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Monthly Archives: April 2012
2:16 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please be seated. Good afternoon, everybody. It is a great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Noda of Japan, one of America’s closest allies in the Asia Pacific region but also around the world. And, of course, one of the reasons that we enjoy such a strong alliance between our nations is because it’s rooted in the deep friendship between our peoples. I’ve felt it in my own life, during my visits to Japan, including as a young boy. And we’ve seen that friendship on display very profoundly over the past year.
Last month, we marked the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed. All across Japan, people stopped and stood in silence at 2:46 p.m. — the moment that the earth shook. Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of the American people, I want to say to you and the people of Japan — we continue to stand with you as well.
We stand with Japan in honoring the lost and the missing — 19,000 men, women and children who will never be forgotten. We stand with you as you rebuild — what you, Mr. Prime Minister, have called “the rebirth of Japan.” And we stand with Japan — in the Asia Pacific and beyond — because even as it has focused on the hard work at home, Japan has never stopped leading in the world. It is a great tribute to the Japanese people and to leaders like Prime Minister Noda.
I’m told that over the past year many Japanese have found strength in what they call "kizuna" — the bonds of solidarity between friends and neighbors; bonds which cannot be broken. Mr. Prime Minister, the same could be said of the bonds between the United States and Japan. And today we welcome you in that spirit.
As President, I’ve worked to strengthen the ties between our two nations since my first days in office. And when Prime Minister Noda and I first met last September we agreed to modernize our alliance to meet the needs of the 21st century. Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for the personal commitment that you’ve brought to this effort. You’ve called the alliance with the United States Japan’s “greatest asset.” And in our work together we’ve seen your trademark determination and humility.
In fact, during our discussions today, the Prime Minister compared his leadership style to that of a point guard in basketball — he may not be the flashiest player, but he stays focused and gets the job done. He’s brought that same sense of teamwork to our partnership, and it’s helped make this visit a milestone in the history of our alliance.
I’m proud to announce that we have agreed to a new joint vision to guide our alliance, and help shape the Asia Pacific for decades to come. This is part of the broader effort I discussed in Australia last year in which the United States is once again leading in the Asia Pacific.
First, we recognize that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the foundation of the security and prosperity of our two nations but also a cornerstone of regional peace and security. As such, we reviewed the agreement that our governments reached last week to realign American forces in Japan. This reflects our effort to modernize America’s defense posture in the Asia Pacific with forces that are more broadly distributed, more flexible and more sustainable. At the same time, it will reduce the impact on local communities, like Okinawa.
Second, our joint vision commits us to deepening our trade and investment. We’re already among each other’s top trading partners, and our exports to Japan and Japanese companies here in the U.S. support more than 1 million American jobs. But there’s more we can do, especially as we work to double U.S. exports. So I appreciate the Prime Minister updating me on his reform efforts in Japan, including liberalizing trade and playing a leading role in Asia Pacific’s economy. We instructed our teams to continue our consultation regarding Japan’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would benefit both our economies and the region. And we agreed to deepen our cooperation on nuclear safety, clean energy and cyber security to enhance our economic competitiveness.
Third, our joint vision lays out the future we seek in the Asia Pacific — a region where international rules and norms are upheld, where nations contribute to regional security, where commerce and freedom of navigation is not impeded and where disputes are resolved peacefully. As such, we continue our close consultations on the provocative actions of North Korea, which are a sign of weakness and not strength, and only serve to deepen Pyongyang’s isolation. And we discussed the changes underway in Burma and how our two nations can both reward progress there while encouraging more reforms that improve the lives of the Burmese people.
Fourth, our joint vision reaffirms our role as global partners bound by shared values and committed to international peace, security and human rights. For example, our nations are the largest donors in Afghanistan. As we plan for the NATO Summit in Chicago and the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan, Japan is planning for a donor conference to sustain development there.
I also want to take this opportunity to commend the Prime Minister and Japan for showing such strong leadership with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. The regime in Tehran is now feeling the economic screws tighten, and one of the reasons is that countries like Japan made the decision to reduce oil imports from Iran. This is just one more example of how, despite challenging times at home, Japan has continued to serve as a model and a true global leader.
Finally, our joint vision commits us to deepening the ties between our peoples. This includes new collaborations between our scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to foster innovation. And it includes new exchanges that will bring thousands of our young people together, including high school students, to help Japanese communities rebuild after last year’s disasters.
So, again, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for helping to revitalize our extraordinary alliance so that we enjoy even greater security and prosperity for both our countries. And I once again want to salute the people of Japan for the strength and the resilience and the courage that they’ve shown during this past year. More than ever, the American people are proud to call you a friend and honored to call you an ally.
And before I turn it over to the Prime Minister, I just want to warn the American press that the Prime Minister once considered himself a journalist, and instead he became a judo expert. He is a black belt. (Laughter.) So if you get out of line — (laughter) — I’ve got some protection here. (Laughter.)
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: (As interpreted.) Well, following President Obama forward, I, the point guard, Noda, will take over the microphone.
Now, this is the first visit to the United States by a Japanese Prime Minister in the bilateral context since the change of government took place in Japan. I wish to thank President Obama for the warm welcome and hospitality, as I know how busy he is with official duties.
I had a very good exchange of views with the President today on bilateral relations between Japan and the United States, the situation in the Asia Pacific region and various global challenges, among others. We were able to confirm from broader perspectives the present-day significance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and where the Japan-U.S. relations should be headed in the longer term.
The President just now spoke about his support, and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the unsparing support given by the government and people of the United States, starting with Operation Tomodachi conducted by U.S. forces at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake of last year.
Yesterday I met with the bereaved family of Taylor Anderson, who unfortunately passed away, but who took care of children until the very last moment following the Great East Japan Earthquake. I also met with representatives of the Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team who, immediately following the earthquake, deployed in the disaster-affected region to help the people. So I was able to meet myself with these true friends of Japan.
Now, I have always held the conviction that our bilateral alliance is the lynchpin of Japan’s diplomacy, having had conversations with my — with our U.S. friends yesterday — (technical difficulties) — in other words, major opportunities and challenges exist side by side in the region.
To cope with such conditions we are determined, as spelled out in the shared vision, to realize the new U.S. forces realignment plan in accordance with the Security Consultative Committee, or 2-plus-2, joint statement released the other day and to step up bilateral security and defense cooperation in a creative manner.
We also need to work with regional partners to build a multi-layered network that is open, comprehensive and building on international rules utilizing such frameworks as trilateral dialogues among Japan-U.S.-ROK and Japan-U.S.-Australia, East Asia Summit and APEC. From this point of view, we shall also cooperate with China, which is an important partner.
It is also important that Japan and the United States cooperate to promote necessary rules-making in the areas of non-traditional threats such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and piracy, as well as human security and peace-building and development assistance — ocean, space, and cyber space.
In the economic area, we shall deepen bilateral economic ties and fortify the growth and prosperity of the two countries through their promotion of economic integration in the Asia Pacific region. And to this end, both our countries will work on regional trade and investment rules-making, with a view to building AFTA or the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. From this vantage point as well, we shall advance consultations with a view to participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
The shared vision also calls for the strengthening of energy cooperation. And we discussed in our meeting today expanding LNG exports from the United States to Japan.
Last, but not the least, as stated in the shared vision it is important to boost exchanges among next generation youth in the interest of the future of the Japan-U.S. alliance. We will further step up people-to-people exchanges among youth through such endeavors as Japan’s Kizuna Project and U.S. Tomodachi Initiative.
The Japan-U.S. alliance has reached new heights. Together with President Obama, I shall firmly advance these steps. I thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: So we’ve got two questions on each side. We’re going to start with Laura MacInnis of Reuters.
Q President Obama, could you confirm whether the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is under U.S. protection in Beijing? And how do you foresee that situation being resolved? Would the United States grant him asylum if he asked for it?
And Prime Minister Noda, how likely do you think it is that North Korea will carry out a third nuclear test? How would Japan respond to such a test? And what would you like the U.S. to do to respond?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Obviously, I’m aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I’m not going to make a statement on the issue. What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up. It is our belief that not only is that the right thing to do because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be stronger as it opens up and liberalizes its own system.
We want China to be strong and we want it to be prosperous. And we’re very pleased with all the areas of cooperation that we’ve been able to engage in. But we also believe that that relationship will be that much stronger and China will be that much more prosperous and strong as you see improvements on human rights issues in that country.
I know it wasn’t directed at me, but I’ll just make a quick statement around North Korea. This was a topic of extensive discussion between myself and Prime Minister Noda. Our consultation throughout the failed missile launch was, I think, reflective of how important our alliance is not just to our two countries, but to the region as a whole. And what I’ve tried to do since I came into office is to make sure that North Koreans understand that the old pattern of provocation that then gets attention and somehow insists on the world purchasing good behavior from them, that that pattern is broken.
And what we’ve said is, is that the more you engage in provocative acts, the more isolated you will become, the stronger sanctions will be in place, the more isolated you will be diplomatically, politically and commercially. And so although we can’t anticipate — and I don’t want to hypothesize on what might happen in the coming months — I think Pyongyang is very clear that the United States, Japan, South Korea, other countries in the region are unified in insisting that it abide by its responsibilities, abide by international norms, and that they will not be able to purchase anything from further provocative acts.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: (As interpreted.) With regard to North Korea, between myself and President Obama earlier we — with regard to the so-called launch of satellite — the missile launch — we share the view that it undermines the efforts of the various countries concerned to achieve resolution through dialogue.
Now, in the latest round of missile launch, they also conducted a nuclear test, which means that there is a great possibility they will conduct a nuclear test. And I believe the international community as a whole, together, will need to call for restraint on the part of DPRK, and more specifically I believe the measures incorporated in the recent U.N. Security Council chairman’s statement need to be complied with. And among Japan, the U.S. and Korea, as well as China and Russia, we need to communicate with each other fully and also stress that China’s role continues to be very important, and cooperate with China while also maintaining close coordination with the United States. And we shared this view with President Obama.
And let me ask Mr. Imaichi of TBS, from Japan, to ask a question.
Q (As interpreted.) Imaichi, of TBS Television, and I have a question for both President Obama and Prime Minister Noda. How do you regard the Futenma relocation issue in the context of this joint statement, although you did not refer specifically to Futenma relocation? And the interim report on U.S. Forces Japan realignment leaves this question open to some extent. And what do you think of the possibility that Futenma Air Station ultimately will be relocated to a place other than Henoko as agreed between Japan and the United States?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: (As interpreted.) Now, it is most meaningful that in the 2-plus-2 joint statement, as well as the summit meeting today, that we were able to confirm that our two countries will cooperate in the context of a deepening bilateral alliance towards the realization of the optimum U.S. force posture in the region and the reduction of burden on Okinawa, and we’ll continue to work for an early resolution of this issue by taking into account the development of the (inaudible) date.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The realignment approach that's being taken is consistent with the security interests of both Japan and the United States. We think we’ve found an effective mechanism to move this process forward in a way that is respectful of the situation in Okinawa, the views of residents there, but also is able to optimize the defense cooperation between our two countries and the alliance that's the lynchpin not just of our own security but also security in the region as a whole.
So we’re confident that we can move forward with an approach that realigns our base posture or our deployments, but also is continuing to serve the broad-based interests of our alliance as a whole.
And I want to thank publicly Prime Minister Noda for having taken such a constructive approach to an issue that has been lingering in our bilateral relationship for quite some time.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Christi Parsons.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the killing of bin Laden. I wonder if you would share some thoughts on that anniversary. And I also wanted to mention that your likely opponent says, “Anybody would have made that call, even Jimmy Carter.” So I’m curious to see what you would say about that.
And, Mr. Prime Minister, if I may, on the same topic, you mentioned the international fight against terrorism in your opening remarks, and I wonder if you could reflect on President Obama’s record here and if you think from an international perspective the U.S. is playing it right in marking this anniversary? Or if you think it — you might advise against excessive celebration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me make a couple of points. First of all, Christi, I hardly think that you’ve seen any excessive celebration taking place here. I think that people — the American people rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens. And it’s a mark of the excellence of our intelligence teams and our military teams; a political process that worked. And I think for us to use that time for some reflection to give thanks to those who participated is entirely appropriate, and that's what’s been taking place.
As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I’d just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That's been at least my practice. I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did.
If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: (As interpreted.) President Obama has been standing at the very forefront in the fight against terrorism, and I hold him in very high regard for that.
Now, although bin Laden has been killed, terrorism has not been rooted out, and I think continued efforts will be needed in cooperation with the United States. We also would like to continue all our efforts against terrorism. I think the forms of terrorism are being very diverse — amongst them, cyber terrorism, for example. This (inaudible) between Japan and the United States not just in the cyber — in the space and ocean, but we also decided to cooperate in cyber security as well. So inclusive of all these, Japan and the United States shall work together to root out terrorism of all sorts.
Let me call on Takatsuka-san of Mainichi Shimbun.
Q I’m Takatsuka with Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, and I would like to ask a question for Prime Minister Noda and President Obama.
There’s no direct reference to China in this joint statement. What sort of exchange of views did you have on China in the context of working for stability in the Asia Pacific connected with their advances in the oceans and also their military buildup? I wonder what sort of interlocution you had on the subject.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: (As interpreted.) Let me answer first. As you correctly pointed out, the shared vision does not refer to any specific country, but we recognize China as a major partner in the region. And in our exchange of views, both of us, in fact, confirmed that viewpoint. China’s development is an opportunity for the international community and for Japan and for the Asia Pacific.
Now, I explained in the meeting to President Obama that when I visited China last December, I broached to the Chinese leaders my six-point initiative, including confidence-building and cooperation in the East China Sea in order to further advance our mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, and that I’ll work steadily to implement this.
I also told to the President that I wish to realize his strategic dialogue among Japan, U.S. and China. Now, EAS last year, we — where the view that was a success — and of course ASEAN countries also participated in discussions that we need to seek a rules-based response for behavior from the Chinese. And we had these exchange of views.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that I’ve said in the past and firmly believe that we welcome a peacefully-rising China. And we have developed a very important strategic and economic dialogue with China. We think what they’ve accomplished in terms of lifting millions of people out of poverty is good for its own sake and it’s also potentially good for the world and for the region.
As Prime Minister Noda and I noted, we do believe that as China continues to grow, as its influence continues to expand, that it has to be a strong partner in abiding by international rules and norms — whether those are economic norms like respecting intellectual property; whether these are norms of dispute resolution.
So in maritime disputes, ensuring that small countries and large countries are both respected in international fora in resolving these issues; that across the board, we want China to be a partner with us in a set of international rules and norms that everybody follows. And I think as China makes that transition from a developing country into a major power, that it will see that over the long term it is in its interest as well to abide by these rules and norms.
And so all of our actions are not designed to in any way contain China, but they are designed to ensure that they are part of a broader international community in which rules, norms are respected, in which all countries can prosper and succeed.
Thank you very much, everybody.
2:45 P.M. EDT
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan hold a press conference in the East Room of the White House, April 30, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan met to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan Alliance, a 60-year-old partnership between the two nations based on friendship and a commitment to peace.
Meeting just a month after the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed, President Obama said that “we’ve seen that friendship on display very profoundly over the past year.”
“I’m told that over the past year many Japanese have found strength in what they call "kizuna" — the bonds of solidarity between friends and neighbors; bonds which cannot be broken. Mr. Prime Minister, the same could be said of the bonds between the United States and Japan. And today we welcome you in that spirit.”
Following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, the two leaders laid out a new joint vision to guide their alliance, and shape the Asia Pacific for decades to come. President Obama explained the four main points:
First, we recognize that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the foundation of the security and prosperity of our two nations but also a cornerstone of regional peace and security. As such, we reviewed the agreement that our governments reached last week to realign American forces in Japan. This reflects our effort to modernize America’s defense posture in the Asia Pacific with forces that are more broadly distributed, more flexible and more sustainable. At the same time, it will reduce the impact on local communities, like Okinawa.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Building and Construction Trades Department Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Speaking to 3,000 attendees of the Building and Construction Trades Department conference in Washington, DC this morning, President Obama made an argument for investing in rebuilding America.
He told the crowd:
[As] a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much. Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools, at a time when we’ve got private construction companies all over the world — or all over the country — and millions of workers who are ready and willing to do that work right here in the United States of America?
The President used the conference as an opportunity to call on Congress to get construction workers back on the job:
As we speak, the House Republicans are refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers. Already passed the Senate. Ready to go, ready to put folks back to work. Used to be the most — the easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built, because it’s not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things. Everybody is permitted. Everybody needs them.
So this makes no sense. Congress needs to do the right thing. Pass this bill right away. It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be that hard. Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation.
Read the full remarks here.
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Australia for Ceremonies Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea
President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Canberra and Brisbane, Australia for ceremonies commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea from May 3-5, 2012.
The Honorable Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security will lead the delegation.
Members of the Presidential Delegation:
The Honorable Jeff L. Bleich, United States Ambassador to Australia
Vice Admiral Scott H. Swift, Commander, United States 7th Fleet
High Scores on Simpsons Party Pinball at Chuck E Cheese in Jacksonville FL 2nd place is StopAllWar 4th place is Obama Sux
Washington Hilton Hotel
10:38 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hey! Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Everybody, please have a seat. (Applause.) Thank you, guys. Everybody, take a seat. Well, thank you, Sean, for that outstanding introduction.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) I'll take it. Thank you. Thank you.
Well, it is good to be back among friends. The last time I was here we — was Saturday night. (Laughter.) And they tell me I did okay. But I want to not only thank Sean for his extraordinary leadership; I want to acknowledge all the other presidents who are on stage for what they do each and every day on behalf of not just their members, but on behalf of all working people. I'm proud of that. (Applause.)
I want to thank my good friend, Tim Kaine, who is here and is a friend of labor — (applause) — the next United States senator from the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
And obviously, we come here at a time where — I just want to repeat my condolences to everybody in the building and construction trades on the passing of Mark Ayers. Mark was a tremendous leader. He was a good friend. His commitment to the labor movement and to working people will leave a mark for years to come. And my thoughts and prayers are with his family. But I know that Sean is going to do an outstanding job, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors. So congratulations. (Applause.)
So it's good to be back in front of all of you. It's always an honor to be with folks who get up every day and work real jobs — (laughter) — and every day fight for America's workers. You represent the latest in a long, proud line of men and women who built this country from the bottom up. That's who you are. (Applause.) It was workers like you who led us westward. It was workers like you who pushed us skyward. It was your predecessors who put down the hard hats and helped us defeat fascism. And when that was done, you kept on building –highways that we drive on, and the houses we live in, and the schools where our children learn. And you established the foundation of what it means to be a proud American.
And along the way, unions like yours made sure that everybody had a fair shake, everybody had a fair shot. You helped build the greatest middle class that we've ever seen. You believed that prosperity shouldn’t be reserved just for a privileged few; it should extend all the way from the boardroom all the way down to the factory floor. That's what you believe. (Applause.)
Time and again, you stood up for the idea that hard work should pay off; responsibility should be rewarded. When folks do the right thing, they should be able to make it here in America. And because you did, America became home of the greatest middle class the world has ever known. You helped make that possible — not just through your organizing but how you lived; looking after your families, looking out for your communities. You’re what America is about.
And so sometimes when I listen to the political debates, it seems as if people have forgotten American progress has always been driven by American workers. And that’s especially important to remember today.
The last decade has been tough on everybody. But the men and women of the building and construction trades have suffered more than most. Since the housing bubble burst, millions of your brothers and sisters have had to look for work. Even more have had to struggle to keep the work coming in. And that makes absolutely no sense at a time when there is so much work to be done.
I don’t have to tell you we’ve got bridges and roads all over this country in desperate need of repair. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our railroads are no longer the fastest in the world. Our skies are congested, our airports are the busiest on the planet. All of this costs families and businesses billions of dollars a year. That drags down our entire economy.
And the worst part of it is that we could be doing something about it. I think about what my grandparents’ generation built: the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System. That's what we do. We build. There was a time where we would never accept the notion that some other country has better roads than us, and some other country has better airports than us. I don't know about you, but I’m chauvinistic. I want America to have the best stuff. I want us to be doing the building, not somebody else. (Applause.) We should be having — (applause) — people should be visiting us from all over the world. They should be visiting us from all over the world and marveling at what at what we’ve done.
That kind of unbridled, can-do spirit — that’s what made America an economic superpower. And now, it’s up to us to continue that tradition, to give our businesses access to the best roads and airports and high-speed rail and Internet networks. It’s up to us to make sure our kids are learning in state-of-the-art schools. It’s our turn to do big things. It is our turn to do big things.
But here’s the thing — as a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much. Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools, at a time when we’ve got private construction companies all over the world — or all over the country — and millions of workers who are ready and willing to do that work right here in the United States of America?
American workers built this country, and now we need American workers to rebuild this country. That’s what we need. (Applause.) It is time we take some of the money that we spend on wars, use half of it to pay down our debt, and then use the rest of it to do some nation-building right here at home. (Applause.) There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it, and you guys can help lead the way.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We can do it!
THE PRESIDENT: We can do it. We’ve done it before. And the truth is, the only way we can do it on a scale that’s needed is with some bold action from Congress. They’re the ones with the purse strings. That’s why, over the last year, I’ve sent Congress a whole series of jobs bills to put people to work, to put your members back to work. (Applause.) Again and again, I’ve said now is the time do this; interest rates are low, construction workers are out of work. Contractors are begging for work, and the work needs to be done. Let’s do it. And time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they’ve said no.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses. They said no.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: I went to the Speaker’s hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling. Everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Let him drive on it! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe he doesn’t drive anymore. (Laughter.) Maybe he doesn’t notice how messed up it was. (Laughter.) They still said no.
There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour, hour and a half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don’t work. They still said no. So then I said, well, maybe they couldn’t handle the whole bill in one big piece. Let’s break it up. Maybe it’s just too much for them.
So I sent them just the part of the bill that would have created these construction jobs. They said no.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: We’re seeing it again right now. As we speak, the House Republicans are refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers. Already passed the Senate. Ready to go, ready to put folks back to work. Used to be the most — the easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built, because it’s not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things. Everybody is permitted. (Laughter.) Everybody needs them. (Applause.)
So this makes no sense. Congress needs to do the right thing. Pass this bill right away. It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be that hard. Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation. (Applause.) Not everything should be subject to politics instead of thinking about all those families out there and all your membership that need work — that don’t just support their own families, but support entire communities.
So we’re still waiting for Congress. But we can’t afford to just wait for Congress. You can’t afford to wait. So where Congress won’t act, I will. That’s why I’ve taken steps on my own. (Applause.) That's why I’ve taken steps on my own and speeded up loans and speeded up competitive grants for projects across the country that will support thousands of jobs. That’s why we’re cutting through the red tape and launching a lot of existing projects faster and more efficiently.
Because the truth is, government can be smarter. A whole bunch of projects at the state level sometimes are ready to go, but they get tangled up in all kinds of bureaucracy and red tape. So what we’ve said is if there’s red tape that's stopping a project and stopping folks from getting to work right now, let’s put that aside.
Because the point is, infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Investments in better roads and safer bridges — these have never been made by just one party or another because they benefit all of us. They lead to a strong, durable economy. Ronald Reagan once said that rebuilding our infrastructure is “common sense” — “an investment in tomorrow that we need to make today.” Ronald Reagan said that, that great socialist — Ronald Reagan. (Laughter.) Couldn’t get through a Republican primary these days.
The folks up on Capitol Hill right now, they seem to have exactly the opposite view. They voted to cut spending on transportation infrastructure by almost 30 percent. That means instead of putting more construction workers back on the job, they want to lay more off. Instead of breaking ground on new projects, they want to let existing projects grind to a halt. Instead of making the investments we need to get ahead, they’re willing to let us all fall further behind.
Now, when you ask them, well, why are you doing this — other than the fact that I’m proposing it? (Laughter.) They’ll say it’s because we need to pay down our deficit. And you know what, the deficit is a real problem. All of us recognize in our own lives and our own families, we try to live within our means. So we got to deal with the debt and we got to deal with the deficit.
And their argument might actually fly if they didn’t just vote to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates -– that’s with a T, trillion -– on top of the $1 trillion they’d spend on tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year. So they're willing to spend over $5 trillion to give tax breaks to folks like me who don't need them and weren’t even asking for them at a time when this country needs to be rebuilt. That gives you a sense of their priorities.
Think about that. Republicans in Congress would rather put fewer of you to work rebuilding America than ask millionaires and billionaires to live without massive new tax cuts on top of the ones they’ve already gotten.
Now, what do you think would make the economy stronger? Giving another tax break to every millionaire and billionaire in the country? Or rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our broadband networks that will help our businesses sell goods all around the world? It’s pretty clear. This choice is not a hard one. (Applause.)
Of course, we need to bring down our deficits in the long term. But if we’re smart about it, we also will be making and can afford to make the investments that will help our country and the American people in the short term. Not only will it put people back to work, but if the economy is growing — look, every time one of your members is on a job, that means they’ve got more money in their pockets. That means that they’re going to the restaurant, and that restaurant owner suddenly is doing a little bit better. They’re going to Home Depot to buy some stuff, and suddenly Home Depot is doing a little bit better.
This is a no-brainer. And, by the way, when everybody is doing better and the economy is growing, lo and behold, that actually helps to bring down the deficit, helps us pay off our debt. Previous generations understood this. Apparently, right now, Republicans disagree.
And what makes it worse — it would be bad enough if they just had these set of bad ideas, but they’ve also set their sights on dismantling unions like yours. I mean, if you ask them, what’s their big economic plan in addition to tax cuts for rich folks, it’s dismantling your unions. After all you’ve done to build and protect the middle class, they make the argument you’re responsible for the problems facing the middle class. Somehow, that makes sense to them.
That’s not what I believe. I believe our economy is stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits. That’s what I believe. (Applause.) That’s what I believe. I believe the economy is stronger when collective bargaining rights are protected. I believe all of us are better off when we’ve got broad-based prosperity that grows outwards from a strong middle class. I believe when folks try and take collective bargaining rights away by passing so-called “right to work” laws that might also be called “right to work for less,” laws — (applause) — that’s not about economics, that’s about politics. That’s about politics.
That’s why we’ve reversed harmful decisions designed to undermine those rights. That’s why we passed the Fair Pay Act to help stop pay discrimination. That’s why we’ve supported Davis-Bacon. That’s why we reversed the ban on Project Labor Agreements, because we believe in those things as part of a strategy to rebuild America. (Applause.)
And as long as I’m your President, I’m going to keep it up. (Applause.) I am going to keep it up — because the right to organize and negotiate fair pay for hard work, that’s the right of every American, from the CEO in the corner office all the way to the worker who built that office.
And every day, you’re hearing from the other side whether it’s the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy are more important than investing for our future, or the notion we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that somehow unions are going to crumble. It’s all part of that same old philosophy — tired, worn-out philosophy that says if you’ve already made it, we’ll protect you; if you haven’t made it yet, well, tough luck, you’re on your own.
That misreads America. That's not what America is about. The American story has never been about what we can do on our own. It’s about what we do together. In the construction industry, nobody gets very far by themselves. I'm the first to admit — I’ve got to be careful here because I just barely can hammer a — (laughter) — nail into the wall, and my wife is not impressed with my skills when it comes to fixing up the house. (Laughter.) Right now, fortunately, I'm in a rental, so — (laughter) — I don't end up having to do a lot of work. (Laughter and applause.)
But here is what I know about the trades: If you’ve got folks who aren't pulling together, doing their own thing, things don’t work. But if you've got enough people with the same goal, pulling in the same direction, looking at the same game plan, you can build something that will stand long after you're gone. That's how a Hoover Dam or a Golden Gate Bridge or a Empire State Building gets built — folks working together. We can do more together than we can do on our own.
That's why unions were built — understood workers on their own wouldn't have the same ability to look after themselves and their families as they could together. And what’s true for you is true for America. We can’t settle for a country where just a few people do really well and everybody else struggles to get by. We've got to build an economy where everybody has got a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules. We can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We need to fight for an economy that helps everybody -– one built on things like American education, and American energy, and American manufacturing, and a kind of world-class infrastructure that makes it all possible.
Now, these have been some tough years we've been in. I know a lot of your membership can get discouraged, and they can feel like nobody is looking out for them, and they can get frustrated and they — sure, it's easy to give up on Washington. I know that. But we've been through tougher times before. Your unions have been through tougher times before. And we’ve always been able to overcome it, because we don't quit.
I know we can get there, because here in America we don't give up. We’ve been through tougher times before, and we’ve made it through because we didn't quit, and we didn't throw in the towel. We rolled up our sleeves. We fired up our engines, and we remembered a fundamental truth about our country: Here in America, we rise or fall together as one nation, as one people.
It doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is. It doesn't matter whether your folks came from Poland, or came from Italy or came from Mexico. One people — strong, united, firing all cylinders. That's the America I know. That's the America I believe in. That's the America we can rebuild together. (Applause.)
So if you’re willing to join us in this project of rebuilding America, I want you to know — when I was running for this office, I told people I’m not perfect. I’m not a perfect man. Michelle can tell you that. (Laughter.) I’m not a perfect President. But I made a promise I’d always tell you where I stood. I’d always tell you what I thought, what I believed in, and most importantly I would wake up every single day working as hard as I know how to make your lives a little bit better.
And for all that we’ve gone through over the last three and a half, four years, I have kept that promise. I have kept that promise. (Applause.) And I’m still thinking about you. I’m still thinking about you, and I still believe in you. And if you join me, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:03 A.M. EDT
One year after the raid that delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, will deliver remarks on the Efficacy and Ethics of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy at the Woodrow Wilson Center. On May 1, 2011, President Obama said:
As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
The Woodrow Wilson Center will host the speech and a discussion with Brennan on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to destroy al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as the standards and practices that have been put in place to ensure that the Administration’s counterterrorism operations reflect our values as Americans and uphold the rule of law.
Watch the speech live here (live stream will be embedded in this blog post), or at WIlsonCenter.org.
5:57 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Hey! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) First of all, I want to thank mostly Dorothy for having us here. (Laughter.) Terry actually likes it when there are hundreds of people in his back yard. (Laughter.) And I'm delighted that their — four of their five children are here — Jack, Mary, Sally and Peter. Dori, their other daughter, is off playing in a national tournament in lacrosse. Jack plays rugby for the Naval Academy, where he is in his first year — and I'm very proud of him for his service he's doing. (Applause.)
I love poor Terry McAuliffe. He's so laid back and repressed. (Laughter.) He just can't express himself. (Laughter.) I worry about him. But I tell you what, we had a hundred more like him we wouldn't lose as many elections — (laughter) — he is a — and I'm grateful. (Applause.)
My job is to introduce the President. I'm going to tell you a couple of things I hope you'll remember and share with others. When you become President, your job is to explain where we are, say where you think we should go, have a strategy to get there, and execute it. By that standard, Barack Obama deserves to be reelected President of the United States. (Applause.) And I'm going to tell you the only reason we're even meeting here. I mean, this is crazy — he's got an opponent who basically wants to do what they did before, on steroids — (laughter) — which will get you the same consequences you got before, on steroids. (Laughter.)
So let's be serious here. When then-Senator Obama was running for President, he laid out a forward-looking plan to restore broad-based prosperity with a 21st century economy in the United States, to advance the national security of America, and to build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries. And if he had taken office in that world and implemented those plans in energy, education, health care and across the board — which he has done — we'd be roaring.
But then what happened? September the 15th, 2008, we had a financial crash — only seven weeks before the election. And it didn't bottom out till he he'd been President six months and before any of his policies had time to take effect. If you go back 500 years, whenever a country's financial system collapses, it takes between 5 and 10 years to get back to full employment. If you go back for the last 200 years, when buildings had been widely owned by individuals and companies, if there's a mortgage collapse it almost always takes 10 years. He's beating the clock, not behind it. Don't listen to those Republicans. We are beating the clock. (Applause.)
So if somebody says, well, but I don't feel all that great yet, or not everything is back yet, or it's still kind of slow yet, you just remind them we've gotten 4 million jobs since the recession bottomed out; the ones we lost in the crash have been restored. Thanks to the stimulus which kept unemployment one and a half to two points lower than it would have been. Thanks to his restructuring of the American automobile industry, which saved a million and a half jobs and created 84,000 more. (Applause.) Thanks to the astonishing agreement between labor and management and the environmental groups and the federal government to raise mileage standards on cars that will create 150,000 high-tech jobs and clean the environment for our future. These are the things that have been done.
Terry McAuliffe is moving two factories into America — one in Mississippi, one in Virginia — because of the manufacturing initiatives this President got the Congress to adopt to bring American manufacturing back to the forefront in the world. I'm telling you. (Applause.)
Why do I tell you this? Because somebody will say to you, maybe, but I don't feel better. And you say, look, the man's not Houdini; all he can do is beat the clock. (Laughter.) He's beating the clock. It's not going to take us 10 years to get back to full employment. When I was President, Japan went through a long real estate and financial collapse, and after 10 years they still weren't back to full employment. We are moving this country forward. We are going in the right direction under President Obama's leadership. And I'm telling you — (applause.)
My wife has a traveling job, so I'm home alone a lot. And I have more time to read this stuff than most people. (Laughter.) So I noticed yesterday that the American people are about to get — not counting California, our biggest state — $1.3 billion in refunds on their health insurance premiums because the health care law says that you have to spend 85 percent of your health care premium on health care and not profits and promotions. (Applause.) Then I noticed in the paper today that, for the last two years, inflation in health care costs has been 4 percent — the lowest two-year total in 50 years. And then I might say — (applause.)
Folks, I spoke to a big conglomerate group that was meeting last week in a convention; they asked me to come speak. There were insurers, there were health care providers, there were all these people that — in the health care industry. And I thought they might be hostile to me, and I just had — I said, look, folks, I have to tell you, I support what was done; we had to do something. We were spending almost 18 percent of our income on health care, and nobody else is spending more than 12. That's a trillion dollars a year we're giving up to our competitors. One of the reasons workers have not been getting pay raises in America is their employers wanted to give them pay raises but they had to spend it on their health insurance premiums. So we have to do this.
So after it was over, they said, you're preaching to the saved — even those of us who don't like certain provisions of the health care law would be mortified if it were repealed; we've got the train going down the tracks now. If there's something wrong with it, let's fix it; don't start all over again. And I said — (applause.)
So whether it's on energy, where America led the world in clean energy investment in the last year even though the Chinese government spent more than we did — our investments plus our private venture capital investment led the world. That's because of President Obama's policies — (applause) — or whether it's on health care, on education.
I just have to mention one more thing. One of the things that I think 20 years from now will be among the most important things he's accomplished as President that is never mentioned when I read about what's going on, is the reform in the student loan law which will let every student pay back his or her loan for up to 20 years as a small percentage of their income so nobody ever has to drop out of college again. (Applause.) And I want to tell you why that's important. (Applause.) When he took office, we had dropped — in a decade — from first to 15th in the world in the percentage of our young people with a college education, and we need that back. People need to be able to afford to go and afford to stay.
So I think he's done a good job. (Laughter.) I think he is beating the historical standard for coming out of a financial collapse and a mortgage collapse. I think the last thing you want to do is to turn around and embrace the policies that got us into trouble in the first place. We need to keep going forward by reelecting Barack Obama President of the United States. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) It’s always good to be in Virginia. (Applause.)
To Dorothy, most of all — (laughter) — but also to this guy here, Terry — (laughter) — I want to thank the McAuliffe family for this incredible hospitality. Jack, we could not be prouder of you. You look sharp in whites, man. (Laughter.) And to the whole family, it is a — I’m sure Terry and Dorothy feel the way Michelle and I feel about Malia and Sasha, and the way Bill feels about — Bill and Hillary feel about Chelsea. There’s nothing we do that’s more important than raising our kids. And when we see outstanding young people like this, it gives us a lot of satisfaction. (Applause.)
A couple of other people I want to mention. It was already noted that the next U.S. senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Tim Kaine, is here. I love Tim Kaine. (Applause.) One of the finest men I know. And just a great friend and was a great governor here, obviously.
You also have an outstanding congressman in Jim Moran in the house. (Applause.) And I need to acknowledge, because some of you know I am a former state senator, so I never pass up the chance to introduce state senators, Barbara Favola is here, and this is her district, and we love state senators. Where’s Barbara? She’s over there somewhere. (Applause.) Good to see you, Barbara. (Applause.)
Well, you guys get two Presidents for one out of this event — (laughter) — which is a pretty good deal. (Laughter.) And I was — as I was listening to President Clinton speaking, I was just thinking about the remarkable record that he was able to create during his presidency, and his singular capacity — to be able to explain very difficult concepts in very understandable terms to the American people; a master communicator. But more importantly than his communication skills was — Bill Clinton understood at a time when, let’s face it, the Democratic Party was a little bit lost, he understood what it meant to refocus not on ideology, not on abstractions, but focus on where people live, what they’re going through day to day.
And early in our party in such a way that we were thinking about what has always been the central promise of America; the idea that if you work hard, if you play by the rules, if you’re responsible, then you can live out that basic American promise — the idea that you can find a job that pays a decent living; and buy a home; and send your kids to school; and not have to worry, if you get sick, that you might go bankrupt; and retire with dignity and respect.
And everything he did, all the years that he was in office, was designed to give people the tools to help fulfill that promise. And he did so to a remarkable degree. Terry mentioned the record.
And ever since that time, because of Bill Clinton’s leadership, I think that when you look at the Democratic Party and what we’ve stood for, it has been squarely at the center of how the American people think and what they believe, and is entirely consistent with some of our best traditions and our deepest values.
Now, as has been mentioned, when I came into office, obviously we were experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The month I was sworn into office we lost 750,000 jobs, as I was taking the oath. We had lost 4 million jobs the six months prior, and we would lose another several million jobs before economic policies had a chance to take effect.
So a lot of what we’ve done over the last three and a half years has been designed just to right the ship to respond to crises, to make sure that Detroit didn’t go under, to make sure that the banking system was no longer locked up, to make sure that small businesses could get loans, and consumers could buy a home again or buy a car again; making sure that the system did not break down. And that took enormous amounts of energy and some pretty tough and difficult political decisions.
But I didn’t run for President simply to get back to where we were in 2007. I didn’t run for President simply to restore the status quo before the financial crisis. I ran for President because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was done being President. And for almost a decade what we had seen — (applause) — for almost a decade what we had seen for ordinary families was a betrayal of that basic promise; that core American idea.
The economy in fits and starts grew between 2000 and 2008, but wages and incomes flat-lined. Corporations were profitable, but ordinary people felt like they were working harder and harder just to get by. That sense of middle-class security and the notion that successive generations would do better than the previous one — that felt like it was slipping away for too many people. That’s why I ran for President in 2008 — to restore that basic promise. (Applause.)
And that’s why over the last three and a half years, in addition to dealing with immediate crises, what we’ve tried to do is make sure that we were finally dealing with some of those issues that had been put off and put off and put off so that once again we could build an economy with a firm foundation; an economy built to last, an economy that would deliver for ordinary Americans — (applause) — regardless of where they came from, what they looked like, what their last names were; that idea that you could make it here if you try.
And that’s why we took on issues like health care reform — (applause) — because as President Clinton said, the single most important thing to liberate our businesses, to make sure workers are getting raises, and to free ourselves from crippling debt both at the federal level and at the state level was if we started having a more sensible health care system that provided better quality for lower cost. (Applause.)
And what we’ve been able to do as a consequence — if you look right now — 2.5 million young people able to get health insurance because they’re staying on their parents’ plan; millions of seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs that they weren’t getting before; people being able to get preventive care, the best kind of care, instead of having to go to the emergency room; 30 million people who are going to be able to get health care who didn’t have it before — (applause); people not having to worry if they’ve got a preexisting condition; and now we’re seeing rebates all across the country — over a billion dollars in rebates to consumers, even as health care costs overall are going down.
On education, not only did we make college more affordable, taken $60 billion that was going to banks as middle men in the student loan program, and we were able to cut out the middle man and send that money directly to young people so that now millions more young people are either eligible for Pell Grants or getting higher Pell Grants than they were before and are able to access a college education, we put in place a $10,000 tax credit for young people — or for their parents. (Laughter.) I know you guys are sympathetic. (Laughter.)
But we also started focusing on K-12, and how we’re going to not just — (applause) — how we’re going to get past this debate about reform or more money, and say we need money and reform, and let’s reform those districts and those states and those schools that are doing the right thing, and retaining outstanding teachers, and developing them. And let’s stop just teaching to the test. Let’s make sure that teachers can teach with creativity and passion, but let’s hold them accountable. And so with the help of Arne Duncan and the Secretary of Education, we are on track. Over 40 states now have adopted unprecedented reforms that are going to help us win the 21st century. (Applause.)
We refocused on manufacturing. And everybody has noted the fact that we helped to save Detroit, but here’s the good news. Detroit is building better cars. (Laughter.) Cars that folks want to drive. We’re going to be getting 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade, which will save the average driver $8,000 at the pump. And that’s part of the reason why, actually, we are now consuming — less than 50 percent of our energy is imported; less than 50 percent of our oil is important. So there is an economic benefit, there is a security benefit.
But not only have we helped Detroit produce better cars; we’ve also created entire new industries. Advanced battery manufacturing. The key to electric cars is going to be who wins the race to make the best battery. And when we came into office, it looked like maybe 2 percent of the market was going to go to U.S. companies. Now it looks like it’s going to be 40 percent, because of what we did. We are going to be winning the race for clean energy all across the board. (Applause.)
So whether it’s our investments in clean energy, whether it’s our reform of education, whether it’s our reform of the health care system, whether it’s making sure that Wall Street is operating by the same rules so we don’t go through the same cycle that we did before, whether it’s creating a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that ensures people that aren’t getting cheated in their financial transactions — (applause) — what we’ve done is not just deal with crisis but also try to play the long game, and try to think what are the strategies, what are the investments that are going to help us grow over the long term, and what do we need to do to make sure that everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.
Now, I joke sometimes with my staff, a lot of what we’ve done, a lot of what President Clinton did — there was a time when Republicans thought these were pretty good ideas. (Laughter.) No, that’s the truth. (Laughter.) I mean, you can go back to the first Republican President who comes from my home state, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, who built the first — helped to create the Trans-Continental Railroad System, and in the midst of Civil War started the land grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences; understood the need to make investments in the future. That was not a foreign idea to the Republican Party.
There’s Teddy Roosevelt who thought it was a good idea to have a progressive income tax because he understood that the market works best — Teddy Roosevelt was no socialist. (Laughter.) But what he understood was — is that if you’ve got basic rules of the road in place, and you’ve got equity in the tax system, then everybody can compete, and people win based on the best ideas, not who they can prevent from competing. And you create platforms in which everybody can succeed. That was part of Republican ideas.
As recently as when President Clinton was President, when he tried to tackle health care, he had partners in the United States Senate and in the House on the Republican side who said, you know what, this is an idea that has to be tackled. We may not agree with you on every detail, but we understand that we can’t keep on spending 18 percent of our GDP on health care, and leave 30, 40 million people uninsured. That doesn’t make sense.
And it used to be a guy like a Bob Dole or a Howard Baker, if they wanted to — you know, they were conservative, fiscal hawks — the idea was we were going to balance a budget, and they sure didn’t like tax increases, but they understood if we’re making cuts in spending, then we also need to pay for the kind of government we want. And we’re going to do a balanced approach to how we bring down deficits.
These were not just Democratic ideas. These were American ideas. (Applause.) And part of what’s happened — (applause) — so part of what’s happened is we now have a Republican Party that’s unrecognizable. I’ve said this and I meant it: Ronald Reagan could not get through a Republican primary in this election cycle. (Laughter.) Could not get through it. Here’s a guy who raised taxes. That in and of itself would have rendered him unelectable in a Republican primary.
So I want to — when you’re talking to your friends and your neighbors — I know everybody here knows some Republicans. (Laughter.) You might be married to some. (Laughter.) Might have a mom and dad and whoever. (Laughter.) And describe for them what it is that’s at stake in this election.
When you’ve got a House Republican budget that would, on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, initiate an additional $4 trillion or $5 trillion in tax cuts that would be paid for by decimating everything that Bill Clinton talked about, everything that Terry McAuliffe talked about, everything I’ve been talking about so that the non-defense side of the budget other than Social Security would amount to less than 1 percent — historically it’s never been under 8 percent, even under Republican Presidents. And they’re talking about taking this — everything — education, infrastructure, food safety, environmental protection, national parks — whatever it is that you conceive of as part of what we do together, because we can’t do it on our own, that would be reduced to less than 1 percent of the budget. It would basically be wiped out. That’s not my opinion. That’s what they’re proposing.
And so it is impossible taking their budget, taking their philosophy, taking their approach, to imagine how we compete with China on something like clean energy. It’s impossible to imagine us being able to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our ports, our broadband lines. It’s impossible for us to imagine being able to educate our kids effectively and to produce the number of engineers that we’re going to need, the number of scientists we’re going to need, the number of mathematicians that we’re going to need.
So every election Presidents will — or candidates will say this is the election that — this is a crossroads, this is the biggest election in history. (Laughter.) I’m sure back in 1988, 1989, every — you say this is — (laughter) — we need a bridge to the 21st century and all that. (Laughter.) Every election is the most important election in our history. (Laughter.)
But let me tell you — (laughter and applause) — this one matters. (Applause.) This one matters. (Applause.) This one matters. (Applause.)
And that’s before we start talking about foreign policy. (Applause.) Hillary and I — we’ve spent the last three and a half years cleaning up after other folks’ messes. (Applause.) And by the way, we’ve got them — we’re starting to get them pretty cleaned up. (Applause.) The war in Iraq is over. (Applause.) We’re transitioning in Afghanistan. We’ve got the strongest allies we’ve ever seen. And al Qaeda is on the ropes. (Applause.) So we’ve done what we said we’d do. (Applause.)
But when you’ve got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our number one enemy isn’t al Qaeda, it’s Russia — (laughter) — I don’t make that up. (Laughter.) I’m suddenly thinking what — maybe I didn’t check the calendar this morning. (Laughter.) I didn’t know we were back in 1975. (Laughter.)
That’s before I start talking about social issues that are at stake. You know something about that in Virginia; the kinds of nonsense that’s been going on. But that’s all across the country. When you have folks who talk about — want to repeal “don’t ask” — repeal the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Laughter.) When you have folks who are talking about not just constraining women’s reproductive health, but questioning things like contraception as part of our preventive care.
That’s before I start talking about the fact that there are going to be some Supreme Court appointments probably if you look actuarially for the next President. (Applause.) There's so much at stake here.
So let me just close by saying this — I've overstayed my welcome. Dorothy is saying, golly, I'm — (applause) — I'm trying to get these people out of this house. (Applause.) My lawn is all messed up. (Laughter.)
Let me just say this — and I think Bill will agree with me. There's nothing more humbling, actually, than being President. It's a strange thing. Suddenly you've got all the pomp and the circumstance and you've got the helicopters and you've got the Air Force One and — and the plane is really nice. (Laughter.) It really is. I mean, Bill may not miss being President but he misses that plane. (Laughter.) Let's face it, he does. It's a great plane. (Applause.) And I'll miss it, too. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But not yet!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: But not yet. (Laughter and applause.)
But the reason it's humbling is because you wake up every morning and you know there are folks out there still hurting, especially in what we've been going through over the last four years. Yes, you get letters or you talk to folks, and they've lost their job or they've lost their home, or they thought they were going to retire and suddenly they realize they can't, or it's a young person who has figured out, you know what, I've got to see if I can find work to help my family even though I was planning to go to college. And every day you know that there's just some portion of the country that are good and decent and working really hard, and they're still having a tough time. And you want to just be able to help each one of those people, one by one, because they're deserving of it; because they represent what's best in America. And you know that at the end of the day, no matter how hard you work, there's still going to be some stuff left undone. And you also know that you're going to make mistakes and there are going to be times where your team makes mistakes. And so your mind doesn't rest because you're constantly thinking, what else do I need to be doing?
But I'll tell you two things that keep me going. The first is — and I'm sure President Clinton agrees with this — you get no better vantage point of how wonderful the American people are than when you're President of the United States. And as you're traveling around the country, the resilience and the strength and the core decency of the American people inspire you. And you say to yourself, you know what, no matter what we're going through right now, we're going to be okay. We're going to figure this out because that's who we are and that's what we do. No matter how times — how tough times are — in fact, maybe especially when times are tough, we full together and we figure it out.
And the other thing that gets you through is — or at least gets me through is — I said back in 2008, I'm not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect President; Michelle will confirm that. (Laughter.) But I made a promise that I'd always tell people what I thought, I'd always tell people where I stood, and I'd always wake up every single day working as hard as I could on behalf of you. And that promise, I can say, I've kept. And I can look in the mirror and say that I've kept that promise. (Applause.)
And so if you're willing to join us and finish what we started in 2008, and continue what Bill Clinton was doing when he was President of the United States, and if you are willing to share that vision of what America can be, I guarantee you we won't just win this election, we're going to make sure that we remind this world of ours just why it is America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
6:31 P.M. EDT
THE LNP FEAR CAMPAIGN IS NOTHING MORE THAN THAT… THEY ARE A BACKWARDS WALKING, STUCK IN THE MUD, BLIND HORSE WITH FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE… ONLY THE GREENS AND LABOUR HAVE A BIGGER, BETTER, BRIGHTER, HUGELY PROFITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE GRASPED IN THEIR HANDS… THE LNP HAS NOTHING BUT NEGATIVITY… IF YOU PUT ALL THEIR PATHETIC NEGATIVITY ASIDE YOU WILL SEE THE STATE OF THE NATIONS ECONOMY IN JUST A FEW DAYS, IT IS VERY PROMISING AND THAT IS WHAT MATTERS… WE HAVE A GLORIOUS FUTURE WITH THE GREENS AND LABOUR… IT IS ALL WAYS IMPORTANT TO REALISE THAT WHEN A GOVERNMENT HAS AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY THINGS THAT ARE NOT IN THE NATIONS INTEREST ARE DECIDED, THINGS LIKE MONGREL WORKERS RIGHTS, THE IRAQ WAR ABOTT IN CHARGE OF INTEREST RATES AND A LITTLE DICTATOR THAT SAYS A VOTE FOR OBAMA IS A VOTE FOR TERRORISM… SUN CUM’N