicans to oppose a measure focusing on polluters as oil from the site of an exploded rig continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.
    But the party faces the same thorny questions it did before the rousing “rank and file uprising,” as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) described the meeting. The questions include whether Democrats have enough support among their own members to impose a price on greenhouse gas emissions…. – NYT, 6-25-10
  • Lawmakers Agree on Wall Street’s Biggest Overhaul Since 1930s: Congressional negotiators today approved the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. financial regulation since the Great Depression, reshaping oversight of Wall Street and some of its most opaque concoctions. Lawmakers from the House and Senate worked through the night in a 20-hour session to reach deals on two of their most far-reaching and contentious proposals — a ban on proprietary trading by banks and new oversight of the derivatives market. This month, they’ve also agreed on measures to wind down big firms whose collapse might shake markets, to keep tabs on hedge funds and to make it easier for investors to sue credit raters.
    “This is going to be a very strong bill, and stronger than almost everybody predicted that it could be and that I, frankly, thought it would be,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters June 23 as lawmakers prepared for the final round of talks…. – Bloomberg, 6-25-10
  • House, Senate lawmakers reach a deal on financial reform: The sweeping legislation, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis, would create a consumer protection bureau, impose tough regulations on derivatives and grant the government power to seize and dismantle teetering firms… – LAT, 6-25-10
  • Congress Fails to Pass an Extension of Jobless Aid: Legislation to extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits teetered on the edge of collapse on Thursday, as Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse. Senate Republicans and a lone Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined forces to filibuster the bill in a procedural vote on Thursday. Visibly frustrated, the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would move on to other business next week because he saw little chance of winning over any Republican votes. The vote was 57 to 41, with the Democrats falling three short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. “You’ll hear a lot of excuses,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference. “The bottom line is the minority just said no.”… – NYT, 6-25-10
  • House OKs campaign-spending disclosure bill: Democrats in Congress, scrambling to rein in special-interest spending before November’s midterm elections, pushed through a bill Thursday that would require CEOs to appear in campaign ads they fund and impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by most Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who cast it as violating free-speech protections and riddled with loopholes for powerful groups, such as the National Rifle Association and labor unions. The measure’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass a bill over Republican objections. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the chamber’s top Republican, Thursday assailed the proposal as “protecting incumbent Democratic politicians.”… – USA Today, 6-25-10
  • Obama, new Australian prime minister speak about war: Australia’s new prime minister pledged her commitment to the war in Afghanistan during a phone call with President Obama, the two leaders said. “I assured President Obama that my approach to Afghanistan will continue the approach taken to date by the Australian government,” said Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, on Friday. “I fully support the current deployment and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian effort in Afghanistan continuing.”
    During the talk, Obama and Gillard “underscored their shared commitment to closely work together on the broad range of global challenges confronting both countries, including in Afghanistan,” the White House statement said… – CNN, 6-25-10
  • CNN, 6-24-10
  • Short, Tense Deliberation, Then a General Is Gone: By the time he woke up Wednesday morning, President Obama had made up his mind. During the 36 frenetic hours since he had been handed an article from the coming issue of Rolling Stone ominously headlined “The Runaway General,” the president weighed the consequences of cashiering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose contemptuous comments about senior officials had ignited a firestorm. Mr. Obama, aides say, consulted with advisers — some, like Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who warned of the dangers of replacing General McChrystal, others, like his political advisers, who thought he had to go. He reached out for advice to a soldier-statesman, Colin L. Powell. He identified a possible successor to lead the war in Afghanistan. And then, finally, the president ended General McChrystal’s command in a meeting that lasted only 20 minutes. According to one aide, the general apologized, offered his resignation and did not lobby for his job. After a seesaw debate among White House officials, “there was a basic meeting of the minds,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a major player in the deliberations. “This was not good for the mission, the military and morale,” Mr. Emanuel said…. – NYT, 6-24-10
  • Oregon woman accused Gore of sexual misconduct in 2006: Law officials say former Vice President Al Gore was accused of “unwanted sexual contact” during a visit to Portland in October 2006. Authorities in Portland investigated in late 2006 and early 2007 whether former Vice President Al Gore sexually assaulted a masseuse while visiting that city, but the matter was dropped for lack of evidence, officials said Wednesday…. – Seattle Times, 6-23-10
  • Dems exploit Barton apology to BP in election push: In need of political momentum, Democrats are exploiting Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s startling apology to Gulf oil spiller BP for its treatment by the Obama administration, launching a steady, low-budget campaign of fundraising appeals, a pair of television commercials and Web ads. Little more than four months before midterm elections, party officials appear to be testing ways to maximize the gain from an episode that ricocheted across the Capitol at a furious pace last week, and that Republicans deemed significant enough to force Barton to recant his remarks…. – AP, 6-23-10
  • Obama seeks new drill ban as oil still spews: The White House was set on Wednesday to step up its legal battle to keep deepwater drilling on hold in the Gulf of Mexico following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A U.S. judge on Tuesday overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet (152 metres) after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business… – Reuters, 6-23-10
  • SPIN METER: Defining ‘border security’: You wouldn’t know it from the public debate, but the U.S.-Mexico border is more fortified now than it was even five years ago. Far more agents patrol it, more fences, barriers and technology protect it and taxpayers are spending billions more to reinforce it. Despite those efforts, calls for increased border security are elbowing out cries for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws and inducing Congress and the administration to spend even more money on border enforcement…. – AP, 6-23-10
  • Obama requests $600 million for border security: The president’s emergency funding request would pay for more Border Patrol agents, drones, National Guard troops and more…. – LAT, 6-22-10
  • Obama Says Health Law Shouldn’t Be Excuse to Raise Rates: President Obama, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, warned industry executives at the White House on Tuesday not to use the bill “as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don’t boost care and inflate their bottom line.” Mr. Obama made his remarks in the East Room of the White House after a private meeting with executives of leading health insurance companies and with state insurance commissioners who regulate them. As the new law is being implemented, the White House wanted to issue a pointed reminder to insurers — and the public — that the president intends to monitor the industry’s behavior.
    “There are genuine cost drivers that are not caused by insurance companies,” Mr. Obama said. “But what is also true is that we’ve got to make sure that this new law is not being used as an excuse to simply drive up costs.”… – NYT, 6-22-10
  • Hoyer: Permanent middle class tax cuts too costly: A top House Democrat said Tuesday that tax increases will eventually be necessary to address the nation’s mounting debt, raising a difficult election-year issue as Democrats fight retain control of Congress. In the near term, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer raised the possibility that Congress will only temporarily extend middle-class tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. He pointedly suggested that making them permanent would be too costly…. – AP, 6-20-10
  • AP source: White House budget chief stepping down: White House Budget Director Peter Orszag’s expected resignation would make him the first high-profile member of President Barack Obama’s team to depart the administration. A Democratic official said Monday that Orszag is expected to leave in the coming months, although the exact timing is not known. The official confirmed the news to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced…. – AP, 6-22-10
  • A White House “shakedown?” A lot of House Republicans agree: Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s apology to BP last week for what he called a “shakedown” by President Obama to pay for the gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico barely caused a ripple among local Republican House members. Is it because they agree with him? The White House had worked out a deal with BP that the oil giant would create a $20 billion compensation fund. But Barton, a senior Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apologized to BP. “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” he told BP executives at a hearing. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown…I apologize.” Kansas City Star, 6-22-10
  • High court upholds anti-terror law prized by Obama: The Supreme Court upheld the government’s authority Monday to ban aid to designated terrorist groups, even when that support is intended to steer the groups toward peaceful and legal activities….
    The justices voted 6-3 to reject a free-speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups to the law that bars “material support” — everything from money to technical know-how to legal advice — to foreign terrorist organizations…. – AP, 6-21-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Despite opposition, Texas two-step primary process prevails: The unique Texas two-step primary process scooted forward, despite a move Saturday to scrap the system that was overwhelmed by overflow crowds in 2008. Boyd Richie, accompanied by wife Betty, was reinstated as state chairman Saturday during the Texas Democratic Party’s convention in Corpus Christi. Texas Democrats meeting at their state convention upheld the dual primary vote and caucus system called the two- step. Delegates also reinstated Boyd Richie as state chairman and adopted a policy statement that endorses the new federal health care law…. – Dallas News, 6-27-10
  • McCain will join 2 GOP debates: Sen. John McCain’s re-election campaign on Friday announced that he has accepted two invitations to debate Republican primary opponents J.D. Hayworth and Jim Deakin next month. McCain has agreed to 7 p.m. televised debates on July 16 on Phoenix’s Channel 3 (KTVK) and on July 17 on the “Arizona Illustrated” program on Tucson PBS affiliate Channel 6 (KUAT). Early voting for the Aug. 24 GOP primary starts July 29. The Arizona Republic, 6-26-10
  • Texas Democrats to rally at convention: After traveling for months courting all types of Texas voters, Democrat Bill White will try to ignite excitement among party loyalists with his starring role at the Democratic Party’s state convention.
    “The face of the party looks much like the face of the state. So this is an opportunity for people in different parts of the state to get to know each other and to resolve we want an election that will put Texas first,” White said this week. He’s urging delegates to recruit friends and neighbors, even those who don’t always vote for Democrats.
    That kind of support from independent voters is what White will need in November in conservative Texas, where Republicans have dominated state politics since sweeping all statewide elections in 1998 and where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is the fall favorite… – AP, 6-25-10
  • Navy exaggerations damage Ill. Senate candidate: Republican Mark Kirk has stepped on a political landmine of his own creation, leaving him as damaged as his Democratic opponent in the race for an Illinois Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Kirk, a 21-year veteran in the Navy Reserve, was caught exaggerating his military record. He claimed an award he didn’t win. He mentioned serving in overseas conflicts while he was safely in the United States. He stretched the facts when talking about combat and coming under fire. And his troubles don’t end there: Even his references to being a teacher are being questioned. Two months ago, it was Kirk’s Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, who was on the ropes. Federal regulators had taken over his family’s Chicago bank, Broadway Bank, which had grown insolvent because of bad loans and a bad economy. Stories about the bank lending money to criminals were resurrected, leading Republicans to start calling Giannoulias a “mob banker.”…. – AP, 6-24-10
  • South Carolina Republicans buck biases in runoff election: The conservative state’s GOP nominates Nikki Haley for governor and Tim Scott for Congress in a runoff vote. Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah also hold nomination contests for November’s midterms…. – LAT, 6-23-10
  • Inglis becomes fifth congressional casualty of anti-incumbent year: South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis became the latest victim of the anti-incumbent wave Tuesday, losing his bid for a seventh term to GOP rival Trey Gowdy. Prosecutor Trey Gowdy has just made six-term incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis the fifth congressional incumbent to fall prey to this year’s anti-incumbent tide. Gowdy has defeated the veteran South Carolina lawmaker in a runoff for the GOP nomination, the Associated Press reports…. – USA Today, 6-22-10
  • Matheson cruises to victory: Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, easily held off his first-ever primary challenge Tuesday and will get a shot at a sixth term. With 98 percent of precincts counted by press time, Matheson led 2nd Congressional District Democratic challenger Claudia Wright 68 percent to 32 percent. Republican Morgan Philpot awaits in the Nov. 2 general election…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 6-23-10
  • Lee wins Utah GOP Senate nomination: Utah Republicans chose their nominee for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, selecting a legal scholar who grew up in a family of lawyers and fondly recalls discussing the Constitution over childhood dinners. Mike Lee is the overwhelming favorite to win in November and replace Sen. Bob Bennett, who was ousted at the Republican convention in May amid a wave of anti-incumbent rage around the country. Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater beat out Bennett at the convention to advance to Tuesday’s primary. Lee won on Tuesday, earning a nearly a 5,000 vote lead with 84 percent of precincts reporting for about 51 percent of the vote…. – AP, 6-23-1-
  • Gowdy knocks Inglis out of office: Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg has knocked U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis out of the 4th Congressional seat. Several hundred Gowdy supporters are celebrating at the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg. The solicitor was the leader in the Republican Primary two weeks ago, and once again bested Inglis tonight, scoring well with voters in the congressman’s home county of Greenville. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Gowdy had 51,541 votes (70 percent). Inglis garnered 21,898 votes (30 percent)…. – Go Up State, 6-22-10
  • Harold Johnson wins 8th District GOP race Newcomer rides recognition, party endorsements to primary victory: Former sportscaster Harold Johnson defeated businessman Tim D’Annunzio Tuesday after an expensive and combative 8th District congressional primary that saw party leaders go to extraordinary lengths in supporting him. Johnson, who turns 69 next week, was winning about 61 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. He piled up big margins in the district’s western portion, including Cabarrus County, which offset D’Annunzio’s support in the east. Johnson now faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell and Libertarian Thomas Hill in the 10-county district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville…. – Charlotte Observer, 6-23-10
  • Elaine Marshall, William Randall score runoff election wins in Person County: Despite a low voter turnout, two candidates emerged victorious in a pair of runoff elections in Person County Tuesday and the two also appeared headed to wins statewide as of press time for today’s edition. The runoff contests were between two Democrats vying to challenge Richard Burr this fall for his seat in the U.S. Senate and two Republicans battling for the U.S. House of Representatives District 13 seat, now occupied by Democrat Brad Miller. The Democratic runoff featured Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham. Marshall was North Carolina’s secretary of state for over 10 years and Cunningham is a former state senator from Lexington. In the Republican runoff, William (Bill) Randall and Bernie Reeves faced off to determine who would move on to face Burr, who easily defeated his three Republican challengers in May…. – Roxboro Courier, 6-23-10
  • Primary/Runoff Day in Utah, South and North Carolina: What to Watch ForWaPo, 6-22-10
  • Utah Republican Senate primary could be a test for tea party: As a test of the “tea party” movement’s ability to galvanize voters for a single chosen candidate, Utah’s GOP Senate primary Tuesday is likely to deliver a mixed message. Republicans Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee survived a bruising convention in May that knocked out incumbent Sen. Robert F. Bennett and gave the tea party and other conservative groups bragging rights as a dragon-slayer. Now, most of those groups — but not all of them — have rallied around Lee, a 38-year-old lawyer. But Bridgewater, 49, is even or ahead in several polls…. – WaPo, 6-22-10
  • Cuomo, Lazio toked pot in youth: New York governor candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio say they have both smoked marijuana in their youth. The question is, does anyone care? Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll answers with a loud “no.” AP, 6-22-10
  • McCain Is Now Running Just to Stay in Place: But less than two years after he was defeated by Barack Obama, nothing seems quite the same for Senator John McCain, who has gone from being his party’s candidate for president rallying 1,000 supporters at a Florida football stadium to furiously defending his Senate seat before 60 recession-weary residents in a Hampton Inn in Lake Havasu, Ariz…. – NYT, 6-22-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address
  • Elena Kagan’s Opening Statement: Excerpts: “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation. We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.” That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters. What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding. And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.
    “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.
    “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process. That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
    “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system. And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’
    I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons. I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.” – CBS News, 6-28-10
  • Vice President Joe Biden caught on video calling custard shop manager a ‘smarta–’ after taxes quip: Biden was in Milwaukee to talk about jobs on Saturday, and made a stop at a Kopp’s Frozen Custard outside the city.
    “What do we owe ya?” the vice president asked after enjoying some of the cold treats.
    “Don’t worry, it’s on us,” the unnamed store manager replied, but then added: “Lower our taxes and we’ll call it even.”
    A few minutes later, Biden indicated he didn’t exactly appreciate the remark. “Why don’t you say something nice instead of being a smarta– all the time?” he said to the manager, in an exchange captured on video by local station WISN. “Say something nice.”… – NY Daily News, 6-27-10
  • Palin: Obama administration selling out allies: Sarah Palin on Sunday painted President Barack Obama’s administration as a cowering giant intent on surrendering the nation’s mantle as a superpower and willing to sell out its allies…. “Do they think, really, that we’re getting anything in return for all this bowing and kowtowing and apologizing? No, we don’t get anything positive in return for this,” Palin said at the event spearheaded by a Norfolk talk radio station. “So while President Obama is getting pushed around by the likes of Russia and China, our allies are left to wonder about the value of an alliance with our country any more. They’re asking what is it worth,” she said…. – AP, 6-28-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 26, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.
    I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.
    That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them….
    Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.
    Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.
    But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again. – WH, 6-26-10
  • Remarks by the President on Wall Street Reform: Now, let me be clear. Our economic growth and prosperity depend on a strong, robust financial sector, and I will continue to do what I can to foster and support a dynamic private sector. But we’ve all seen what happens when there’s inadequate oversight and insufficient transparency on Wall Street.
    The reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we’re still recovering from.
    We’ll put in place the toughest consumer financial protections in our history, while creating an independent agency to enforce them. Through this agency, we’ll combine under one roof the consumer protection functions that currently are divided among half a dozen different agencies. Now there will be one agency whose sole job will be to look out for you.
    Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.
    Instead, we’ll make sure that credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. You’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms so you know what you’re agreeing to. And you’ll have the clear and concise information you need to make financial decisions that are best for you and your family.
    Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex deals that help trigger this crisis, like trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market, into the light of day. We’ll enact the Volcker Rule to make sure that banks protected by the safety net of the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. And we’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. No longer will be have companies that are “too big to fail”.
    Over the last 17 months, we passed an economic Recovery Act, health insurance reform, education reform, and we are now on the brink of passing Wall Street reform. And at the G20 summit this weekend, I’ll work with other nations not only to coordinate our financial reform efforts, but to promote global economic growth while ensuring that each nation can pursue a path that is sustainable for its own public finances. – WH, 6-25-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David

President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Julian E. Zelizer: How Afghanistan became the ignored war: If the Korean War, which began 60 years ago this past weekend, was America’s forgotten war, Afghanistan has been America’s ignored war.
    Since President Obama authorized a surge of troops in Afghanistan in December 2009, there has been a notable absence of public debate or interest about this conflict.
    Although the media has tracked conditions on the ground and more recently has examined the rapid deterioration of U.S. military strategy, Afghanistan has not elicited the same kind of civic dialogue that surrounded President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and certainly nothing like President Johnson’s war in Vietnam.
    Indeed, when the controversy over Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s comments in Rolling Stone magazine erupted in the past week, one of the most surprising aspects of the story was that, for a brief moment, Americans were actually talking about Afghanistan once again. Our nation is in the middle of a war that has gone on for over nine years, but many people have not been paying attention.
    As a result of these factors, Afghanistan has remained off the radar. Perhaps with the McChrystal controversy, the nation will start asking tougher questions about what is going on in this war, what our objectives are and how the strategy is working.
    Unfortunately, we will most likely turn our attention back to other issues, such as the feature story in Rolling Stone called “Lady Gaga Tells All.” In doing so, we will continue an unhealthy pattern of fighting wars outside of the public mind. – CNN, 6-28-10
  • Gil Troy: Primary job for wives of G20 leaders: Do no harm: Though prominent wives have advocated for political initiatives at home, they’ve stayed away from the microphones at international summits…
    “Their basic job is not to do damage,” Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, says. Mr. Troy cites a memo written by U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972, where he considered bringing his wife on a state visit. “If Pat comes to China, she’s coming as a prop,” Mr. Nixon wrote. Not a lot has changed since then, Prof. Troy says…
    Summits can be a haven for the lonely other halves of presidents and prime ministers, Prof. Troy says. “If you’re feeling frustrated or if you’re feeling bored, this is an opportunity to share concerns, to find people who are like minded in the zone of confidence and comfort. If you do have a cause, this is an opportunity to find people who have shared interest and the same power,” he says…
    Prof. Troy says Ms. Obama may not get to speak up about her position on the McChrystal affair, but she can recruit support among other spouses for her less-controversial childhood obesity initiative. The stipulation, though, is “it has to be done within all the protocols and pageantry of the summit.”… – The Globe & Mail, 6-25-10
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