1st Romney/Obama Presidential Debate Election 2012 Denver, Colorado [Full Video &Transcript]

October 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Edit: The former less than desirable video has been replaced.

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LEHRER: Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let’s start the economy, segment one, and let’s begin with jobs. What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?

LEHRER: You have two minutes. Each of you have two minutes to start. A coin toss has determined, Mr. President, you go first.

OBAMA: Well, thank you very much, Jim, for this opportunity. I want to thank Governor Romney and the University of Denver for your hospitality.

There are a lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that 20 years ago I became the luckiest man on Earth because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me.

And so I just want to wish, Sweetie, you happy anniversary and let you know that a year from now we will not be celebrating it in front of 40 million people.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, four years ago we went through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of jobs were lost, the auto industry was on the brink of collapse. The financial system had frozen up. And because of the resilience and the determination of the American people, we’ve begun to fight our way back. Over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. The auto industry has come roaring back. And housing has begun to rise.

But we all know that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. And so the question here tonight is not where we’ve been, but where we’re going.

Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we’ll be better off. I’ve got a different view.

I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going to double-down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess? Or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best? And I’m looking forward to having that debate.

LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim. It’s an honor to be here with you, and I appreciate the chance to be with the president. I’m pleased to be at the University of Denver, appreciate their welcome, and also the presidential commission on these debates.And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me. So I…

(LAUGHTER)

Congratulations. This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, “I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?”Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms, and said, “Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job. And we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?”

And the answer is, yes, we can help, but it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.

My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America, crack down on China, if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We’re a far way from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget.

Number five, champion small business. It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last four years, small- business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.

Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going to double-down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess? Or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best? And I’m looking forward to having that debate.

LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim. It’s an honor to be here with you, and I appreciate the chance to be with the president. I’m pleased to be at the University of Denver, appreciate their welcome, and also the presidential commission on these debates.

And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me. So I…

(LAUGHTER)

Congratulations.

This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, “I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?”

Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms, and said, “Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job. And we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?”

And the answer is, yes, we can help, but it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.

My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America, crack down on China, if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We’re a far way from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget.

Number five, champion small business. It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last four years, small- business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.

Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take. Are we going to double-down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess? Or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best? And I’m looking forward to having that debate.

LEHRER: Governor Romney, two minutes.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim. It’s an honor to be here with you, and I appreciate the chance to be with the president. I’m pleased to be at the University of Denver, appreciate their welcome, and also the presidential commission on these debates.

And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I’m sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me. So I…

(LAUGHTER)

Congratulations.

This is obviously a very tender topic. I’ve had the occasion over the last couple of years of meeting people across the country. I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, “I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?”

Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms, and said, “Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job. And we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?”

And the answer is, yes, we can help, but it’s going to take a different path, not the one we’ve been on, not the one the president describes as a top-down, cut taxes for the rich. That’s not what I’m going to do.

My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America, crack down on China, if and when they cheat. Number three, make sure our people have the skills they need to succeed and the best schools in the world. We’re a far way from that now. Number four, get us to a balanced budget.

Number five, champion small business. It’s small business that creates the jobs in America. And over the last four years, small- business people have decided that America may not be the place to open a new business, because new business startups are down to a 30-year low. I know what it takes to get small business growing again, to hire people.

LEHRER: Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said about trickle-down — his trick-down approach, as he said yours is.

OBAMA: Well, let me talk specifically about what I think we need to do. First, we’ve got to improve our education system and we’ve made enormous progress drawing on ideas both from Democrats and Republicans that are already starting to show gains in some of the toughest to deal with schools. We’ve got a program called Race to the Top that has prompted reforms in 46 states around the country, raising standards, improving how we train teachers.

So now I want to hire another 100,000 new math and science teachers, and create 2 million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now. And I want to make sure that we keep tuition low for our young people.

When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high, so I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States.

On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.

OBAMA: So all of this is possible. Now, in order for us to do it, we do have to close our deficit, and one of the things I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonight is, how do we deal with our tax code? And how do we make sure that we are reducing spending in a responsible way, but also, how do we have enough revenue to make those investments?

And this is where there’s a difference, because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut — on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts — that’s another trillion dollars — and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit, and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of this campaign.

LEHRER: Both of you have spoken about a lot of different things, and we’re going to try to get through them in as specific a way as we possibly can.

But, first, Governor Romney, do you have a question that you’d like to ask the president directly about something he just said?

ROMNEY: Well, sure. I’d like to clear up the record and go through it piece by piece.

First of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about. My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy. They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.

The people who are having the hard time right now are middle- income Americans. Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re just being crushed. Middle- income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a — this is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.

At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up. Food prices are up. Health care costs have gone up by $2,500 a family. Middle-income families are being crushed.

ROMNEY: And so the question is how to get them going again. And I’ve described it. It’s energy and trade, the right kind of training programs, balancing our budget and helping small business. Those are the — the cornerstones of my plan.

But the president mentioned a couple of other ideas I’ll just note. First, education. I agree: Education is key, particularly the future of our economy. But our training programs right now, we’ve got 47 of them, housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies. Overhead is overwhelming. We’ve got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to get in the training they need for jobs that will really help them.

The second area, taxation, we agree, we ought to bring the tax rates down. And I do, both for corporations and for individuals. But in order for us not to lose revenue, have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions, so that we keep taking in the same money when you also account for growth.

The third area, energy. Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies.

Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada.

And, by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.

And finally, with regards to that tax cut, look, I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce the — the revenues going to the government. My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.

But I do want to reduce the burden being paid by middle-income Americans. And I — and to do that, that also means I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans. So any — any language to the contrary is simply not accurate.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, I think — let’s talk about taxes, because I think it’s instructive. Now, four years ago, when I stood on this stage, I said that I would cut taxes for middle-class families. And that’s exactly what I did. We cut taxes for middle-class families by about $3,600.

And the reason is, because I believe that we do best when the middle class is doing well. And by giving them those tax cuts, they had a little more money in their pocket, and so maybe they can buy a new car. They are certainly in a better position to weather the extraordinary recession that we went through. They can buy a computer for their kid who’s going off to college, which means they’re spending more money, businesses have more customers, businesses make more profits, and then hire more workers.

Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked over 100 times how you would close those deductions and loopholes, and he hasn’t been able to identify them.

But I’m going to make an important point here, Jim.

LEHRER: All right.

OBAMA: When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that upper-income individuals can — are currently taking advantage of, you take those all away, you don’t come close to paying for $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending.

OBAMA: And that’s why independent studies looking at this said the only way to meet Governor Romney’s pledge of not reducing the deficit or — or — or not adding to the deficit is by burdening middle-class families. The average middle-class family with children would pay about $2,000 more.

Now, that’s not my analysis. That’s the analysis of economists who have looked at this. And — and that kind of top — top-down economics, where folks at the top are doing well, so the average person making $3 million is getting a $250,000 tax break, while middle-class families are burdened further, that’s not what I believe is a recipe for economic growth.

LEHRER: All right. What is the difference? Let’s just stay on taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Just — let’s just stay on taxes for (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: What is the difference…

ROMNEY: Well, but — but virtually — virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.

Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.

And number three, I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describe and say it’s completely wrong. I saw a study that came out today that said you’re going to raise taxes by $3,000 to $4,000 on middle-income families.

There are all these studies out there. But let’s get at the bottom line. That is, I want to bring down rates. I want to bring the rates down, at the same time lower deductions and exemptions and credits and so forth, so we keep getting the revenue we need. And you’d think, well, then why lower the rates?

ROMNEY: And the reason is because small business pays that individual rate; 54 percent of America’s workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate, but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people. For me, this is about jobs. This is about getting jobs for the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: That’s where we started. Yeah.

Do you challenge what the governor just said about his own plan?

OBAMA: Well, for 18 months he’s been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he’s saying that his big, bold idea is, “Never mind.”

And the fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you described, Governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. It’s — it’s math. It’s arithmetic.

Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth. So at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates — the tax cuts that we put into place for small businesses and families.

But I have said that for incomes over $250,000 a year, that we should go back to the rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president, when we created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus, and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.

And the reason this is important is because by doing that, we cannot only reduce the deficit, we cannot only encourage job growth through small businesses, but we’re also able to make the investments that are necessary in education or in energy.

OBAMA: And we do have a difference, though, when it comes to definitions of small business. Under — under my plan, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up. Governor Romney says, well, those top 3 percent, they’re the job creators, they’d be burdened.

But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income.

And that kind of approach, I believe, will not grow our economy, because the only way to pay for it without either burdening the middle class or blowing up our deficit is to make drastic cuts in things like education, making sure that we are continuing to invest in basic science and research, all the things that are helping America grow. And I think that would be a mistake.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: Jim, let me just come back on that — on that point, which is these…

LEHRER: Just for the — just for record…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: … the small businesses we’re talking about…

LEHRER: Excuse me. Excuse me. Just so everybody understands, we’re way over our first 15 minutes.

ROMNEY: It’s fun, isn’t it?

LEHRER: It’s OK, it’s great. No problem. Well, you all don’t have — you don’t have a problem, I don’t have a problem, because we’re still on the economy. We’re going to come back to taxes. I want move on to the deficit and a lot of other things, too.

OK, but go ahead, sir.

ROMNEY: You bet. Well, President, you’re — Mr. President, you’re absolutely right, which is that, with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not — not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they’re taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half — half of all the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employ one-quarter of all the workers in America. And your plan is to take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent.

Now, and — and I’ve talked to a guy who has a very small business. He’s in the electronics business in — in St. Louis. He has four employees. He said he and his son calculated how much they pay in taxes, federal income tax, federal payroll tax, state income tax, state sales tax, state property tax, gasoline tax. It added up to well over 50 percent of what they earned. And your plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35 percent to 40 percent. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has said that will cost 700,000 jobs.

I don’t want to cost jobs. My priority is jobs. And so what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions, the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way, get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions, to create more jobs, because there’s nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That’s by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced.

OBAMA: Jim, I — you may want to move onto another topic, but I — I would just say this to the American people. If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending that the military is not asking for, $7 trillion — just to give you a sense, over 10 years, that’s more than our entire defense budget — and you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you.

But I think math, common sense, and our history shows us that’s not a recipe for job growth. Look, we’ve tried this. We’ve tried both approaches. The approach that Governor Romney’s talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003, and we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years, we ended up moving from surplus to deficits, and it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

OBAMA: Bill Clinton tried the approach that I’m talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus. And businesses did very well. So, in some ways, we’ve got some data on which approach is more likely to create jobs and opportunity for Americans and I believe that the economy works best when middle-class families are getting tax breaks so that they’ve got some money in their pockets, and those of us who have done extraordinarily well because of this magnificent country that we live in, that we can afford to do a little bit more to make sure we’re not blowing up the deficit.

ROMNEY: Jim, the president began this segment, so I think I get the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Well, you’re going to get the first word in the next segment.

ROMNEY: All right. Well, but he gets the first word of that segment. I get the last word (inaudible) I hope. Let me just make this comment.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I think first of all, let me — let me repeat — let me repeat what I said. I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. That’s point one.

So you may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that’s not my plan.

Number two, let’s look at history. My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before. My plan is to bring down rates, but also bring down deductions and exemptions and credits at the same time so the revenue stays in, but that we bring down rates to get more people working.

My priority is putting people back to work in America. They’re suffering in this country. And we talk about evidence. Look at the evidence of the last four years. It’s absolutely extraordinary. We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country. It’s just — it’s — we’ve got — when the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps; 47 million on food stamps today; economic growth this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before.

Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today.

LEHRER: All right. Let’s talk — we’re still on the economy. This is, theoretically now, a second segment still on the economy, and specifically on what to do about the federal deficit, the federal debt.

And the question, you each have two minutes on this, and Governor Romney, you — you go first because the president went first on segment one. And the question is this, what are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?

ROMNEY: Good. I’m glad you raised that, and it’s a — it’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just an economic issue, I think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives.

And the amount of debt we’re adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral.

So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically, there are three ways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number two is to cut spending. And number is to grow the economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they’re paying taxes, and you can get the job done that way.

The presidents would — president would prefer raising taxes. I understand. The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time.

What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it. Obamacare’s on my list.

I apologize, Mr. President. I use that term with all respect, by the way.

OBAMA: I like it.

ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. So I’ll get rid of that.

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.

Number two, I’ll take programs that are currently good programs but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to the state.

ROMNEY: Number three, I’ll make government more efficient and to cut back the number of employees, combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will be done through attrition, by the way.

This is the approach we have to take to get America to a balanced budget.

The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years. The president’s put it in place as much public debt — almost as much debt held by the public as al prior presidents combined.

LEHRER: Mr. President, two minutes.

OBAMA: When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.

And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression, but what we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow.

So 77 government programs, everything from aircrafts that the Air Force had ordered but weren’t working very well, 18 government — 18 government programs for education that were well-intentioned, not weren’t helping kids learn, we went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively, more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion of waste taken out of the system.

And I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars out of our discretionary domestic budget. That’s the largest cut in the discretionary domestic budget since Dwight Eisenhower.

Now, we all know that we’ve got to do more. And so I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise.

And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit. Governor Romney earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson commission. Well, that’s how the commission — bipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward suggested we have to do it, in a balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts. And this is a major difference that Governor Romney and I have.

Let — let me just finish their point, because you’re looking for contrast. You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue? And he said no.

Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education. It means that Governor Romney…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: … talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities.

LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry.

OBAMA: And — and that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.

LEHRER: Way over the two minutes.

OBAMA: Sorry.

LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Do you support Simpson-Bowles?

ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles, the president should have grabbed that.

LEHRER: No, I mean, do you support Simpson-Bowles?

ROMNEY: I have my own plan. It’s not the same as Simpson- Bowles. But in my view, the president should have grabbed it. If you wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.

OBAMA: That’s what we’ve done, made some adjustments to it, and we’re putting it forward before Congress right now, a $4 trillion plan…

ROMNEY: But you’ve been — but you’ve been president four years…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: You’ve been president four years. You said you’d cut the deficit in half. It’s now four years later. We still have trillion-dollar deficits. The CBO says we’ll have a trillion-dollar deficit each of the next four years. If you’re re-elected, we’ll get to a trillion-dollar debt.

ROMNEY: I mean, you have said before you’d cut the deficit in half. And this — I love this idea of $4 trillion in cuts. You found $4 trillion of ways to reduce or to get closer to a balanced budget, except we still show trillion-dollar deficits every year. That doesn’t get the job done.

Let me come back and say, why is it that I don’t want to raise taxes? Why don’t I want to raise taxes on people? And actually, you said it back in 2010. You said, “Look, I’m going to extend the tax policies that we have now; I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone, because when the economy is growing slow like this, when we’re in recession, you shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone.”

Well, the economy is still growing slow. As a matter of fact, it’s growing much more slowly now than when you made that statement. And so if you believe the same thing, you just don’t want to raise taxes on people. And the reality is it’s not just wealthy people — you mentioned Donald Trump. It’s not just Donald Trump you’re taxing. It’s all those businesses that employ one-quarter of the workers in America; these small businesses that are taxed as individuals.

You raise taxes and you kill jobs. That’s why the National Federation of Independent Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don’t want to kill jobs in this environment.

I’ll make one more point.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: (inaudible) answer the taxes thing for a moment.

ROMNEY: OK.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, we’ve had this discussion before.

LEHRER: About the idea that in order to reduce the deficit, there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.

OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruled out revenue. He’s ruled out revenue.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Absolutely. (CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Look, the revenue I get is by more people working, getting higher pay, paying more taxes. That’s how we get growth and how we balance the budget. But the idea of taxing people more, putting more people out of work, you’ll never get there. You’ll never balance the budget by raising taxes.

Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don’t want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work with more money coming in because they’re working.

LEHRER: But — but Mr. President, you’re saying in order to — to get the job done, it’s got to be balanced. You’ve got to have…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: If — if we’re serious, we’ve got to take a balanced, responsible approach. And by the way, this is not just when it comes to individual taxes. Let’s talk about corporate taxes.

Now, I’ve identified areas where we can, right away, make a change that I believe would actually help the economy.

The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get.

Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that? Why wouldn’t we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it.

When it comes to corporate taxes, Governor Romney has said he wants to, in a revenue neutral way, close loopholes, deductions — he hasn’t identified which ones they are — but that thereby bring down the corporate rate.

Well, I want to do the same thing, but I’ve actually identified how we can do that. And part of the way to do it is to not give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.

Right now, you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’t make sense. And all that raises revenue.

And so if we take a balanced approach, what that then allows us to do is also to help young people, the way we already have during my administration, make sure that they can afford to go to college.

OBAMA: It means that the teacher that I met in Las Vegas, a wonderful young lady, who describes to me — she’s got 42 kids in her class. The first two weeks she’s got them, some of them sitting on the floor until finally they get reassigned. They’re using text books that are 10 years old.

That is not a recipe for growth. That’s not how America was built. And so budgets reflect choices.

Ultimately, we’re going to have to make some decisions. And if we’re asking for no revenue, then that means that we’ve got to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff.

And the magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but more importantly, would not help us grow.

As I indicated before, when you talk about shifting Medicaid to states, we’re talking about potentially a 30 — a 30 percent cut in Medicaid over time.

Now, you know, that may not seem like a big deal when it just is, you know, numbers on a sheet of paper, but if we’re talking about a family who’s got an autistic kid and is depending on that Medicaid, that’s a big problem.

And governors are creative. There’s no doubt about it. But they’re not creative enough to make up for 30 percent of revenue on something like Medicaid. What ends up happening is some people end up not getting help.

ROMNEY: Jim, let’s — we’ve gone on a lot of topics there, and so it’s going to take a minute to go from Medicaid to schools…

LEHRER: Come back to…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: … to oil, to tax breaks, then companies going overseas. So let’s go through them one by one.

First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years. Now…

OBAMA: It’s time to end it.

ROMNEY: And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world.

Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives. And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth.

ROMNEY: But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive you get that rate down to 25 percent.

But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this — this is not — this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.

The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.

LEHRER: Let’s…

ROMNEY: But — but the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: What we do have right now is a setting where I’d like to bring money from overseas back to this country.

And, finally, Medicaid to states? I’m not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.

And I remember, as a governor, when this idea was floated by Tommy Thompson, the governors — Republican and Democrats — said, please let us do that. We can care for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for our poor.

So — so let’s state — one of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.

And, by the way, if a state gets in trouble, well, we can step in and see if we can find a way to help them.

LEHRER: Let’s go.

ROMNEY: But — but the right — the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people and states, not the federal government.

LEHRER: (inaudible) and we’re going on — still on the economy, on another — but another part of it…

OBAMA: OK.

LEHRER: All right? All right. This is segment three, the economy. Entitlements. First — first answer goes to you, two minutes, Mr. President. Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?

OBAMA: You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is — the basic structure is sound.

But — but I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare, and then talk about Medicare, because that’s the big driver of our deficits right now.

You know, my grandmother — some of you know — helped to raise me. My grandparents did. My grandfather died a while back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected president. And she was fiercely independent. She worked her way up, only had a high school education, started as a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up living alone by choice.

And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare. She had worked all her life, put in this money, and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floor under which she could not go.

And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s called entitlements. You know, the name itself implies some sense of dependency on the part of these folks. These are folks who’ve worked hard, like my grandmother, and there are millions of people out there who are counting on this.

OBAMA: So my approach is to say, how do we strengthen the system over the long term? And in Medicare, what we did was we said, we are going to have to bring down the costs if we’re going to deal with our long-term deficits, but to do that, let’s look where some of the money’s going.

$716 billion we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies by making sure that we weren’t overpaying providers. And using that money, we were actually able to lower prescription drug costs for seniors by an average of $600, and we were also able to make a — make a significant dent in providing them the kind of preventive care that will ultimately save money through the — throughout the system.

So the way for us to deal with Medicare in particular is to lower health care costs. When it comes to Social Security, as I said, you don’t need a major structural change in order to make sure that Social Security is there for the future.

LEHRER: We’ll follow up on this.

First, Governor Romney, you have two minutes on Social Security and entitlements.

ROMNEY: Well, Jim, our seniors depend on these programs, and I know anytime we talk about entitlements, people become concerned that something’s going to happen that’s going to change their life for the worse.

And the answer is neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare. So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, you don’t need to listen any further.

But for younger people, we need to talk about what changes are going to be occurring. Oh, I just thought about one. And that is, in fact, I was wrong when I said the president isn’t proposing any changes for current retirees. In fact he is on Medicare. On Social Security he’s not.

But on Medicare, for current retirees, he’s cutting $716 billion from the program. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers. Actually just going to them and saying, “We’re going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board, everybody’s going to get a lower rate.” That’s not just going after places where there’s abuse. That’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario.

We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicare patients.

This — we have 4 million people on Medicare Advantage that will lose Medicare Advantage because of those $716 billion in cuts. I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare.

Now, you point out, well, we’re putting some back. We’re going to give a better prescription program. That’s $1 — that’s $1 for every $15 you’ve cut. They’re smart enough to know that’s not a good trade.

I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can include a prescription program if we need to improve it.

But the idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake.

And with regards to young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare and Social Security are there for them without any question.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: First of all, I think it’s important for Governor Romney to present this plan that he says will only affect folks in the future.

And the essence of the plan is that you would turn Medicare into a voucher program. It’s called premium support, but it’s understood to be a voucher program. His running mate…

LEHRER: And you don’t support that?

OBAMA: I don’t. And let me explain why.

ROMNEY: Again, that’s for future…

OBAMA: I understand.

ROMNEY: … people, right, not for current retirees.

OBAMA: For — so if you’re — if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen ‘cause this — this will affect you.

The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance.

The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year.

Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he’ll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there’s still a problem, because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist that looks at it says, over time, what’ll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse.

OBAMA: And then what you’ve got is folks like my grandmother at the mercy of the private insurance system precisely at the time when they are most in need of decent health care.

So, I don’t think vouchers are the right way to go. And this is not my own — only my opinion. AARP thinks that the — the savings that we obtained from Medicare bolster the system, lengthen the Medicare trust fund by eight years. Benefits were not affected at all. And ironically, if you repeal Obamacare, and I have become fond of this term, “Obamacare,” if you repeal it, what happens is those seniors right away are going to be paying $600 more in prescription care. They’re now going to have to be paying copays for basic checkups that can keep them healthier.

And the primary beneficiary of that repeal are insurance companies that are estimated to gain billions of dollars back when they aren’t making seniors any healthier. And I don’t think that’s the right approach when it comes to making sure that Medicare is stronger over the long term.

LEHRER: We’ll talk about — specifically about health care in a moment. But what — do you support the voucher system, Governor?

ROMNEY: What I support is no change for current retirees and near-retirees to Medicare. And the president supports taking $716 billion out of that program.

LEHRER: And what about the vouchers?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: So that’s — that’s number one.

Number two is for people coming along that are young, what I do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for them is to allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan. Their choice.

They get to choose — and they’ll have at least two plans that will be entirely at no cost to them. So they don’t have to pay additional money, no additional $6,000. That’s not going to happen. They’ll have at least two plans.

ROMNEY: And by the way, if the government can be as efficient as the private sector and offer premiums that are as low as the private sector, people will be happy to get traditional Medicare or they’ll be able to get a private plan.

I know my own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I’d just assume not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people make their own choice.

The other thing we have to do to save Medicare? We have to have the benefits high for those that are low income, but for higher income people, we’re going to have to lower some of the benefits. We have to make sure this program is there for the long term. That’s the plan that I’ve put forward.

And, by the way the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or — or Senator Wyden, who’s the co-author of the bill with — with Paul Ryan in the Senate, but also it came from Bill — Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. This is an idea that’s been around a long time, which is saying, hey, let’s see if we can’t get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition.

OBAMA: Jim, if I — if I can just respond very quickly, first of all, every study has shown that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance does, which is why seniors are generally pretty happy with it.

And private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. That’s what they do. And so you’ve got higher administrative costs, plus profit on top of that. And if you are going to save any money through what Governor Romney’s proposing, what has to happen is, is that the money has to come from somewhere.

And when you move to a voucher system, you are putting seniors at the mercy of those insurance companies. And over time, if traditional Medicare has decayed or fallen apart, then they’re stuck.

And this is the reason why AARP has said that your plan would weaken Medicare substantially. And that’s why they were supportive of the approach that we took.

One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the cost of health care, not just in Medicare and Medicaid…

LEHRER: Talk about that in a minute.

OBAMA: … but — but — but overall.

LEHRER: OK.

OBAMA: And so…

ROMNEY: That’s — that’s a big topic. Can we — can we stay on Medicare?

OBAMA: Is that a — is that a separate topic?

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Yeah, we’re going to — yeah, I want to get to it.

OBAMA: I’m sorry.

LEHRER: But all I want to do is go very quickly…

ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.

LEHRER: … before we leave the economy…

ROMNEY: Let’s get back to Medicare.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: The president said that the government can provide the service at lower cost and without a profit.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: If that’s the case, then it will always be the best product that people can purchase.

LEHRER: Wait a minute, Governor.

ROMNEY: But my experience — my experience the private sector typically is able to provide a better product at a lower cost.

LEHRER: All right. Can we — can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice — a clear choice between the two…

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

LEHRER: … of you on Medicare?

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

LEHRER: All right. So to finish quickly, briefly, on the economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr. President, is there — should there be more?

Beginning with you. This is not a new two-minute segment to start. And we’ll go for a few minutes, and then we’re going to go to health care, OK?

ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation. As a businessperson, I had to have — I need to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t have people opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.

LEHRER: Is it excessive now, do you think?

ROMNEY: In some places, yes. Other places, no.

LEHRER: Like where?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: No, it can become out of date. And what’s happened with some of the legislation that’s been passed during the president’s term, you’ve seen regulation become excessive, and it’s hurt — it’s hurt the economy. Let me give you an example.

Dodd-Frank was passed. And it includes within it a number of provisions that I think has some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to — to New York banks I’ve ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them. There’ve been 122 community and small banks have closed since Dodd- Frank.

So there’s one example. Here’s another. In Dodd-Frank…

LEHRER: Do you want to repeal Dodd-Frank?

ROMNEY: Well, I would repeal and replace it. We’re not going to get rid of all regulation. You have to have regulation. And there are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world. You need transparency, you need to have leverage limits for…

LEHRER: Well, here’s a specific…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But let’s — let’s mention — let me mention the other one. Let’s talk…

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: No, let’s not. Let’s let him respond — let’s let him respond to this specific on Dodd-Frank and what the governor just said.

OBAMA: I think this is a great example. The reason we have been in such a enormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behavior across the board.

Now, it wasn’t just on Wall Street. You had loan officers were — that were giving loans and mortgages that really shouldn’t have been given, because the folks didn’t qualify. You had people who were borrowing money to buy a house that they couldn’t afford. You had credit agencies that were stamping these as A1 great investments when they weren’t.

But you also had banks making money hand over fist, churning out products that the bankers themselves didn’t even understand, in order to make big profits, but knowing that it made the entire system vulnerable.

So what did we do? We stepped in and had the toughest reforms on Wall Street since the 1930s. We said you’ve got — banks, you’ve got to raise your capital requirements. You can’t engage in some of this risky behavior that is putting Main Street at risk. We’ve going to make sure that you’ve got to have a living will so — so we can know how you’re going to wind things down if you make a bad bet so we don’t have other taxpayer bailouts.

OBAMA: In the meantime, by the way, we also made sure that all the help that we provided those banks was paid back every single dime, with interest.

Now, Governor Romney has said he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank.

And, you know, I appreciate and it appears we’ve got some agreement that a marketplace to work has to have some regulation. But in the past, Governor Romney has said he just want to repeal Dodd- Frank, roll it back.

And so the question is: Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that’s not what I believe.

ROMNEY: Sorry, but that’s just not — that’s just not the facts. Look, we have to have regulation on Wall Street. That’s why I’d have regulation. But I wouldn’t designate five banks as too big to fail and give them a blank check. That’s one of the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank. It wasn’t thought through properly. We need to get rid of that provision because it’s killing regional and small banks. They’re getting hurt.

Let me mention another regulation in Dodd-Frank. You say we were giving mortgages to people who weren’t qualified. That’s exactly right. It’s one of the reasons for the great financial calamity we had. And so Dodd-Frank correctly says we need to have qualified mortgages, and if you give a mortgage that’s not qualified, there are big penalties, except they didn’t ever go on and define what a qualified mortgage was.

It’s been two years. We don’t know what a qualified mortgage is yet. So banks are reluctant to make loans, mortgages. Try and get a mortgage these days. It’s hurt the housing market because Dodd-Frank didn’t anticipate putting in place the kinds of regulations you have to have. It’s not that Dodd-Frank always was wrong with too much regulation. Sometimes they didn’t come out with a clear regulation.

I will make sure we don’t hurt the functioning of our — of our marketplace and our business, because I want to bring back housing and get good jobs.

LEHRER: All right. I think we have another clear difference between the two of you. Now, let’s move to health care where I know there is a clear difference, and that has to do with the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. And it’s a two-minute new — new segment, and that means two minutes each. And you go first, Governor Romney.

LEHRER: You want it repealed. You want the Affordable Care Act repealed. Why?

ROMNEY: I sure do. Well, in part, it comes, again, from my experience. You know, I was in New Hampshire. A woman came to me and she said, look, I can’t afford insurance for myself or my son. I met a couple in Appleton, Wisconsin, and they said, we’re thinking of dropping our insurance, we can’t afford it.

And the number of small businesses I’ve gone to that are saying they’re dropping insurance because they can’t afford it, the cost of health care is just prohibitive. And — and we’ve got to deal with cost.

And, unfortunately, when — when — when you look at Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office has said it will cost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance. So it’s adding to cost. And as a matter of fact, when the president ran for office, he said that, by this year, he would have brought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it’s gone up by that amount. So it’s expensive. Expensive things hurt families. So that’s one reason I don’t want it.

Second reason, it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back in Medicare for our seniors.

Number three, it puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.

Fourth, there was a survey done of small businesses across the country, said, what’s been the effect of Obamacare on your hiring plans? And three-quarters of them said it makes us less likely to hire people. I just don’t know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the — at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killed jobs.

And the best course for health care is to do what we did in my state: craft a plan at the state level that fits the needs of the state. And then let’s focus on getting the costs down for people, rather than raising it with the $2,500 additional premium.

LEHRER: Mr. President, the argument against repeal? OBAMA: Well, four years ago, when I was running for office, I was traveling around and having those same conversations that Governor Romney talks about. And it wasn’t just that small businesses were seeing costs skyrocket and they couldn’t get affordable coverage even if they wanted to provide it to their employees. It wasn’t just that this was the biggest driver of our federal deficit, our overall health care costs, but it was families who were worried about going bankrupt if they got sick, millions of families, all across the country.

If they had a pre-existing condition, they might not be able to get coverage at all. If they did have coverage, insurance companies might impose an arbitrary limit. And so as a consequence, they’re paying their premiums, somebody gets really sick, lo and behold, they don’t have enough money to pay the bills, because the insurance companies say that they’ve hit the limit.

So we did work on this, alongside working on jobs, because this is part of making sure that middle-class families are secure in this country.

And let me tell you exactly what Obamacare did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, it doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance — your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. And it also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.

Number two, if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting up a group plan that allows you to benefit from group rates that are typically 18 percent lower than if you’re out there trying to get insurance on the individual market.

Now, the last point I’d make before…

LEHRER: Two minutes — two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think — I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was …

(LAUGHTER)

… the irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and as a consequence people are covered there. It hasn’t destroyed jobs. And as a consequence, we now have a system in which we have the opportunity to start bringing down costs, as opposed to just leaving millions of people out in the cold.

LEHRER: Your five seconds went away a long time ago.

All right, Governor. Governor, tell — tell the president directly why you think what he just said is wrong about Obamacare?

ROMNEY: Well, I did with my first statement.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: First of all, I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quite extraordinary — elected a Republican senator to stop Obamacare, you pushed it through anyway.

So entirely on a partisan basis, instead of bringing America together and having a discussion on this important topic, you pushed through something that you and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid thought was the best answer and drove it through.

What we did in a legislature 87 percent Democrat, we worked together; 200 legislators in my legislature, only two voted against the plan by the time we were finished. What were some differences? We didn’t raise taxes. You’ve raised them by $1 trillion under Obamacare. We didn’t cut Medicare. Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion.

ROMNEY: We didn’t put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they’re going to receive. We didn’t also do something that I think a number of people across this country recognize, which is put — put people in a position where they’re going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted.

Right now, the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey and Company of American businesses said 30 percent of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage.

So for those reasons, for the tax, for Medicare, for this board, and for people losing their insurance, this is why the American people don’t want Medicare — don’t want Obamacare. It’s why Republicans said, do not do this, and the Republicans had — had the plan. They put a plan out. They put out a plan, a bipartisan plan. It was swept aside.

I think something this big, this important has to be done on a bipartisan basis. And we have to have a president who can reach across the aisle and fashion important legislation with the input from both parties.

OBAMA: Governor Romney said this has to be done on a bipartisan basis. This was a bipartisan idea. In fact, it was a Republican idea. And Governor Romney at the beginning of this debate wrote and said what we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation.

And I agree that the Democratic legislators in Massachusetts might have given some advice to Republicans in Congress about how to cooperate, but the fact of the matter is, we used the same advisers, and they say it’s the same plan.

It — when Governor Romney talks about this board, for example, unelected board that we’ve created, what this is, is a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera, to figure out, how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall?

Because there — there are two ways of dealing with our health care crisis. One is to simply leave a whole bunch of people uninsured and let them fend for themselves, to let businesses figure out how long they can continue to pay premiums until finally they just give up, and their workers are no longer getting insured, and that’s been the trend line.

Or, alternatively, we can figure out, how do we make the cost of care more effective? And there are ways of doing it.

So at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average. And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They — they say, if a patient’s coming in, let’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care so we’re catching the onset of something like diabetes. Let’s — let’s pay providers on the basis of performance as opposed to on the basis of how many procedures they’ve — they’ve engaged in.

Now, so what this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let’s use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.

And the fact of the matter is that, when Obamacare is fully implemented, we’re going to be in a position to show that costs are going down. And over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years. So we’re already beginning to see progress. In the meantime, folks out there with insurance, you’re already getting a rebate.

Let me make one last point. Governor Romney says, we should replace it, I’m just going to repeal it, but — but we can replace it with something. But the problem is, he hasn’t described what exactly we’d replace it with, other than saying we’re going to leave it to the states.

OBAMA: But the fact of the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’s offered, like letting you buy insurance across state lines, there’s no indication that that somehow is going to help somebody who’s got a pre-existing condition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that by repealing Obamacare, you’re looking at 50 million people losing health insurance…

LEHRER: Let’s…

OBAMA: … at a time when it’s vitally important.

LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you would do…

ROMNEY: Well…

LEHRER: … if Obamacare is repealed. How would you replace it?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Well, actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description. But, number one, preexisting conditions are covered under my plan. Number two, young people are able to stay on their family plan. That’s already offered in the private marketplace. You don’t have to have the government mandate that for that to occur.

But let’s come back to something the president and I agree on, which is the key task we have in health care is to get the cost down so it’s more affordable for families. And then he has as a model for doing that a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: In my opinion, the government is not effective in — in bringing down the cost of almost anything. As a matter of fact, free people and free enterprises trying to find ways to do things better are able to be more effective in bringing down the cost than the government will ever be.

Your example of the Cleveland Clinic is my case in point, along with several others I could describe.

This is the private market. These are small — these are enterprises competing with each other, learning how to do better and better jobs. I used to consult to businesses — excuse me, to hospitals and to health care providers. I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people.

In order to bring the cost of health care down, we don’t need to have a board of 15 people telling us what kinds of treatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers, hospitals, doctors on target such that they have an incentive, as you say, performance pay, for doing an excellent job, for keeping costs down, and that’s happening. Innermountain Healthcare does it superbly well, Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well, Cleveland Clinic, others.

ROMNEY: But the right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have.

That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.

OBAMA: Let me just point out first of all this board that we’re talking about can’t make decisions about what treatments are given. That’s explicitly prohibited in the law. But let’s go back to what Governor Romney indicated, that under his plan, he would be able to cover people with preexisting conditions.

Well, actually Governor, that isn’t what your plan does. What your plan does is to duplicate what’s already the law, which says if you are out of health insurance for three months, then you can end up getting continuous coverage and an insurance company can’t deny you if you’ve — if it’s been under 90 days.

But that’s already the law and that doesn’t help the millions of people out there with preexisting conditions. There’s a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts. It wasn’t a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance. But what it does say is that “insurers, you’ve got to take everybody.”

Now, that also means that you’ve got more customers. But when — when Governor Romney says that he’ll replace it with something, but can’t detail how it will be in fact replaced and the reason he set up the system he did in Massachusetts was because there isn’t a better way of dealing with the preexisting conditions problem.

OBAMA: It just reminds me of, you know, he says that he’s going to close deductions and loopholes for his tax plan. That’s how it’s going to be paid for, but we don’t know the details. He says that he’s going to replace Dodd-Frank, Wall Street reform, but we don’t know exactly which ones. He won’t tell us. He now says he’s going to replace Obamacare and ensure that all the good things that are in it are going to be in there and you don’t have to worry.

And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they’re too good? Is it — is it because that somehow middle-class families are going to benefit too much from them?

No. The reason is, is because, when we reform Wall Street, when we tackle the problem of pre-existing conditions, then, you know, these are tough problems and we’ve got to make choices. And the choices we’ve made have been ones that ultimately are benefiting middle-class families all across the country.

LEHRER: We’re going to move to…

ROMNEY: No. I — I have to respond to that.

LEHRER: No, but…

ROMNEY: Which is — which is my experience as a governor is if I come in and — and lay down a piece of legislation and say, “It’s my way or the highway,” I don’t get a lot done. What I do is the same way that Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together some years ago. When Ronald Reagan ran for office, he laid out the principles that he was going to foster. He said he was going to lower tax rates. He said he was going to broaden the base. You’ve said the same thing, you’re going to simplify the tax code, broaden the base.

Those are my principles. I want to bring down the tax burden on middle-income families. And I’m going to work together with Congress to say, OK, what — what are the various ways we could bring down deductions, for instance? One way, for instance, would be to have a single number. Make up a number, $25,000, $50,000. Anybody can have deductions up to that amount. And then that number disappears for high-income people. That’s one way one could do it. One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model and take deduction by deduction and make differences that way. There are alternatives to accomplish the objective I have, which is to bring down rates, broaden the base, simplify the code, and create incentives for growth. And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on — on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation state by state. And I said that at that time.

The federal government taking over health care for the entire nation and whisking aside the 10th Amendment, which gives states the rights for these kinds of things, is not the course for America to have a stronger, more vibrant economy.

LEHRER: That is a terrific segue to our next segment, and is the role of government. And — and let’s see. Role of government. And it is — you are first on this, Mr. President. And the question is this. Do you believe, both of you — but you had the first two minutes on this, Mr. President — do you believe there’s a fundamental difference between the two of you as to how you view the mission of the federal government?

OBAMA: Well, I definitely think there are differences.

LEHRER: And do you — yeah.

OBAMA: The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function. And as commander-in-chief, that is something that I’ve worked on and thought about every single day that I’ve been in the Oval Office.

But I also believe that government has the capacity, the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed.

Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions.

OBAMA: But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together. So, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Transcontinental Railroad, let’s start the National Academy of Sciences, let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off. That doesn’t restrict people’s freedom. That enhances it.

And so what I’ve tried to do as president is to apply those same principles.

And when it comes to education what I’ve said is we’ve got to reform schools that are not working. We use something called Race to the Top. Wasn’t a top-down approach, Governor. What we’ve said is to states, we’ll give you more money if you initiate reforms. And as a consequence, you had 46 states around the country who have made a real difference.

But what I’ve also said is let’s hire another 100,000 math and science teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead and our people are skilled and able to succeed. And hard-pressed states right now can’t all do that. In fact we’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years, and Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federal government can help.

It can’t do it all, but it can make a difference. And as a consequence we’ll have a better trained workforce and that will create jobs because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.

LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role of government. Your view?

ROMNEY: Well, first, I love great schools. Massachusetts, our schools are ranked number one of all 50 states. And the key to great schools, great teachers.

So I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state should make that decision on their own.

The role of government: Look behind us. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.

ROMNEY: First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America’s military.

Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.

We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled. We care for them. And we — we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens.

But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a — a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working.

And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is 1 out of 6 people in poverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can’t find work.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: We know that the path we’re taking is not working. It’s time for a new path.

LEHRER: All right. Let’s go through some specifics in terms of what — how each of you views the role of government. How do — education. Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?

ROMNEY: Well, the primary responsibility for education is — is, of course, at the state and local level. But the federal government also can play a very important role. And I — and I agree with Secretary Arne Duncan, he’s — some ideas he’s put forward on Race to the Top, not all of them, but some of them I agree with and — and congratulate him for pursuing that. The federal government can get local and — and state schools to do a better job.

My own view, by the way, is I’ve added to that. I happen to believe, I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or Title I — these are disabled kids or — or — or poor kids or — or lower-income kids, rather, I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice.

So all federal funds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I’d have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their — their — their student.

LEHRER: How do you see the federal government’s responsibility to, as I say, to improve the quality of public education in this country?

OBAMA: Well, as I’ve indicated, I think that it has a significant role to play. Through our Race to the Top program, we’ve worked with Republican and Democratic governors to initiate major reforms, and they’re having an impact right now.

LEHRER: Do you think you have a difference with your views and — and those of Governor Romney on — about education and the federal government?

OBAMA: You know, this is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. So when Governor Romney indicates that he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me and him, and to pay for it we’re having to initiate significant cuts in federal support for education, that makes a difference.

You know, his — his running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a budget that reflects many of the principles that Governor Romney’s talked about. And it wasn’t very detailed. This seems to be a trend. But — but what it did do is to — if you extrapolated how much money we’re talking about, you’d look at cutting the education budget by up to 20 percent.

OBAMA: When it comes to community colleges, we are seeing great work done out there all over the country because we have the opportunity to train people for jobs that exist right now. And one of the things I suspect Governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so that they’re setting up their training programs…

LEHRER: Do you — do you agree, Governor?

OBAMA: Let me just finish the point.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: The — where they’re partnering so that they’re designing training programs. And people who are going through them know that there’s a job waiting for them if they complete it. That makes a big difference, but that requires some federal support.

Let me just say one final example. When it comes to making college affordable, whether it’s two-year or four-year, one of the things that I did as president was we were sending $60 billion to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, even though the loans were guaranteed. So there was no risk for the banks or the lenders, but they were taking billions out of the system.

And we said, “Why not cut out the middleman?” And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to provide millions more students assistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans. And this is an example of where our priorities make a difference.

Governor Romney, I genuinely believe cares about education, but when he tells a student that, you know, “you should borrow money from your parents to go to college,” you know, that indicates the degree to which, you know, there may not be as much of a focus on the fact that folks like myself, folks like Michelle, kids probably who attend University of Denver, just don’t have that option.

And for us to be able to make sure that they’ve got that opportunity and they can walk through that door, that is vitally important not just to those kids. It’s how we’re going to grow this economy over the long term.

LEHRER: We’re running out of time, gentlemen.

(CROSSTALK) LEHRER: Governor?

ROMNEY: Mr. President, Mr. President, you’re entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts. All right, I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding and — and grants that go to people going to college. I’m planning on (inaudible) to grow. So I’m not planning on making changes there.

But you make a very good point, which is that the place you put your money just makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is. You put $90 billion into — into green jobs. And I — look, I’m all in favor of green energy. $90 billion, that would have — that would have hired 2 million teachers. $90 billion.

And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns.

Look, the right course for America’s government, we were talking about the role of government, is not to become the economic player, picking winners and losers, telling people what kind of health treatment they can receive, taking over the health care system that has existed in this country for a long, long time and has produced the best health records in the world.

The right answer for government is say, How do we make the private sector become more efficient and more effective? How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let’s grade them. I propose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a — to a school that he’s being more successful.

I don’t want to cut our commitment to education. I wanted to make it more effective and efficient. And by the way, I’ve had that experience. I don’t just talk about it. I’ve been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn’t have commitment to education. It’s because I care about education for all of our kids.

LEHRER: All right, gentlemen…

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Excuse me (inaudible). Excuse me, sir. We’ve got — we’ve got — barely have three minutes left. I’m not going to grade the two of you and say your answers have been too long or I’ve done a poor job.

OBAMA: You’ve done a great job.

LEHRER: Oh, well, no. But the fact is government — the role of government and governing, we’ve lost a pod in other words. So we only have three — three minutes left in the — in the debate before we go to your closing statements. And so I want to ask finally here, and remember, we’ve got three minutes total time here — and the question is this. Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected, in your case, if re-elected, in your case, what would you do about that?

Governor?

ROMNEY: Jim, I had the great experience — it didn’t seem like it at the time — of being elected in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. And that meant I figured out from day one I had to get along and I had to work across the aisle to get anything done. We drove our schools to be number one in the nation. We cut taxes 19 times.

LEHRER: But what would you do as president?

ROMNEY: We — as president, I will sit on day one — actually, the day after I get elected — I’ll sit down with leaders — the Democratic leaders, as well as Republican leaders, and continue — as we did in my state — we met every Monday for a couple hours, talked about the issues and the challenges in the — in the — in our state in that case. We have to work on a collaborative basis, not because we’re going to compromise our principle, but because there’s common ground.

And the challenges America faces right now — look, the reason I’m in this race is there are people that are really hurting today in this country. And we face — this deficit could crush the future generations. What’s happening in the Middle East, there are developments around the world that are of real concern.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: And Republicans and Democrats both love America. But we need to have leadership — leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if — if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.

LEHRER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day, because he’s also going to repeal Obamacare, which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’re sitting down with them.

(LAUGHTER)

But, look, my philosophy has been, I will take ideas from anybody, Democrat or Republican, as long as they’re advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity to the middle class. That’s how we cut taxes for middle- class families and small businesses. That’s how we cut a trillion dollars of spending that wasn’t advancing that cause. That’s how we signed three trade deals into law that are helping us to double our exports and sell more American products around the world. That’s how we repealed “don’t ask/don’t tell.” That’s how we ended the war in Iraq, as I promised, and that’s how we’re going to wind down the war in Afghanistan. That’s how we went after Al Qaida and bin Laden.

So we’ve — we’ve seen progress even under Republican control of the House of Representatives. But, ultimately, part of being principled, part of being a leader is, A, being able to describe exactly what it is that you intend to do, not just saying, “I’ll sit down,” but you have to have a plan.

Number two, what’s important is occasionally you’ve got to say no, to — to — to folks both in your own party and in the other party. And, you know, yes, have we had some fights between me and the Republicans when — when they fought back against us reining in the excesses of Wall Street? Absolutely, because that was a fight that needed to be had.

When — when we were fighting about whether or not we were going to make sure that Americans had more security with their health insurance and they said no, yes, that was a fight that we needed to have.

LEHRER: All right

OBAMA: And so part of leadership and governing is both saying what it is that you are for, but also being willing to say no to some things. And I’ve got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party.

LEHRER: That brings us to closing statements. It was a coin toss. Governor Romney, you won the toss and you elected to go last, so you have a closing two minutes, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Well, Jim, I want to thank you, and I want to thank Governor Romney, because I think was a terrific debate, and I very much appreciate it. And I want to thank the University of Denver.

You know, four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. And yet my faith and confidence in the American future is undiminished. And the reason is because of its people, because of the woman I met in North Carolina who decided at 55 to go back to school because she wanted to inspire her daughter and now has a job from that new training that she’s gotten; because a company in Minnesota who was willing to give up salaries and perks for their executives to make sure that they didn’t lay off workers during a recession.

The auto workers that you meet in Toledo or Detroit take such pride in building the best cars in the world, not just because of a paycheck, but because it gives them that sense of pride, that they’re helping to build America. And so the question now is how do we build on those strengths. And everything that I’ve tried to do, and everything that I’m now proposing for the next four years in terms of improving our education system or developing American energy or making sure that we’re closing loopholes for companies that are shipping jobs overseas and focusing on small businesses and companies that are creating jobs here in the United States, or closing our deficit in a responsible, balanced way that allows us to invest in our future.

All those things are designed to make sure that the American people, their genius, their grit, their determination, is — is channeled and — and they have an opportunity to succeed. And everybody’s getting a fair shot. And everybody’s getting a fair share — everybody’s doing a fair share, and everybody’s playing by the same rules.

You know, four years ago, I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect president. And that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I’ve kept. But I also promised that I’d fight every single day on behalf of the American people, the middle class, and all those who were striving to get into the middle class. I’ve kept that promise and if you’ll vote for me, then I promise I’ll fight just as hard in a second term.

LEHRER: Governor Romney, your two-minute closing.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Jim, and Mr. President. And thank you for tuning in this evening.

This is a — this is an important election and I’m concerned about America. I’m concerned about the direction America has been taking over the last four years.

I — I know this is bigger than an election about the two of us as individuals. It’s bigger than our respective parties. It’s an election about the course of America. What kind of America do you want to have for yourself and for your children.

And there really are two very different paths that we began speaking about this evening, and over the course of this month we’re going to have two more presidential debates and a vice presidential debate. We’re talk about those two paths.

But they lead in very different directions. And it’s not just looking to our words that you have to take in evidence of where they go. You can look at the record.

There’s no question in my mind that if the president were to be reelected you’ll continue to see a middle-class squeeze with incomes going down and prices going up.

I’ll get incomes up again.

You’ll see chronic unemployment. We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.

If I’m president I will create — help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes.

If the president’s reelected, Obamacare will be fully installed. In my view that’s going to mean a whole different way of life for people who counted on the insurance plan they had in the past. Many will lose it. You’re going to see health premiums go up by some $2,500 per family.

If I’m elected we won’t have Obama. We’ll put in place the kind of principles that I put in place in my own state and allow each state to craft their own programs to get people insured and we’ll focus on getting the cost of health care down.

If the president were to be reelected you’re going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare. You’ll have 4 million people who will lose Medicare Advantage. You’ll have hospital and providers that’ll no longer accept Medicare patients.

I’ll restore that $716 billion to Medicare.

And finally, military. The president’s reelected you’ll see dramatic cuts to our military. The secretary of defense has said these would be even devastating.

I will not cut our commitment to our military. I will keep America strong and get America’s middle class working again.

Thank you, Jim.

LEHRER: Thank you, Governor.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The next debate will be the vice presidential event on Thursday, October 11th at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. For now, from the University of Denver, I’m Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.

(APPLAUSE)

END

$10,000 Reward For Obama’s College Transcripts! [Update: Bounty Has Raised to $20,000!]

May 2, 2012 at 10:59 am

‘The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.” – Barack Obama – August 21, 2010

Everyday citizens doing the job the Obama friendly media REFUSE to do.

"But by keeping his college history out of public view, Bayne suggested, Obama may be hiding something he should be honest about. "If you are going to have a viewpoint, take a stand," he said. "Don't be a pussy about it, seriously."

Dear readers, I am thrilled to inform you that Brooks Bayne along with a group of like minded citizens, have pooled their resources and are offering a $10,00 reward for authentic, verifiable Obama transcripts from Occidental, Harvard and Columbia.

Excerpt:

You’ve failed, media.

You’ve had over three years to vet President Barack Obama. Yet in three years in office and over a year of campaigning beforehand, you have either been oddly uninterested or purposefully ignorant of Barack Obama’s educational history. You were, however, quite interested in George Bush’s transcripts.
……
We therefore offer in reward $10,000 to anyone who provides the college transcripts of President Barack Obama. Occidental, Harvard, Columbia…any would represent more intellectual curiosity about the leader of the free world than the media has demonstrated since Obama won the Democrat primary.
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Click here for additional details.

Also see: Finally! Obama’s Occidental Transcript Is Released

The NeoSexist links…thanks!

Full Transcript: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate Feb, 22, 2012

February 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

Full Transcript of CNN ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, 20:00-22:00

Aired February 22, 2012 – 20:00   ET

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN’S JOHN KING, USA: Right now the Republican presidential candidates in their debate before a series of contests that could change everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: In Arizona tonight, a grand showdown in a presidential contest that’s been all over the map.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don’t like the state of the race right now, wait a couple of weeks.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been like riding Space Mountain at Disneyland.

ANNOUNCER: The Republican race could take another turn right now. With the GOP candidate return to the debate stage.

Rick Santorum. The late contender. Says it’s a two-man duel now. And he’ll be the one left standing.

SANTORUM: I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

ANNOUNCER: Mitt Romney. The long-distance runner. Says every rival that’s threatened him has made him stronger.

ROMNEY: My conservatism is to the core.

ANNOUNCER: Newt Gingrich. The determined challenger. Vowing to compete, win or lose, until the last votes are cast.

GINGRICH: We intend to change Washington, not accommodate it.

ANNOUNCER: Ron Paul. The delegate hunter. Keeping his campaign going by picking and choosing his battles.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the message that America needs at this particular time.

ANNOUNCER: The final four. In Arizona. A state rich in presidential campaign history. A frontline in the immigration wars. And the fight to bounce back from recession.

GINGRICH: We know how to help the American people create jobs.

ROMNEY: It’s been tough for middle-income families in America.

ANNOUNCER: Here in the West, they know a thing or two about fight to the finish. And this debate could change the landscape once again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, DEBATE MODERATOR, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from the Mesa, Arizona Arts Center just outside of Phoenix. This is the Arizona Republican presidential debate. Tonight, the four candidates in their final debate before 14 critical contests across the country, including the primary right here in Arizona on Tuesday. Welcome. I’m John King.

Arizona Republicans are here in our audience tonight. Some of them will have a chance to question the candidates. And crowds even gathering outside to watch it at a viewing party here in downtown Mesa. You can also take part in this debate. Send us your questions online on Twitter. Make sure to include the hashtag cnndebate on Facebook and Facebook.com/cnnpolitics, and of course on CNNpolitics.com.

It’s time now to meet the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. Joining us on stage, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

(APPLAUSE)

The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

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And the former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

(APPLAUSE) And the Texas congressman, Ron Paul.

(APPLAUSE)

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

Just before we came on the air tonight, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. We want to ask everyone now here in the hall to rise and at home as well, as we have the national anthem performed. It’s our honor tonight to welcome the Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale.

(MUSIC)

KING: Thank you. Our thanks to the Arizona State University Symphonic Chorale. That was fabulous.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you to take your seats. I’ll take a moment now to explain to you how our debate will work.

I’ll question the candidates, as well as we’ll also take some questions from members of our audience. I’ll follow up and guide tonight’s discussion.

Candidates, we’re going to try to make sure each of you get your fair amount of questions. And you’ll have a minute to answer and 30 seconds for rebuttal and follow-ups. And if you’re singled out for a particular criticism, I’ll make sure you get a chance to respond.

Now we’re going to have each of the candidates introduce themselves. And so we have more time to debate tonight, we’re going to ask them to keep it short.

Here’s an example. I’m John King from CNN. I’m honored to be your moderator tonight and I’m thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, we begin with you, sir.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Congressman Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas.

I am the defender of the Constitution. I’m the champion of liberty. This shows the roadmap to peace and prosperity.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Rick Santorum.

And we have a lot of troubles around the world, as you see, the Middle East in flames, and what’s going on in this country with gas prices and the economy. And I’m here to talk about a positive solutions that confront this country that include everybody from the bottom up.

(APPLAUSE)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Mitt Romney.

And there was a time in this country when you knew that if you worked hard and went to school, and if you learned the values of America in your home, that you could count on having a secure future and a prosperous life. That was an American promise and it’s been broken by this president.

I want to restore America’s promise, and I’m going to do that –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: That’s good enough. As George Costanza would say, when they’re applauding, stop. Right?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Newt Gingrich.

And I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can look forward to $2.50 a gallon gasoline.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentlemen, it’s good to see you again.

Let’s get started on the important issues with a question from our audience.

Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.

(UNKNOWN): My name is Gilbert Fidler (ph) from Gilbert, Arizona, and I’d like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.

Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?

KING: Thank you, sir.

Senator Santorum, let’s begin with you.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Gilbert.

I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I’ll be president of the United States. So it’s not inflation- adjusted, it’s not baseline-budgeting. We’re actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we’re going to do so by dealing with the real problem.

And here’s where I differentiate myself from everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that’s the growth of entitlement spending.

Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That’s the one entitlement that we can get rid of.

(APPLAUSE)

And that’s a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there’s bigger issues.

When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget.

Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.

Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs — Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs — and do what we did with welfare.

We cut the welfare — we cut spending on welfare, froze it and then we block granted it to the states and gave them the flexibility to run that program they way they saw fit with two provisos. Number one, there would be a time limit on welfare and a work requirement. We were going to say that poverty is not a disability. That these programs need to be transitional in nature. We need to do the same thing with Medicaid. We need to do the same thing with — with food stamps. All of the other means tests of entitlement programs.

And unlike the Paul Ryan plan — I see I’m out of time, but unlike the Paul Ryan plan, we also will deal with Medicare and Social Security, not 10 years from now. But we need to start dealing with it now because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.

KING: Governor Romney, I’m wondering if that answer satisfied you? Just in recent days you said this, quote, “If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not.” Did he answer your questions there?

ROMNEY: Well I’m looking at his historic record, which voting for raising the debt ceiling five different times without voting for compensating cuts. Voting to keep in place Davis-Bacon, which cost about $100 billion over — over 10 years. A whole series of votes. Voting to fund Planned Parenthood, to expand the Department of Education. During his term in the Senate, spending grew by some 80 percent of the federal government. But I — but I want to respond to Gilbert’s question, which I think is a critical one.

And that is as you — as you look at this country, I’m a guy who has lived in the world of business. If you don’t balance your budget in business, you go out of business. So I’ve lived balancing budgets. I also served in the Olympics, balanced a budget there. And — and served in the states. And all four years I was governor, we balanced the budget. Here’s what I’d do at the federal level, I would divide all of the programs into three major places for opportunity to reduce costs.

Number one, I’m going to go through every single program and ask if we can afford it. And if not, I’m going to say, is this program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’m going to get rid of it. Number two, I’m going to take programs…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …I’m going to take programs that are important, but that could be better run at the state level and send them back to the states as a block grant and that included Medicaid and — and housing vouchers and food stamps. These programs for the poor, to be run more efficiently and can be run with less fraud and abuse at the state level. And then finally number three, with what’s left of government, I’m going to cut the employment by 10 percent. And I’m going to link the pay of government workers with the pay in the private sector. Government servants shouldn’t get paid more than the people who are paying taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator, the governor singled you out. Take a few seconds.

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SANTORUM: Well, the governor talks about raising the debt ceiling. There was a debt ceiling vote this summer and the governor was asked the question whether he would have voted to raise the debt ceiling ultimately and he said, yes. Because government has to pay their bills. We can’t default ultimately. What happened the — the 12 years I was in the United States Senate, we went from the debt to GDP ratio, which is now over 100 percent. When I came to the Senate it was 68 percent of GDP. When I left the Senate it was 64 percent of GDP.

So government as a size of the economy went down when I was in the United States Senate. Sure I had some votes. Look, I think we’ve all had votes that I look back on I — I wish I wouldn’t have voted — No Child Left Behind, you’re right, it lead to education spending. That’s why I’ve said that we need to cut and eliminate No Child Left Behind and — and education funding from the federal government, move it back to the local level where it belongs where parents and local communities can deal with that.

But if you look at my record on spending, on taking on entitlements, never having voted for an appropriation bill increase. You look at — at my record of never having raised taxes. Governor Romney raised $700 million in taxes and fees in Massachusetts. I never voted to raise taxes. Governor Romney even today suggested raising taxes on the top 1 percent, adopting the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. I’m not going to adopt that rhetoric. I’m going to represent 100 percent of Americans. We’re not raising taxes on anybody.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor, please quickly I want to bring the congressman and the speaker into the conversation, but respond.

ROMNEY: There were so many misrepresentations there, it’s going to take me a little while. Number one, I said today that we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent. So that’s number one. Number two, I said yes we should increase the debt ceiling in this last vote, but only if we have a cut, cap and balance provision put in place. Only in that case. And, therefore, I did not agree with the deal that was done in Washington. That was the wrong way to go.

And finally, Senator during your term in Congress, the years you’ve been there, government has doubled in size. You voted to raise the debt ceiling five times without compensating cuts in spending. In my view, we should not raise the debt ceiling again until we get compensating cuts in spending. A cut, cap and balance approach must be taken.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, join the conversation. Address Gilbert’s question and if you so choose, address some criticism you’ve received on this issue from this state’s senior Senator campaigning for governor Romney. He questioned your credentials on fiscal conservatism. He said when you were the speaker, earmarking became an art.

GINGRICH: Well when I was speaker, as I’m sure he remembers, we balanced the budget for four consecutive years, the only time in his lifetime. So I think that’s a good place to start with Gilbert’s question. We’re meeting tonight on the 280th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. You go back and look at the founding fathers, they’d have had very clear messages. Hamilton would have said you have to have jobs and economic growth to get back to a balanced budget. You’re never going to balance the budget on the back of a highly unemployed country. And so I would be committed, first of all, to a program of jobs and economic growth.

Second, the energy issue is enormous. The leading developer of North Dakota oil estimated recently that, if we would open up federal land and open up offshore, you would have $16 trillion to $18 trillion — not billion — trillion dollars in royalties to the federal government in the next generation, an enormous flow which would drive down prices to $2.50 a gallon, would help us balance the budget and would create millions of jobs.

Finally, I agree generally with the need to reform government. I think that, if we were prepared to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws, go to a modern management system, we could save a minimum of $500 billion a year with a better system. And if we then applied the tenth amendment, as Governor Rick Perry has agreed to head up a project on, I think we can return to the states an enormous share of the power that’s currently in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, you’ve questioned the conservative — fiscal conservative credentials of all these gentlemen but particularly this week Senator Santorum. You have a new television ad that labels him a fake. Why?

PAUL: Because he’s a fake.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: I’m real, John. I’m real.

PAUL: Congratulations.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: No. I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they’re really fiscally conservative. When they’re in office, they do something different. And then when they explain themselves, they say, “Oh, I want to repeal that.”

So the senator voted for No Child Left Behind, but now — he voted for it, but now he’s running on the effort to get rid of it. So I think the record is so bad, you know, with the politicians.

And, you know, nobody accuses me of not having voted for too much. They’re always accusing me for not voting for enough. And I’ve been running in office, in office off and on for a good many years, and over all those years, I’ve never voted for a budget deficit. I never voted to increase the national debt.

As a matter of fact, there’s only one appropriation bill I voted for, and that was for veterans. I assumed, from the 1970s on, that we were embarking on a very dangerous path, and we’re involved in that danger right now.

So this idea of being fiscally conservative now that we’re running for office and we’re going to repeal something that we did before, I mean, this — it loses credibility is what our problem is. So… (APPLAUSE) And — and the one thing that I think should annoy all Americans is the voting for foreign aid? I mean, just think there are foreign aid packages that are huge, and when the member votes for it, they don’t say, well, this money is going to A, B, C, because I love that country, but it’s the principle of the way the government works. You vote for foreign aid because, for some weird reason, it’s supposed to be good for America, but then it goes and helps all our enemies. That’s what I disapprove of.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, respond quickly.

SANTORUM: Ron, The Weekly Standard just did a review, looking at the National Taxpayers Union, I think, Citizens Against Government Waste, and they measured me up against the other 50 senators who were serving when I did and they said that I was the most fiscally conservative senator in the Congress in the — in the 12 years that I was there.

My — my ratings with the National Taxpayers Union were As or Bs. They were very high from the Citizens Against Government Waste. I got a hero award.

I was a leader, as you know, on taking on tough issues, which is the entitlement programs, not just welfare reform, but I also worked on Medicare reform and Medicaid reform and also was a leader on trying to deal with Social Security.

And I did that not representing one of the most conservative districts in the state of Texas but in the state of Pennsylvania, with the second largest per capita population of seniors in the country.

And I can tell you those seniors really cared about Social Security. Why? Because all my rich seniors moved to Florida and Arizona. And…

(LAUGHTER)

… and what’s left — what’s left in Pennsylvania is folks who relied on Social Security. And I was out there as a Republican senator, a conservative voting record, over a 90 percent conservative voting record from the American Conservative Union.

By the way, Ron, you ranked 145th in the bottom half of Republicans this year in a conservative voting record from that same organization.

We had a strong record in a tough state to be a conservative. If I can stand up in the state of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t elected a Republican president since 1988, and have a strong principled voting record on issues that were tough in my state, senior issues, imagine now, as president of the United States, with a Tea Party movement and a conservative — a riled-up conservative base, what we can accomplish in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman, quickly.

PAUL: You know, that’s always a cop-out when you compare yourself to the other members of Congress. The American people are sick and tired of the members of Congress. They get about a 9 percent rating.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: But this whole thing about comparison of conservative votes, I think you make a very important point. I don’t rate what, at the top. If it’s spending or on taxes I’m at the very top because I vote for the least amount of spending and the least amount of taxes, which means that some of the conservative ratings — you have to realize sometimes conservatives want to spend money, too.

When it comes to overseas spending, you vote for the foreign aid. Conservatives are quite pleased with spending money overseas. But if you’re a strict fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist you don’t vote for that kind of stuff and so you can’t just go by the ratings.

KING: As you can see, this is a — it’s an important issue to the people in the audience. I think it’s one of the reasons this race has been so volatile. Voters are looking and they say which of these candidates can I trust? And each of you are trying to make your case to them.

As you try to do so, Governor Romney, you said recently that as governor you’re a severely conservative governor of Massachusetts. What did you mean by that?

ROMNEY: Well, severe, strict. I was, without question, a conservative governor in my state. We balanced the budget all four years I was in office. We cut taxes 19 times.

I enabled our state police to enforce illegal immigration laws so that people could be taken out of our state that were illegally. We drove our schools to have –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — campaigned for and fought for English immersion in our school, and had that successfully implemented. My policies in Massachusetts were to — were conservative, and in a state, as Rick indicated, a state that was a relatively liberal state, I stood up and said I would stand on the side of life when the legislature passed a bill saying that life would not be defined not at conception but later.

I said no. When there was an effort to put in place embryo farming and cloning, I vetoed that. When the Catholic Church was attacked, saying, look we’re not going to allow you to continue to place children in homes where there’s a preference for a man and a woman being the mom and dad, I worked with the Catholic Church to put legislation in place to protect their right to exercise their religious conscience.

I have through my record as a governor demonstrated that kind of conservative belief. But also, look a step back and look at my record running the Olympics. Balanced the budget there, made it successful with the help of a terrific team.

Then look back into the business. You can’t be, I don’t believe, anything but a fiscal conservative and run a business, because if you don’t balance your budget, you go out of business.

KING: Mr. Speaker, as you know, often when deficit reduction –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: — when deficit reduction and economic growth are priorities at the same time, some people see a collision. Some people see a conflict. You’ve outlined your views on taxes. Governor Romney today outlined a tax plan that would cut the — put the top rate at 28 percent, eliminate capital gain taxes for incomes below $200,000, cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Is that the right approach? And is it consistent — and it’s a tough one sometimes — with spurring economic growth at a time this state and other states are looking for jobs? But as you have Gilbert’s (ph) question, also looking to make sure the next president works on the deficit?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, I think that Governor Romney today moved in the right direction, and I think that that’s a serious step towards trying to find — closer to supply side. I wouldn’t agree with him on capping capital gains cuts at $200,000, because I think that’s, frankly, economically destructive, and I don’t believe in class warfare.

And that’s a number below Obama’s class warfare number. So we can argue later about capital gains cuts.

But I think there’s a different question. Everybody talks about managing the current government. The current government is a disaster. I mean, we don’t — you know –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — this is — it is — the reason I started with the idea that came out of Strong America Now to repeal the 130-year-old civil service laws and go to a modern management system, is you change everything.

And the fact is, if we’re serious — and, in a funny kind of way, Ron and I are closer on the scale of change. We’d approach it slightly different, but I think you’ve got to start and say what would a modern system be like?

And a modern system would be — just take control of the border. It is utterly stupid to say that the United States government can’t control the border. It’s a failure of will, it’s a failure of enforcement.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: So let me just take that one example. Let’s assume you could, tomorrow morning, have a president who wanted to work with your governor, that instead of suing Arizona, helped Arizona, who actually worked with Arizona. Now –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — what’s the fiscal reality three years from now in your emergency rooms, in your schools, in your prisons, of controlling the border? It’s a lot less expensive. You just took a major step towards a less expensive future. So I think it is possible to modernize the federal government and cut taxes and develop energy simultaneously. And the three lead you to Gilbert’s concern. Let’s get back to a balanced budget.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: The Speaker raises an important point about looking forward, and I hope we spend most of the night doing that. But as you know, there’s a lot of anger in the base of the party about some of the things that have happened in the past, and the Tea Party, especially.

Now, earmarks, the pork barrel spending, it’s a tiny slice of the budget. I think we all know that. But if you talk to a Tea Party activist, they think — an example, a gateway to corruption.

Senator, you have said there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. And you have talked about your earmarks in the past. Any that you specifically regret? And why have you criticized — why do you think the money that went to Governor Romney for security at the Olympics, why was that a bad earmark?

SANTORUM: I didn’t suggest it was a bad earmark. I voted for it and about half the money — a little over half the money that went to the Salt Lake games.

But Governor Romney asked for that earmark. That’s really the point here. He’s out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I’m this great earmarker, when he not only asked for earmarks for the Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, sought those earmarks and used them, and he did as the governor of Massachusetts, $300 million or $400 million. He said, I would be foolish if I didn’t go out and try to get federal dollars.

So the idea that somehow earmarks during the time that I was in Congress were this thing that drove up spending in Washington, D.C., if you actually look at it, as I said before, as a percentage of GDP, actually the deficits — the debt went down. What happened is there was abuse.

When abuse happened, I said we should stop the earmarking process. But I did say there were good earmarks and bad earmarks.

We wouldn’t have the V-22 Osprey, which was the most essential air platform for our Marines in particular in the war against the radical Islamists. We wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for an earmark. That program would have been killed under George Bush 41. Dick Cheney, the Defense Department, wanted to kill that program, and many of us, including myself, stood up and made sure that was there.

Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn’t get it right. What happened was an abuse of the process.

When that abuse occurred, I stepped forward, as Jim DeMint did, who, by the way, was an earmarker, as almost everybody else in Congress was. Why? Because Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.

I defended that at the time. I’m proud I defended it at the time, because I think they did make mistakes. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmarks.

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I didn’t follow all of that, but I can tell you this — I would put a ban on earmarks. I think it opens the door to excessive spending, spending on projects that don’t need to be done.

I think there are a lot of projects that have been voted for. You voted to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” I think these earmarks, we’ve had it with them.

SANTORUM: Yes.

ROMNEY: If Congress wants to vote in favor of a bill, they should take that bill, bring it forward with committees, have people say — vote it up or down on the floor of the House or the Senate, have the president say yes or no, and move forward. But the earmark process is broken. There are thousands and thousands of earmarks, money being used inappropriately.

And I’ll tell you this — he mentioned coming to the Olympics, coming to the United States Congress, asking for support. No question about it. That’s the nature of what it is when you lead an organization or a state.

You come to Congress and you say, these are the things we need. In the history of the Olympic movement, the federal government has always provided the transportation and security. So we came to the federal government asking for help on transportation and security.

I was fighting for those things. Our games were successful. But while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

KING: Quickly. (APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: It’s really interesting, Governor, because the process you just described of an open process where members of Congress put forth their suggestions on how to spend money, have them voted on individually, is exactly how the process worked. So what you just suggested as to how earmarks should work in the future is exactly how they worked in the past. So I suspect you would have supported earmarks if you were in the United States Senate.

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. The 6,000 earmarks that were put in place under the Speaker’s term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills –

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.

That was the process. There were thousands — I mean, we’ve had thousands and thousands of earmarks. They are typically tagged on to — bundled on to other bills.

OK. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to –

ROMNEY: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.

SANTORUM: — misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re taking about.

What happened in the earmark process — what happens in the earmark process was that members of Congress would ask, formally, publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on a committee, have them voted on, on the floor of the Senate.

Congressman Paul — Congressman…

ROMNEY: Attached to a bill? Attached to a bill?

SANTORUM: As part of the bill. Congressman Paul…

ROMNEY: And the president can’t veto it?

SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.

ROMNEY: The whole bill, but he can’t veto the earmark?

SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that, by the way. I supported a line-item veto.

ROMNEY: That’s what I support. That’s what I support.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: Hold on. Hold on.

Mitt, I agree with you. I support — I support the line-item veto. I voted for a line-item veto so we could do just that. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck it down. I would like to go back, as president, again, and give the president the authority to line-item veto.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is were they transparent? And the bottom line was, when I was in the United States Senate, there was transparency, and Congressman Paul, who is one of the most prolific earmarkers in the Congress today, is — would tell you…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE).

SANTORUM: And I’m not — I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying that’s a fact, that…

(LAUGHTER)

… that he — he…

(APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: I think you need a chance to say a word.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Mr. Speaker, you were referenced by the governor, you first, then Congressman Paul.

Don’t worry. We’ll get to you, Congressman. I promise.

(BOOING)

GINGRICH: Now, look, let me just say flatly all of you need to think about this because this is one of those easy demagogic fights that gets you into a lot of trouble. If you have Barack Obama as president and you have a Republican House, you may want the House imposing certain things on the president.

Now, when I was speaker, for example…

(APPLAUSE)

… and we had a liberal Democrat in the White House — I actually want to reinforce what the governor said. I helped the Atlanta Olympics get the support they needed from the U.S. government to be successful. I thought it was totally appropriate to help the Atlanta Olympics. And I actually went to — to your former governor and sat down with the people originally planning the Winter Olympics and said, look, this is what we did; this is what you need to do.

I think it was totally appropriate for you to ask for what you got. I just think it’s, kind of, silly for you to then turn around and run an ad attacking somebody else for getting what you got and then claiming what you got wasn’t what they got because what you got was right and what they got was wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, answer Senator Santorum, please, sir.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I followed that and I…

(LAUGHTER)

You know, there’s reason for the confusion, because…

(LAUGHTER)

… because it’s all Congress’s fault. They’re all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing in Congress is the real reason.

(APPLAUSE)

But this whole idea of earmarking — earmarking is designating how the money’s spent. What a lot of people don’t understand is if — if the Congress doesn’t say the way the money should be spent, it goes to the executive branch, and that’s the bad part. If you were actually cutting, it would make a difference. But you don’t want to give more power to the executive branch.

Even if I’m president, I don’t want more power over that — over that funding. That should be with the people and — and with the Congress. But earmarking — the reason we get into trouble is — is the irresponsibility of Congress.

Take your highway funds. We’re supposed to pay a user fee. If we pay our gasoline tax, we should get our fair share back. But what do they do? They take the highway funds and other of these trust funds and they spend this money overseas in these wars that we shouldn’t be fighting. And then when the highways need building, then you have to go and fight the political system and know who to deal with and maneuver and try to get some of your money back.

But if you say you’re against — against the earmarking and fuss and fume over, the answer is vote against the bill. That is what I do. I argue for the case of the responsibility being on the Congress, but it’s the responsibility of us who believe in fiscal conservatism to vote against the bill. We need to vote against the spending is what we need to do.

(APPLAUSE) KING: Let’s take another important economic question. This one comes to us from CNNPolitics.com, and you can see it in the audience up on the board here.

“Why was George W. Bush wrong in his efforts to save the auto industry and why was Barack Obama wrong to continue the effort?”

Senator Santorum, I want to go to you first with this question. You, like your friends on the stage tonight, opposed the auto bailout. Michigan votes on Tuesday, along with Arizona. We assume folks are watching there tonight. Address your answer to an auto worker who may believe strongly that he or she has that job tonight because of the help — the bailout?

SANTORUM: I would just say to them that I in principle oppose government coming in and bailing out a sector of the economy or an industry with government dollars and — and with government manipulation of that market, which is exactly what happened twice, in 2008 and 2009.

The first time it happened was the Wall Street bailout. On principle, I opposed the Wall Street bailout, even though I understand people — reasonable people could disagree. I felt that having the government come in in such a major way and have a huge influence over the direction of that industry, that that would be damaging to what I believe is the best way to resolve these types of problems, which lets the market work, constructive capitalism, as Governor Romney was talking about in his days at Bain Capital, and destructive capitalism.

And that means pain. I understand that. But it also means limited government and allowing markets to work because we believe they’re more efficient over time. I held the same consistent position when it came to the auto bailouts. I can say that with respect to Governor Romney, that was not the case. He supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street, was all for it. And then when it came to the auto workers, the folks in Detroit, he said, no. That to me is not a consistent, principled position. I had one. I believe in markets, not just when they’re convenient for me.

KING: Governor?

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Nice — nice try, but now let’s look at the facts. All right, first of all — first of all let’s go back to the auto industry and — and go back to 2000, I think it was 2008, President Bush was still in office and the three chief executive officers of the three major auto companies got in their private planes and flew to Washington and said, please write us a check. I think they wanted $50 billion. And I wrote an Op-Ed in the paper and I said, absolutely not. Do not write a check for $50 billion.

These companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, just like airlines have, just like other industries have. Go through a managed bankruptcy…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …and — and if they go through that managed bankruptcy and shed the excessive cost that’s been put on them by the UAW and by their own mismanagement, then if they need help coming out of bankruptcy, the government can provided guarantees and get them back on their feet. No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear. That was my view. Go through bankruptcy. When that happens, then the market can help lift them out. With regards to — to TARP it’s very simple, or — or the Wall Street. Look, I don’t want to save any Wall Street Banks.

I just don’t want (sic) make sure we lose all of our banks. And like — like President Bush at the time, I was concerned that if we didn’t do something, there were some pretty high risks that not just Wall Street banks, but all banks would collapse. And like many other people — many other economists, they were concerned that our entire currency system would go down. My view is this, we have to have industries that get in trouble, go through bankruptcy. Now, Senator you voted in favor of the bail out of the airline industry after 9/11.

I think that was the right thing to do. It was an emergency. You also voted for the bail out of the steel industry. I don’t think I agree with that one, but I do believe that the right course for the auto industry was to go through a managed bankruptcy process and then to get help getting out.

KING: Governor let me ask you…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: …you — you mentioned — you mentioned President Bush’s position on the Wall Street bail out. If you talk to people in the Bush administration at the time, they say they would have preferred the structured bankruptcy route that you talked about, but that there was no private capital available. That nobody would give the auto companies money and that their choice they say at the time, was to either give the government money or have them liquidate.

ROMNEY: Yeah, it was really interesting. Because, you know, I wrote my piece and I said look, these companies need to go through managed bankruptcy. And the head of the UAW said, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. The industry will disappear if that happens. And the politicians, Barack Obama’s people, oh no, we can’t go through managed bankruptcy. Six months they wrote, I think it was $17 billion in checks to the auto companies. Then they finally realized I was right. They finally put them through managed bankruptcy. That was the time they needed the help to get out of managed bankruptcy.

Those monies they put in beforehand were — it was wasted money. And number two, because they put that money in, the president gave the companies to the UAW, they were part of the reason the companies were in trouble. Giving these companies to the UAW was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK) KING: Mr. Speaker — one second.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: As — as Governor Romney well knows, that the American government shut down the airline industry after 9/11. And the government by it’s action stopped the airline industry from functioning and yes, as a result of government action, which I thought it was appropriate for government since we shut down the industry…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I agree with you.

SANTORUM: …after the events of 9/11.

ROMNEY: I agree.

SANTORUM: But government didn’t shut down the banks. They didn’t shut down the financial service industry. So when you compare those, it’s not apples to apples, Mitt and that’s not a fair comparison.

KING: Mr. Speaker, come in on the conversation. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. It’s a major American industry, in a time of trouble.

GINGRICH: That’s not a tough…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That’s not tough, you say.

GINGRICH: It’s not tough. First of all, there’s a huge amount of the American auto industry that was just fine. BMW in South Carolina was terrific. Mercedes in Alabama was doing just fine. Honda in Ohio was just fine. So the — Toyota was just fine. What we have is the United Auto Workers and a management system that had grown very, I think incapable of tough decisions because they were used to selling out to the United Auto Workers. And so they came in and said, oh we can’t change. And this president on behalf of the United Auto Workers said, you’re exactly right.

Now, the fact is, Chrysler is now Fiat. So when we talk about saving the American auto industry, let’s be clear what they were doing. I think that they would have been much better off to have gone through a managed bankruptcy, I agree with Governor Romney. I think it would have happened. I think what would have happened is the UAW would have lost all of their advantages and the result was, what you had I thought was an unprecedented violation of 200 years of bankruptcy law by Barack Obama to pay off the UAW at the expense of every bondholder. (APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, as you join the conversation, the criticism of President Obama here, but I also want you to address the state’s current Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who supports Mitt Romney, but that’s irrelevant to this point. He says, “The bailout actually was something that really worked.”

Is that Republican governor wrong?

PAUL: Well, you know, it’s interesting when they argue that case.

First, I don’t like the idea that you have good bailouts and bad bailouts. If bailouts are bad, they’re bad, and we shouldn’t be doing it.

But this argument about maybe one that works, you know, well, now that the bankruptcy or the bailing out of GM worked, I said that’s sort of like if a criminal goes out and robs a bank, and he’s successful, therefore you endorse what he did, because he’s successful. But you have to rob people, you have to distort the law.

The government is supposed to protect contracts. They’re not supposed to regulate contracts and they’re not supposed to undermine contracts. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: In the housing bubble, we undermined contracts. And this is what we’re doing here. So you want to respect the contracts.

A lot of people will accuse me of advocating a free market, that there’s no regulations. Actually, the regulations are tougher, because you have to go through bankruptcy and you have to face up to this.

And it isn’t like General Motors would be destroyed. Newt made that point there, that there were good parts of General Motors. But politicians can’t figure this out. Then they serve the special interests, and then you have labor fighting big business.

I opt for the free market in defense of liberty. That’s what we need in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: All right.

We’re off to a good start, Gentlemen. We’re going to take our first break of the evening.

In a moment, our Republican presidential debate here in Arizona continues. A lot more ground to cover, including two issues that are dominating the discussion here in Arizona in recent days, immigration and faith. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Arts Center and the Arizona Republican Presidential debate. Let’s get right back to questioning the four contenders for the Republican nomination. We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here.

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see — it’s a — it’s a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is — please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they’re making it very clear.

GINGRICH: No, I think — look, I think there’s — I want to make two — I want to make two quick point, John.

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let’s be clear here.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: John, what’s happened — and you recall back in the debate that we had George Stephanopoulos talking out about birth control, we wondered why in the world did contraception — and it’s like, why is he going there? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience.

I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.

And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them.

But don’t forget the decision just before this, where he said the government — not a church, but the government should have the right to determine who a church’s ministers are for the purposes of determining whether they’re exempt from EEOC or from workforce laws or labor laws.

He said the government should make that choice. That went all the way to the Supreme Court. There are a few liberals on the Supreme Court. They voted 9-0 against President Obama. His position –

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: — his position — his position on religious tolerance, on religious conscience is clear, and it’s one of the reasons the people in this country are saying we want to have a president who will stand up and fight for the rights under our Constitution, our first right, which is for freedom of religion.

KING: So let’s focus the time — let’s focus the time we spend on this on the role of the president and your personal views and question the role of government.

And Senator Santorum, this has come up — yes, it has come up because of the president’s decision in the campaign. It’s also come up because of some of the things you have said on the campaign trail. When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what, quote, “no president has talked about before — the dangers of contraception.” Why?

SANTORUM: What I was talking about is we have a society — Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it’s on the front page of “The New York Times” two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.

What we’re seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.

And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of “The New York Times”, they’re talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.

Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it’s so much harder to succeed economically? It’s five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything’s not going to be fine.

There are bigger problems at stake in America. And someone has got to go out there — I will — and talk about the things.

And you know what? Here’s the difference.

The left gets all upset. “Oh, look at him talking about these things.” You know, here’s the difference between me and the left, and they don’t get this. Just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.

That’s what they do. That’s not what we do.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I’ve dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. This is a consequences of the fact the government has control of medical care and medical insurance, and then we fight over how we dictate how this should be distributed, sort of like in schools. Once the government takes over the schools, especially at the federal level, then there’s no right position, and you have to argue which prayer, are you allowed to pray, and you get into all the details.

The problem is the government is getting involved in things they shouldn’t be involved in, especially at the federal level.

(APPLAUSE)

But sort of along the line of the pills creating immorality, I don’t see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So you don’t blame the pills.

I think it’s sort of like the argument — conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don’t kill, criminals kill.

(APPLAUSE)

So, in a way, it’s the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor, please.

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn’t an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right.

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven’t been willing to talk about this.

And when we have programs that say we’re going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that. We have to have a president who’s willing to say that the best opportunity an individual can give to their unborn child is an opportunity to be born in a home with a mother and a father. And I think –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: It’s an issue on which all of you have criticism on the Obama administration, it’s an issue on which some of you have also criticized each other.

Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the president to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics’ rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement.

Likewise, in Massachusetts health care bill, there’s a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don’t have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don’t have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control. So we have provisions that make sure that something of that nature does not occur.

That’s why when I worked closely with the leaders of the Catholic Church, I met with the cardinal a number of times, and with his emissaries. We talked about the issues we were concerned about.

We battled, for instance, to help the Catholic Church stay in the adoption business. The amazing thing was that while the Catholic Church was responsible for half the adoptions in my state — half the adoptions — they had to get out of that business because the legislature wouldn’t support me and give them an exemption from having to place children in homes where there was a mom and a dad on a preferential basis.

Absolutely extraordinary. We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor’s office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn’t possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver. Now, that was the newspaper reports that came out. That’s something that both Senator Santorum and I have raised before. But I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously.

When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny, because the government has the power of force.

(APPLAUSE)

You inevitably — and I think this is true whether it’s Romneycare or Obamacare or any other government centralized system — you inevitably move towards the coercion of the state and the state saying, “If you don’t do what we, the politicians, have defined, you will be punished either financially or you will be punished in some other way like going to jail.”

And that’s why we are, I think, at an enormous crossroads in this country. And I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we’re now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought — and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been — with the possible exception of Congressman Paul — than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years.

PAUL: John…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman, please.

PAUL: … have a quick follow-up?

(APPLAUSE) You know, we talk about the morning-after pill. Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill, so if birth control pills are on the market, the morning-after pill — so if you’re going to legalize birth control pills, you really — you can’t separate the two. They’re all basically the same, hormonally.

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money — “Oh, I’ll buy birth control pills,” but then they have the money left over to do the abortion.

So that’s why you have to have a pretty strong resistance of voting for these bunches of bills put together. Planned Parenthood should get nothing, let alone designate how they spend.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including…

(BOOING)

… the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It’s a multi-billion-dollar bill.

What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn’t. I said, well, if you’re going to have Title X funding, then we’re going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we’ll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in — in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to — to accomplish that goal.

So while, yes, I — I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn’t like, things in there I did, but when it came to this issue, I proactively stepped forward and said that we need to do something at least to counterbalance it, A; B, I would say that I’ve always been very public that, as president of the United States, I will defund Planned Parenthood; I will not sign any appropriation bill that funds Planned Parenthood.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Senator (sic), go ahead. PAUL: John, this demonstrates the problem that I’m talking about. There’s always an excuse to do this. Now…

(APPLAUSE)

… Title XX — I don’t know whether you inferred that I would support Title XX for abstinence. No, it would cost money as a program. It’s not a program of the federal government to get involved in our lives this way. If you want laws like that, maybe the state, but…

(APPLAUSE)

… the federal government shouldn’t even be having — spending money on abstinence. That’s way too much more. I don’t see that in the Constitution any…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Just a — just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you — you said that you voted for Title X. You…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn’t say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn’t something I would have done. You said this — you said this in a positive light, “I voted for Title X.”

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: I think it’s — I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that…

(BOOING)

… I’ve never supported it, and — and have — and on an individual basis have voted against it. That’s why I proposed Title XX to counterbalance it.

So I — you know, Governor Romney, I can just say that — that, you know, we were talking about this issue before of, you know, religious conscience and protections. But this is — the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare, which was the model for Obamacare and the government takeover of health care.

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second.

SANTORUM: And there was a study…

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

SANTORUM: There was a study that just came out about 10 days ago, two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was the model for Obamacare, everything from individual mandates, everything from — from fines. Yours is different. You required businesses over 10 employees; Barack — President Obama’s is over 50 employees.

But there — there’s a — and even the drafter of your bill, when they were working on Obama’s bill, said in fact it was the model. So here we have, as Newt said, the real fundamental issue here is government coercion and government coercion when you give governments the right to be able to take your responsibility to provide for your own health and — and — and care, and give it to the government.

That’s what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts. It would be a very — very, let say it would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obama Care, which is the biggest issue in this race of government in control of your lives, to be the nominee of our party. It would take that issue completely off…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Governor — Governor, take 30 seconds to respond and then I want to move the conversation on.

ROMNEY: Much longer than 30 seconds.

KING: I hope not.

ROMNEY: That’s a — that’s a long — that’s a long — that’s a long answer. First of all, let’s not forget that four years ago, well after Romney Care was put in place, four years ago, you not only endorsed me, you and Laura Ingram, and said and this is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him. Let’s not forget you said, that number one.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Number two…

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …number two, under the tenth amendment, states have the right to do things that they think are in their best interest. I know you — you agree with that. But let’s — let’s point this out, our bill was 70 pages. His bill is 2700 pages. There’s a lot in that 2,700 pages I don’t agree with and let me tell you, if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal Obama Care for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t want to spend another trillion dollars. We don’t have that kind of money, it’s the wrong way to go. Number two, I don’t believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion.

Number three, I don’t think the federal government should raise taxes by $500 billion and, therefore, I will repeat Obama Care. And let me — let me — let me mention one more — the reason we have Obama Care — the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator please, quickly?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let’s — let’s get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it’s called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn’t have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I’m all for — I’d like to see it federally. But don’t go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: The bottom line is, what you did was you used federal dollars to fund the government takeover of health care in Massachusetts, used it as — and — and Barack Obama…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter.

SANTORUM: Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: But — and then Barack Obama used it as a model for taking over this health care system in America. Why I supported Arlen Specter, number one because — because Arlen Specter was a — a Senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees that were going to be available. And one, and maybe two of them, or maybe all three were going to be out of the conservative block. And Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we had a conversation.

He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president’s nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I’ll support the president’s nominees as chairman. Every nominee Arlen Specter supported from the time he — he took on Judge Forks and saved Justice Thomas. Every nominee he supported, passed. Why? Because it gave Democrats cover to vote for it and it gave Republican moderates cover to vote for it.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: And just — no because he wouldn’t have been able to give the moderate Republicans and the conservative Democrats the — the leeway to then support that nominee, which is exactly what Arlen Specter did. He defended Roberts, defended Alito. We have a 5/4 majority on the court that struck down that case that you just talked about and is there as a guardian of liberty. And I did the right thing for our country.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …Arlen Specter…

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: …supporting Arlen Specter — supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, that was a — that was a very tortuous route…

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Just about as tortuous as…

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let’s move the conversation along — let’s move the conversation along and take a question from a voter down here in our audience. All right, Sir identify yourself and ask your question please?

QUESTION: Gentleman my name is Jerry Lott (ph) and I’m from Key Man, Arizona. It seems that Arizona has come under federal attack just for wanting to secure its southern border. What will you and your administrations do to fix the situation? To secure our border and to protect the American people?

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul, I want to go to you first on this one. You’re from a border state. As you answer Gary’s question, a recent federal analysis says the cost of secure fencing, which they have a good deal of the border along this state, would cost about $3 million per mile. Is that a good investment? Money well spent?

PAUL: Probably not, but we can do a better job, and the best way to do it is forget about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and deal with our borders, put our resources on this border. This is what we need. But we need to change the rules. We reward illegal immigration. They get benefits, Texas hospitals, and, you know, schools are going bankrupt.

The restraints on the states, and Obama’s restraints on the states to deal with it. Why is it if an illegal comes across the border and they go on private property, why isn’t that trespassing? And why don’t you have the right to stop it? So but there should be no mandates from the federal government about what you must do under the 9th and 10th. There would be essentially none.

But the federal government does have a responsibility for these borders. And I just hate to see all these resources — I think that we should have much more immigration service on the border to make it easier — it’s hard to even get to visit this country. We’re losing a lot of visitors and workers that could come to this country because we have an inefficient immigration service.

And then that invites the illegal. We have to deal — we can’t endorse the illegal, but the program today endorses the illegal problems. And a weak economy is always detrimental, too, because of the welfare state. We have welfare at home and some jobs go begging, we have jobs going begging in this country in the midst of the recession, has to do with the economy.

You can’t ignore the economy. But also the welfare state, allowing immigrants to come over and then get the benefits — if you subsidize something, you get more of. So there’s a lot we can do and should do and certainly this president is not doing a very good job.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, the fence has been a point of contention in the race. And one of your high-profile supporters, a gentleman who’s been up here during this campaign, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, is here tonight. He said this: if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets really good.

You signed a pledge to construct a double fence. Why is Governor Perry wrong?

GINGRICH: He’s not wrong. They’d have to have two 35-foot ladders because it’s a double fence.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, the fact is I helped Duncan Hunter pass the first fence bill in San Diego when I was Speaker of the House. San Diego and Tijuana are the most densely populated border. It turned out it worked. It worked dramatically. Duncan and I would be glad to testify. He’s former chairman of the national — of the Defense Committee — how much it worked.

However, it stopped. It stopped in part because there was a wetlands. It turned out none of the illegal immigrants cared about wetlands policy. Then you had to go and build around the wetlands, which we did. The further we have gone with the fence, the fewer the people have broken into California.

Now, the thing that’s fascinating, though, John, is you quoted a government study of how much it would cost. That’s my earlier point. If you modernize the federal government so it’s competent, you could probably do it for 10 percent of the cost of that study.

The fact is –

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: — what I would do, I would — I have — I have a commitment at newt.org, I would — to finish the job by January 1, 2014, I would initiate a bill that would waive all federal regulations, requirement and studies.

I would ask Governor Brewer here, I would ask Governor Martinez, Governor Brown, and Governor Perry to become the co-leaders in their state. We would apply as many resources as are needed to be done by January 1 of 2014, including, if necessary — there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security personnel in the D.C. area.

I’m prepared to move up to half of them to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. This is a doable thing.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney, the border security is part of the equation, what to do about whether it’s 8 million or 11 million illegal immigrants in the country now is another part of the equation. And Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s with us tonight from Maricopa County — he’s in the audience — he told me –

(APPLAUSE)

KING: — he told me this week here in Mesa — these are his words — “it’s called political garbage, if you will, to not arrest illegals already in this country.”

You’ve talked to the governor about self-deportation, if businesses do their job, asking for the right documents, the people will leave. What about arresting? Should there be aggressive, seek them out, find them and arrest them as the Sheriff Arpaio advocates?

ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says — that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e- verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who’s here legally and who’s not here legally.

And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn’t doing.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will drop those lawsuits on day one. I’ll also complete the fence. I’ll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence. And I will make sure we have an E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers, and to check E- Verify. And if an employer hires someone that has not gone through E- Verify, they’re going to get sanctioned just like they do for not paying their taxes.

You do that, and just as Arizona is finding out, you can stop illegal immigration. It’s time we finally did it.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, we had the conversation about the border and the fence. Governor Romney talks about E-Verify, making sure business is doing their part of the equation.

What about the individual? You said in our last debate employers should be sanctioned, as Governor Romney just said, if they hire illegal immigrants. About a quarter of all workers in private households are undocumented.

What about the homeowner who hires somebody as a household cleaning worker, as a nanny, perhaps? Does that person — if you’re going to be consistent, have enforcement across the board, should that person be sanctioned?

SANTORUM: I’m not going to require homeowners to do E-Verify. I think that’s one step too far. But I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they’re doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they’re found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment.

This is enforcing not just upon the employer, but on those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here.

KING: It’s a tough policy question, obviously, and this state has been part of the driving force. It also becomes — especially for four gentlemen who would like to be the next president of the United States, it’s a difficult political question in the sense that the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in our country.

And some Republicans — some Republicans — Marco Rubio, for example, the senator from Florida that all of you have complimented, said — could be a leading force in your administration if you’re elected — he said this recently. He says he worries that some of the rhetoric used by Republican politicians on this issue has been harsh, intolerable, inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, is he right? GINGRICH: I don’t know who he’s referring to, so I’m not going to comment in general on a statement. Is there somebody somewhere who’s done that? Sure.

Was it also intolerable for President Obama to go to El Paso and make a totally demagogic speech in which he fundamentally — no.

(APPLAUSE)

The great failure here — I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved — signed. And in Reagan’s diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.

Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn’t get it through. President Obama can’t get it through.

I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you’ve got to go one step at a time.

The first step is to control the border. I don’t believe anybody who’s here illegally — and I talked last night, for example, with folks who are of Hispanic background from Nogales who are in the import-export business dealing with Mexico every day. They don’t want a border that’s closed, they want a border that’s controlled, that has easy access for legality and impossible access for illegality. And that’s the model that I think you can talk about in my community of any ethnic background in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: All right, Gentlemen. We’re going to take another quick break.

Our Arizona Republican presidential debate will continue in a moment, but here’s a question. One of these men could be president just 11 months from now. How would they deal with threats from Iran and North Korea?

Plus, a great question sent to us at CNNPolitics.com. Define yourself using one word, Gentlemen, and one word only.

Can the candidates keep it that short? Stick around and find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That was a good exercise. Let’s move our conversation now –

(UNKNOWN): It is.

KING: Let’s move our conversation now to the important responsibilities one of you gentlemen could have in just 11 months as the commander-in-chief of the United States.

And Governor Romney, I want to ask you first, 11 months from now, if you’re successful, you would be our commander-in-chief. The Pentagon recently announced plans to open up 14,000 new jobs to women, putting them closer and close to the front lines of combat. Senator Santorum says he sees a lot of things wrong with this.

What do you think?

ROMNEY: I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve. We’ve had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was with Governor Bob McDonnell. His daughter has served as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He said that she doesn’t get emotional when she faces risk, he’s the one that gets emotional as she faces that kind of risk. And I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society.

(APPLAUSE)

I do think that the key decisions that are being made by this administration, by President Obama, however, related to our military are seriously awry. This is a president who is shrinking our Navy, shrinking our Air Force, wants to shrink our active-duty personnel by 50,000 to 100,000, is cutting our military budget by roughly a trillion dollars.

The world is more dangerous. It is not safer.

North Korea is going through transition. The Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter.

Syria is in flux. And, of course, Pakistan, with 100 nuclear weapons or more, represents a potential threat. Northern Mexico is a real danger area.

I mean, looking around the world, you have Hezbollah in Latin America and Mexico. I mean, we face a very dangerous world. The right course is to add ships to our Navy, to modernize and add aircraft to our Air Force, to add 100,000 troops to our active-duty personnel, and to strengthen America’s military.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: I want to get to some of those hotspots Governor Romney just mentioned, but Speaker Gingrich, on the question of a more prominent role for women, good idea or bad idea?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think it’s a misleading question in the modern era. You live in a world of total warfare. Anybody serving our country in uniform virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. A truck driver can get blown up by a bomb as readily as the infantrymen. So I would say that you ought to ask the combat leaders what they think is an appropriate step, as opposed to the social engineers of the Obama administration.

(APPLAUSE)

But everybody needs to understand — and by the way, we live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities. So everybody who serves in the fire department, in the police department, not just the first responders, but our National Guard, whoever is going to respond, all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country. And we need to understand that’s the context in which we’re going to have to move forward in understanding the nature of modern combat.

I think this is a very sober period, and I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: The problem is the character of our wars. And I don’t like to think of people in groups. Individuals have rights, not groups. You don’t have women’s rights or men’s rights.

And we still have draft legislation. What I fear is the draft coming back because we’re getting way over-involved. And the draft — we keep registering our 18-year-olds. So when the draft comes, we’re going to be registering young women, and because of this they’re going to be equal.

Now, the wars we fight aren’t defensive wars, they’re offensive wars. We’re involved in way too much.

They’re undeclared, they’re not declared by the Congress, and so we’re in wars that shouldn’t be involved. So I don’t want even the men to be over there. I don’t want women being killed, but I don’t want the men being killed in these wars.

(APPLAUSE)

But because now we have accepted now for 10 years that we’re allowed to start war, we call pre-emptive war, preventive war. Well, that’s an aggressive war.

I believe in the Christian just war theory that you have to morally justify the wars in defense. Now, if we’re defending our country — and we need to defend, believe me — with men and women will be in combat and defending our country, and that’s the way it should be. But when it’s an offensive war, going where we shouldn’t be, that’s quite a bit different. So it’s the foreign policy that needs to be examined.

KING: Senator?

SANTORUM: I actually agree with the comments made by the two gentlemen to my left, that there are different roles of women in combat. They are on the front line right now. Their combat zone is, as Newt said, everywhere, unfortunately, in that environment.

My concern that I expressed, I didn’t say it was wrong. I said I had concerns about certain roles with respect to — and particularly in infantry.

I still have those concerns, but I would defer to at least hearing the recommendations of those involved. But I think we have civilian control of the military, and these are things that should be decided not just by the generals, but we should not have social engineering, as I think we’ve seen from this president. We should have sober minds looking at what is in fact the best proper — proper roles for everybody in combat.

KING: Let’s continue the conversation about the commander in chief question. We have a question from our audience, Sir?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Ken Taylor (ph) from Wickenberg, Arizona and my question to all the candidates is, how do you plan on dealing with the growing nuclear threat in Iran?

KING: It’s a pressing question at the moment. Mr. Speaker, let’s go to you first on this one. I want to ask you in the context of the president’s and this country’s highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey told CNN this last week, quote, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and would not achieve Israel’s long term objectives.” If you win this election, General Dempsey would still be — would then be your chairman of the joint chiefs.

If the prime minister of Israel called you, said he wanted to go forward and questioned, Sir do you agree — Mr. President do you agree with your chairman of the joint chiefs? Would you say, yes, Mr. Prime Minister, please stand down? Or would you give Israel the green light?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all this is two different questions. General Dempsey went on to say that he thought Iran was a rational actor. I can’t imagine why he would say that. And I just cannot imagine why he would have said it. The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn’t believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I’m inclined to believe dictators. Now I — I think that it’s dangerous not to.

(APPLAUSE) GINGRICH: If — if an Israeli prime minister, haunted by the history of the Holocaust, recognizing that three nuclear weapons is a holocaust in Israel, if an Israeli prime minister calls me and says, I believe in the defense of my country. This goes back to a point that Congressman Paul raised that we probably disagree on. I do believe there are moments when you preempt. If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: But often…

(APPLAUSE)

KING: The American people often don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want — Governor Romney come into the conversation, we’ll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say — and I want to hear everybody’s plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can’t if that’s your plan.

But at the moment, we need to have a conversation about how as long as this continues, the prices are likely to keep going up.

ROMNEY: Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.

But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president…

(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: …who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum, please?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney’s comment. I think they are absolutely right on and well spoken. I would say that if you’re looking for a president to be elected in this country that will send that very clear message to Iran as to the seriousness of the American public to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, there would be no better candidate than me because I have been on the trail of Iran and trying to advocate for stopping them getting a nuclear weapon for about eight years now.

I was the author of a bill back in 2008 that talked about sanctions on a nuclear program that our intelligence community said didn’t exist and had the President of the United States, president bush oppose me for two years.

And, by the way, so did Joe Biden on the floor of the Senate, and Barack Obama. I always say if you want to know what foreign policy position to take, find out what Joe Biden’s position is and take the opposite opinion and you’ll be right 100 percent of the time.

But they opposed me. He actively opposed me. We did pass that bill eventually at the end of 2006, and it was to fund the pro- democracy movement, $100 million a year. Here’s what I said — we need to get this — these pro-American Iranians who are there, who want freedom, want democracy, and want somebody to help them and support them.

Well, we put — we put some money out there and guess what? Barack Obama cut it when he came into office. And when the Green Revolution rose, the pro-democracy prose, we had nothing. We had no connection, no correlation and we did absolutely nothing to help them.

In the meantime, when the radicals in Egypt and the radicals in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, when they rise against either a feckless leader or a friend of ours in Egypt, the president is more than happy to help them out.

When they’re going up against a dangerous theocratic regime that wants to wipe out the state of Israel, that wants to dominate the radical Islamic world and take on the great Satan, the United States, we do nothing. That is a president that must go. And you want a leader who will take them on? I’ll do that.

KING: Congressman Paul, all three of your rivals here make a passionate case that — all three of them make a passionate case that this is a vital U.S. national security interest. But you disagree.

PAUL: I disagree because we don’t know if they have a weapon. As a matter of fact, there’s no evidence that they have it. There is no evidence. Israel claims they do not have it and our government doesn’t. I don’t want them to get a weapon. But I think what we’re doing is encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel threatened. If you look at a map of — if you look at a map of Iran, we have 45 bases around their country, plus our submarines.

The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody. And we’re worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon. Now, just think about the Cold War. The Soviets had 30,000 of them. And we talked to them. The Soviets killed 100 million people and the Chinese, and we worked our way out of it.

And if you want to worry about nuclear weapons, worry about the nuclear weapons that were left over from the Soviet Union. They’re still floating around. They don’t have them all detailed. So we’re ready to go to war. I say going to war rapidly like this is risky and it’s reckless.

Now, if they are so determined to go to war, the only thing I plead with you for, if this is the case, is do it properly. Ask the people and ask the Congress for a declaration of war. This is war and people are going to die. And you have got to get a declaration of war.

And just to go and start fighting — but the sanctions are already backfiring. And all that we do is literally doing the opposite. When we’ve been — were attacked, we all came together. When we attacked the — when we — when we put them under attack, they get together and it neutralizes that. They rally around their leaders.

So what we’re doing is literally enhancing their power. Think of the sanctions we dealt with Castro. Fifty years and Castro is still there. It doesn’t work. So I would say a different approach. We need to at least — we talked — we talked to the Soviets during the Cuban crisis. We at least can talk to somebody who does not — we do not have proof that he has a weapon. Why go to war so carelessly?

KING: Let’s stay on this theme. We have a question from cnnpolitics.com, a question — you can see it up on the screen here. In regards to Syria, should the United States intervene and should we arm the rebellion?

Senator Santorum, let me start with you on this one. The American people have watched these videos that started months ago and has accelerated in recent days. What is the role for the United States today?

SANTORUM: Syria is a puppet state of Iran. They are a threat not just to Israel, but they have been a complete destabilizing force within Lebanon, which is another problem for Israel and Hezbollah. They are a country that we can do no worse than the leadership in Syria today, which is not the case, and some of the other countries that we readily got ourselves involved in.

So it’s sort of remarkable to me we would have — here again, it’s — I think it’s the timidness (sic) of this president in dealing with the Iranian threat, because Syria and Iran is an axis. And the president — while he couldn’t reach out deliberately to Iran but did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there. And the only reason he removed that embassy was because it was threatened of being — of being overtaken, not because he was objecting to what was going on in Syria.

This president has — has obviously a very big problem in standing up to the Iranians in any form. If this would have been any other country, given what was going on and the mass murders that we’re seeing there, this president would have quickly and — joined the international community, which is calling for his ouster and the stop of this, but he’s not. He’s not. Because he’s afraid to stand up to Iran.

He opposed the sanctions in Iran against the — against the central banks until his own party finally said, “You’re killing us. Please support these sanctions.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president who isn’t going to stop them. He isn’t going to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon. We need a new president or we are going to have a cataclysmic situation with a — a power that is the most prolific proliferator of terror in the world that will be able to do so with impunity because they will have a nuclear weapon to protect — protect them for whatever they do. It has to be stopped, and this president is not in a position to do that.

KING: And the question of Syria…

(APPLAUSE)

… Mr. Speaker, then Governor Romney, if you were president today, what would you do differently from this president tomorrow?

GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA.

(APPLAUSE)

We — the Iranians have been practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, which has one out of every five barrels of oil in the world going through it. We have enough energy in the United States that we would be the largest producer of oil in the world by the end of this decade. We would be capable of saying to the Middle East, “We frankly don’t care what you do. The Chinese have a big problem because you ain’t going to have any oil.”

(APPLAUSE)

But we would not have to be directly engaged. That’s a very different question.

But, first of all, you’ve got to set the stage, I think, here to not be afraid of what might happen in the region.

Second, we clearly should have our allies — this is an old- fashioned word — we have have our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East.

And I agree with — with Senator Santorum’s point. This is an administration which, as long as you’re America’s enemy, you’re safe.

You know, the only people you’ve got to worry about is if you’re an American ally.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor?

ROMNEY: I agree with both these gentlemen. It’s very interesting that you’re seeing, on the Republican platform, a very strong commitment to say we’re going to say no to Iran. It’s unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

And — and Rick is absolutely right. Syria is their key ally. It’s their only ally in the Arab world. It is also their route to the sea. Syria provides a — a shadow over Lebanon. Syria is providing the armament of Hezbollah in Lebanon that, of course, threatens Israel, our friend and ally.

We have very bad news that’s come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our president.

But one little piece of good news, and that is the key ally of Iran, Syria, is — has a leader that’s in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.

There’s things that are — we’re having a hard time getting our hands around, like, what’s happening in Egypt. But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you’ll abandon that guy Assad.

We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.

If we can turn Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, we finally have the capacity to get Iran to pull back. And we could, at that point, with crippling sanctions and a very clear statement that military action is an action that will be taken if they pursue nuclear weaponry, that could change the course of world history.

KING: Let’s try to get another question.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: John? KING: Congressman, quickly, please?

PAUL: No, I get a minute to go quickly.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, I — I’ve tried the moral argument. I’ve tried the constitutional argument on these issues. And they don’t — they don’t go so well. But there — there’s an economic argument, as well.

As a matter of fact, Al Qaida has had a plan to bog us down in the Middle East and bankrupt this country. That’s exactly what they’re doing. We’ve spent $4 trillion of debt in the last 10 years being bogged down in the Middle East.

The neoconservatives who now want us to be in Syria, want us to go to Iran, have another war, and we don’t have the money. We’re already — today gasoline hit $6 a gallon in Florida. And we don’t have the money.

So I don’t believe I’m going to get the conversion on the moral and the constitutional arguments in the near future. But I’ll tell you what, I’m going to win this argument for economic reasons. Just remember, when the Soviets left, they left not because we had to fight them. They left because they bankrupted this country and we better wake up, because that is what we’re doing here. We’re destroying our currency and we have a financial crisis on our hands.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Let’s take another question from our audience, please.

Identify yourself and ask your question.

(UNKNOWN): I’m Marsha Crossen (ph) from Scottsdale, Arizona.

What is your stand on education reform and the No Child Left Behind Act?

KING: This came up a bit earlier in the debate. Some of you mentioned it in a general way.

Senator Santorum, to you first. Specifically, what do you do about No Child Left Behind today if you’re president?

SANTORUM: Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education.

I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.

(BOOING) You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.

Look, I’m a home schooling father of seven. I know the importance of customized education for our children. I know the importance of parental control of education.

(APPLAUSE)

I know the importance of local control of education. And having gone through that experience of the federal government involvement, not only do I believe the federal government should get out of the education business, I think the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it back to the state — to the local and into the community.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney, when you were governor, you had to deal with this law. So weigh in. And as you do, it’s designed, like it or not, to help the public school system, which has struggled. Senator Santorum, just the other day, called public schools in this country factories.

ROMNEY: Well, I’m not going to comment on that unless you’d like to.

With regards to your question, I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to — before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year.

They said to graduate from high school, you’re going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision.

There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can’t pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do.

We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.

With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state’s number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.

And with regards to No Child Left Behind, the right answer there — President Bush stood up and said, you know what? The teachers unions don’t want school choice, I want school choice to see who’s succeeding and failing.

He was right to fight for that. There are things that should be changed in the law, but we have to stand up to the federal teachers unions and put the kids first and the unions behind.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Mr. Speaker, on that point, this is a conversation about what is the proper role of the federal government in the education issue? To the point the governor just raised about teachers unions, you have complimented President Obama to a degree on that issue, saying he had some courage to stand up to the teachers union. You went on tour with Al Sharpton and this president’s education secretary in support of the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program that essentially — I think they used stimulus money for it, but incentives to states, to schools that perform, and that enact reforms.

GINGRICH: What we did is we went around, including Tucson, in this state, and we talked about the importance of charter schools, which was the one area where I thought the president did in fact show some courage, being willing to go into Philadelphia or into Baltimore or in a variety of places and advocate — we were in Montgomery, Alabama, for example — and say charter schools are an important step in the right direction.

There are two things wrong with the president’s approach. And the reason I would, frankly, dramatically shrink the Federal Department of Education down to doing nothing but research, return all the power under the Tenth Amendment back to the states.

And I agree with Rick’s point. I would urge the states, then, to return most of that power back to the local communities, and I’d urge the local communities the turn most of the power back to the parents. And I think the fact is –

(APPLAUSE)

We have bought — we bought over the last 50 years three huge mistakes. We bought the mistake that the teachers unions actually cared about the kids. It’s increasingly clear they care about protecting bad teachers.

And if you look at L.A. Unified, it is almost criminal what we do to the poorest children in America, entrapping them into places. No Nation Left Behind said if a foreign power did this to our children, we’d declare it an act of war because they’re doing so much damage. The second thing we bought into was the — the whole school of education theory that you don’t have to learn, you have to learn about how you would learn.

So when you finish learning about how you would learn, you have self esteem because you’re told you have self esteem, even if you can’t read the words self esteem. And the…

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: …and the third thing we bought, which Rick eluded to, which is really important. We bought this notion that you could have Carnegie units and you could have state standards and you could have a curriculum everybody — every child is unique. Every teach is unique. Teaching is a missionary vocation. When you bureaucratize it, you kill it. We need a fundamental re-thinking from the ground up.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Paul?

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: Newt — Newt’s going in the right direction, but not far enough.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: There’s no — no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That’s not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once — once again the Senators for — was for No Child Left Behind, but now he’s running for president, now he’s running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But — and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that’s the way the team plays. But that’s what the problem is with Washington. That’s what’s been going on for so long.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: So, I don’t accept that form of government. I understand it. That is the way it works. You were with the majority. You were the Whip and you organized and got these votes all passed. But I think the obligation of all of us should be the oath of office. We should take — and it shouldn’t be the oath to the party. I’m sorry about that, but it isn’t the oath to the party, it’s the oath to our office.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: To obey the law and the law is the Constitution.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentleman, thank you. One more break. When we come back, the final question of what could be the final Republican debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Art Center, our Arizona Republican presidential debate, the four contenders on stage tonight.

Gentlemen, our time is short, so one last question.

Nine states have voted so far. We talked a bit earlier about the volatility in the race. The people of Arizona vote Tuesday. Michigan, on Tuesday. Wyoming and Washington State, then Super Tuesday, beyond that. Fourteen states over the next 10 days or so.

Republican voters are clearly having a hard time.

I want to close with this question: Help the voters who still have questions about you. What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?

Congressman Paul, we’ll start with you, sir.

PAUL: I would say the perpetuation of the myth by the media that I can’t win.

(APPLAUSE)

And the total ignoring some statistics that show it to be the opposite. Just recently, there was a poll in Iowa, and it matched all the four of us up against Obama. And guess what? I did the very best.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: So I would say that is been the biggest myth. But let me tell you, though, public perception is one thing, but when you go around and talk to the American people and we have our rallies, that misconception isn’t there. And I think that’s the biggest misconception that I have to deal with.

KING: Mr. Speaker?

GINGRICH: I think that the fact is that the American public are really desperate to find somebody who can solve real problems. I think that’s why it’s been going up and down and why you have got all sorts of different folks as front-runners.

And all I can say is that my background of having actually worked with President Reagan, then having been Speaker, if there was one thing I wish the American people could know about me, it would be the amount of work it took to get to welfare reform, a balanced budget, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and that you’ve got to have somebody who can actually get it done in Washington, not just describe it on the campaign trail.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: We’ve got to restore America’s promise in this country where people know that with hard work and education, that they’re going to be secure and prosperous and that their kids will have a brighter future than they’ve had. For that to happen, we’re going to have to have dramatic fundamental change in Washington, D.C., we’re going to have to create more jobs, have less debt, and shrink the size of the government.

I’m the only person in this race –

KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is a misconception.

ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough?

(APPLAUSE)

And I believe that there’s a whole question about, what do we need as the person that should be president? What is their position on this issue? Who can be the toughest going after Obama?

What we really need, in my opinion, is to say who can lead the country through the kind of fundamental change we have in front of us? And we have people here who all different backgrounds.

I spent 25 years in the private sector. I worked in business. I worked in helping turn around the Olympics. I worked in helping lead a state.

I believe that kind of background and skill is what is essential to restore the American promise. If people think there’s something else in my background that that is more important, they don’t want to vote for me, that’s their right, but I believe I have the passion, the commitment and the skill to turn America around, and I believe that’s what’s needed.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum?

SANTORUM: I think the thing I hear I have heard from the very beginning, can you defeat Barack Obama? And if you want to look at the people on the stage, we’re going to be running against the president who is going to have the national media behind him, he’s going to have more money, a lot more money, because he isn’t having to spend a penny in the primary. So he’s going to outspend whoever it is. He’s going to have the national media on his side.

Maybe you want a candidate who is not going to be able to win an election by beating the tar out of his opponent, spending four or five to one in order to win an election in a state, but actually can run a campaign based on issues and ideas and a vision that’s positive for America, to be able to be outspent and yet cut through because you have a strong vision, you have principles and convictions that is going to convince the American public that you’re on their side in making a big difference in our country and keeping us safe and prosperous. So we’re looking for someone — I think people, they’re looking for someone who can do a lot with a little — run a campaign on a shoestring and win a bunch of states and rise in the polls. You’re looking for someone who can take what’s going on in Washington and look at what went on in my campaign and see someone who can do a lot with a little.

That’s what we need in Washington, not just after the election, but we’re going to need to have that before the election, and I’m the best person, from a state which is a key swing state, from a region of the country which is going to decide this election, right across the Rust Belt of America. We’ve got the programs; we’ve got the plan, and we can win and defeat Barack Obama and govern this country conservatively.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I want to thank all of our candidates tonight. We also want to thank our partner tonight, the Republican Party of Arizona, and we’d like to thank our hosts here at the Mesa Arts Center, a beautiful venue here.

Transparency! Jay Carney Refuses To Answer Question ‘Why Hasn’t Obama Released His College Transcripts’

January 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

‘The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.” – Barack Obama – August 21, 2010

Carney Barker’s responsibility is to hawk Obama Snake Oil. Everything else is inconsequential.

Jay Carney plays duck, dodge, dive.
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ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: You’ve said before from the podium that the Presidents spends I think about ten percent of his time or some small number like that on the presidential campaign so how did you know about George Romney’s 12 years of…

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE: I said that he spends it, I do alot of reading Ed! He didn’t tell me about that!

HENRY: You’re percentage is what? 30 or 40 percent.

CARNEY: No no no, I just read that in an article that one of your colleagues wrote.

HENRY: I don’t know how many years, maybe you do, George Romney released of his college transcripts but Republicans like to complain that the President has not released his college transcripts, what is the stated reason for that?

CARNEY: I would refer you to the campaign.

What is Obama afraid of? “Why does [Obama] feel like he can play by a different set of rules? What is it that he doesn’t want the American people to see?…

I would think that the uber intelligent Narcissist in Chief Obama, would loooooove nothing more than to to show off his stellar academic records. To shower the masses with his brilliant  SAT and LSAT scores.

But noooooo, he has all of his records locked up in a vault.

He is hiding something.

That much is clear.

Something explosive?

Could be Wabbit…

Unless he releases them, we may never know…

BTW The New Yorker leaked George Bush’s college transcripts in 1999, and the Washington Post leaked John Kerry’s in 2000.

Paging the MSM —DO YOUR JOB.

Mmkay…thanks.

In related news: In August of last year, HufPo was more than willing to publish Rick Perry’s college transcripts.

Update: And remember this?

Conservative media figures rip NYT, WaPo for asking readers to help ‘investigate’ Palin emails

Also see:

College Acquaintance: Young Obama Was Pure Marxist Socialist [Audio]

Obama A Disturbing Enigma Wrapped in an Unsettling Mystery

Obama: “…there was an explicitly political aspect to the mission and message of Trinity at that time that I found appealing.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Address U.N. General Assembly Sept 23, 2011 [Full Transcript & Video]

September 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm

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Mr. President of the General Assembly of the United Nations,

Mr. Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I wish to extend my congratulations to H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on his assumption of the Presidency of the Assembly for this session, and wish him all success.

I reaffirm today my sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian people, to the government and people of South Sudan for its deserved admission as a full member of the United Nations, wishing them progress and prosperity.

I also congratulate the Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, on his election for a new term at the helm of the United Nations. This renewal of confidence reflects the world’s appreciation for his efforts, which have strengthened the role of the United Nations.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Question Palestine is intricately linked with the United Nations via the resolutions adopted by its various organs and agencies and via the essential and lauded role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – UNRWA – which embodies the international responsibility towards the plight of Palestine refugees, who are the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948. We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the United Nations.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A year ago, at this same time, distinguished leaders in this hall addressed the stalled peace efforts in our region. Everyone had high hopes for a new round of final status negotiations, which had begun in early September in Washington under the direct auspices of President Barack Obama and with participation of the Quartet, and with Egyptian and Jordanian participation, to reach a peace agreement within one year. We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears and sincere intentions, and we were ready with our documents, papers and proposals. But the negotiations broke down just weeks after their launch.

After this, we did not give up and did not cease our efforts for initiatives and contacts. Over the past year we did not leave a door to be knocked or channel to be tested or path to be taken and we did not ignore any formal or informal party of influence and stature to be addressed. We positively considered the various ideas and proposals and initiatives presented from many countries and parties. But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.

The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.

Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land of the Palestinian people and all of the brutality of aggression and racial discrimination against our people that this policy entails. This policy, which constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions, is the primary cause for the failure of the peace process, the collapse of dozens of opportunities, and the burial of the great hopes that arose from the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel to achieve a just peace that would begin a new era for our region.

The reports of United Nations missions as well as by several Israeli institutions and civil societies convey a horrific picture about the size of the settlement campaign, which the Israeli government does not hesitate to boast about and which it continues to execute through the systematic confiscation of the Palestinian lands and the construction of thousands of new settlement units in various areas of the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, and accelerated construction of the annexation Wall that is eating up large tracts of our land, dividing it into separate and isolated islands and cantons, destroying family life and communities and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families. The occupying Power also continues to refuse permits for our people to build in Occupied East Jerusalem, at the same time that it intensifies its decades-long campaign of demolition and confiscation of homes, displacing Palestinian owners and residents under a multi-pronged policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at pushing them away from their ancestral homeland. In addition, orders have been issued to deport elected representatives from the city of Jerusalem. The occupying Power also continues to undertake excavations that threaten our holy places, and its military checkpoints prevent our citizens from getting access to their mosques and churches, and it continues to besiege the Holy City with a ring of settlements imposed to separate the Holy City from the rest of the Palestinian cities.

The occupation is racing against time to redraw the borders on our land according to what it wants and to impose a fait accompli on the ground that changes the realities and that is undermining the realistic potential for the existence of the State of Palestine.

At the same time, the occupying Power continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded.

The occupying Power also continues its incursions in areas of the Palestinian National Authority through raids, arrests and killings at the checkpoints. In recent years, the criminal actions of armed settler militias, who enjoy the special protection of the occupation army, has intensified with the perpetration of frequent attacks against our people, targeting their homes, schools, universities, mosques, fields, crops and trees. Despite our repeated warnings, the occupying Power has not acted to curb these attacks and we hold them fully responsible for the crimes of the settlers.

These are just a few examples of the policy of the Israeli colonial settlement occupation, and this policy is responsible for the continued failure of the successive international attempts to salvage the peace process.

This policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-State solution upon which there is an international consensus, and here I caution aloud: This settlement policy threatens to also undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence.

In addition, we now face the imposition new conditions not previously raised, conditions that will transform the raging conflict in our inflamed region into a religious conflict and a threat to the future of a million and a half Christian and Muslim Palestinians, citizens of Israel, a matter which we reject and which is impossible for us to accept being dragged into.

All of these actions taken by Israel in our country are unilateral actions and are not based on any earlier agreements. Indeed, what we witness is a selective application of the agreements aimed at perpetuating the occupation. Israel reoccupied the cities of the West Bank by a unilateral action, and reestablished the civil and military occupation by a unilateral action, and it is the one that determines whether or not a Palestinian citizen has the right to reside in any part of the Palestinian Territory. And it is confiscating our land and our water and obstructing our movement as well as the movement of goods. And it is the one obstructing our whole destiny. All of this is unilateral.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall and assured the Members of the General Assembly of our affirmative pursuit for peace, urging the United Nations to realize the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, stating: “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.

In 1988, President Arafat again addressed the General Assembly, which convened in Geneva to hear him, where he submitted the Palestinian peace program adopted by the Palestine National Council at its session held that year in Algeria.

When we adopted this program, we were taking a painful and very difficult step for all of us, especially those, including myself, who were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Al-Nakba, one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East.

Yet, because we believe in peace and because of our conviction in international legitimacy, and because we had the courage to make difficult decisions for our people, and in the absence of absolute justice, we decided to adopt the path of relative justice – justice that is possible and could correct part of the grave historical injustice committed against our people. Thus, we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.

We, by taking that historic step, which was welcomed by the States of the world, made a major concession in order to achieve a historic compromise that would allow peace to be made in the land of peace.

In the years that followed – from the Madrid Conference and the Washington negotiations leading to the Oslo agreement, which was signed 18 years ago in the garden of the White House and was linked with the letters of mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel, we persevered and dealt positively and responsibly with all efforts aimed at the achievement of a lasting peace agreement. Yet, as we said earlier, every initiative and every conference and every new round of negotiations and every movement was shattered on the rock of the Israeli settlement expansion project.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I confirm, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which will remain so until the end of the conflict in all its aspects and until the resolution of all final status issues, the following:

1. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.

2. The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

3. We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.

4. Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance, which is consistent with international humanitarian law and international conventions and has the support of peace activists from Israel and around the world, reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.

5. When we bring our plight and our case to this international podium, it is a confirmation of our reliance on the political and diplomatic option and is a confirmation that we do not undertake unilateral steps. Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine. We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.

I am here to say on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making. I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity. Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighboring States – Palestine and Israel – instead of policies of occupation, settlement, war and eliminating the other.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the unquestionable right of our people to self-determination and to the independence of our State as stipulated in international resolutions, we have accepted in the past few years to engage in what appeared to be a test of our worthiness, entitlement and eligibility. During the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions. Despite the extraordinary situation and the Israeli obstacles imposed, a serious extensive project was launched that has included the implementation of plans to enhance and advance the judiciary and the apparatus for maintenance of order and security, to develop the administrative, financial, and oversight systems, to upgrade the performance of institutions, and to enhance self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid. With the thankful support of Arab countries and donors from friendly countries, a number of large infrastructure projects have been implemented, focused on various aspects of service, with special attention to rural and marginalized areas.

In the midst of this massive national project, we have been strengthening what we seeking to be the features of our State: from the preservation of security for the citizen and public order; to the promotion of judicial authority and rule of law; to strengthening the role of women via legislation, laws and participation; to ensuring the protection of public freedoms and strengthening the role of civil society institutions; to institutionalizing rules and regulations for ensuring accountability and transparency in the work of our Ministries and departments; to entrenching the pillars of democracy as the basis for the Palestinian political life.

When division struck the unity of our homeland, people and institutions, we were determined to adopt dialogue for restoration of our unity. We succeeded months ago in achieving national reconciliation and we hope that its implementation will be accelerated in the coming weeks. The core pillar of this reconciliation was to turn to the people through legislative and presidential elections within a year, because the State we want will be a State characterized by the rule of law, democratic exercise and protection of the freedoms and equality of all citizens without any discrimination and the transfer of power through the ballot box.

The reports issued recently by the United Nations, the World Bank, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) and the International Monetary Fund confirm and laud what has been accomplished, considering it a remarkable and unprecedented model. The consensus conclusion by the AHLC a few days ago here described what has been accomplished as a “remarkable international success story” and confirmed the readiness of the Palestinian people and their institutions for the immediate independence of the State of Palestine.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is no longer possible to redress the issue of the blockage of the horizon of the peace talks with the same means and methods that have been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful over the past years. The crisis is far too deep to be neglected, and what is more dangerous are attempts to simply circumvent it or postpone its explosion.

It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable. Negotiations will be meaningless as long as the occupation army on the ground continues to entrench its occupation, instead of rolling it back, and continues to change the demography of our country in order to create a new basis on which to alter the borders.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability? Will it allow Israel to continue rejecting the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice and the positions of the overwhelming majority of countries in the world?

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.

The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestine refugees in the homeland and the Diaspora, to end their displacement and to realize their rights, some of them forced to take refuge more than once in different places of the world.

At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy – the Arab Spring – the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence.

The time has come for our men, women and children to live normal lives, for them to be able to sleep without waiting for the worst that the next day will bring; for mothers to be assured that their children will return home without fear of suffering killing, arrest or humiliation; for students to be able to go to their schools and universities without checkpoints obstructing them. The time has come for sick people to be able to reach hospitals normally, and for our farmers to be able to take care of their good land without fear of the occupation seizing the land and its water, which the wall prevents access to, or fear of the settlers, for whom settlements are being built on our land and who are uprooting and burning the olive trees that have existed for hundreds of years. The time has come for the thousands of prisoners to be released from the prisons to return to their families and their children to become a part of building their homeland, for the freedom of which they have sacrificed.

My people desire to exercise their right to enjoy a normal life like the rest of humanity. They believe what the great poet Mahmoud Darwish said: Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We profoundly appreciate and value the positions of all States that have supported our struggle and our rights and recognized the State of Palestine following the Declaration of Independence in 1988, as well as the countries that have recently recognized the State of Palestine and those that have upgraded the level of Palestine’s representation in their capitals. I also salute the Secretary-General, who said a few days ago that the Palestinian State should have been established years ago.

Be assured that this support for our people is more valuable to them than you can imagine, for it makes them feel that someone is listening to their narrative and that their tragedy and the horrors of Al-Nakba and the occupation, from which they have so suffered, are not being ignored. And, it reinforces their hope that stems from the belief that justice is possible in this in this world. The loss of hope is the most ferocious enemy of peace and despair is the strongest ally of extremism.

I say: The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to inform you that, before delivering this statement, I submitted, in my capacity as the President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, an application for the admission of Palestine on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations.

I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favor of our full membership. I also call upon the States that did not recognized the State of Palestine as yet to do so.

Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,

The support of the countries of the world for our endeavor is a victory for truth,freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy, and it provides tremendous support for the peace option and enhances the chances of success of the negotiations.

Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your support for the establishment of the State of Palestine and for its admission to the United Nations as a full member is the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.

I thank you.

Also see:

Palestinian Authority Chooses Mother of 4 Jihadists as Face of Palestinian Statehood Campaign

Palestinians Throw Rocks At 20 Month Old Israeli Baby

Linked at the Lineman…thanks!

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Address U.N. General Assembly Sept 23, 2011 [Full Transcript & Video]

September 23, 2011 at 7:25 am

Remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly Location: United Nations Headquarters, New York City, New York Time: 1:29 p.m. EDT Date: Friday, September 23, 2011

Netanyahu: ‘In Israel, Our Hope for Peace Never Wanes’
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MR. : The assembly will now hear a statement by His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of the state of Israel. (Cheers, applause.) I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of the state of Israel.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Thank you. Thank you.

MR. : I invite him to address the General Assembly.

PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, I extend that hand again today. I extend it to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbors with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.

But most especially, I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, innovators, apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow. Our artists, our writers, enrich the heritage of humanity. Now, I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975 that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland — it was then that this was braided — branded, rather — shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here, that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn’t praised; it was denounced! And it’s here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It’s singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East.

Well, this is an unfortunate part of the U.N. institution. It’s the — the theater of the absurd. It doesn’t only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi’s Libya chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the U.N. Committee on Disarmament.

You might say: That’s the past. Well, here’s what’s happening now — right now, today. Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the U.N. Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.

You couldn’t make this thing up.

So here in the U.N., automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets in the west or rises in the west. I think the first has already been pre-ordained. But they can also decide — they have decided that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.

And yet even here in the General Assembly, the truth can sometimes break through. In 1984 when I was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, I visited the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me — and ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want any of you to be offended because from personal experience of serving here, I know there are many honorable men and women, many capable and decent people serving their nations here. But here’s what the rebbe said to me. He said to me, you’ll be serving in a house of many lies. And then he said, remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.

Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country. So as Israel’s prime minister, I didn’t come here to win applause. I came here to speak the truth. (Cheers, applause.) The truth is — the truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties. The truth is that so far the Palestinians have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn’t let that happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I first came here 27 years ago, the world was divided between East and West. Since then the Cold War ended, great civilizations have risen from centuries of slumber, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, countless more are poised to follow, and the remarkable thing is that so far this monumental historic shift has largely occurred peacefully. Yet a malignancy is now growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy.

That malignancy is militant Islam. It cloaks itself in the mantle of a great faith, yet it murders Jews, Christians and Muslims alike with unforgiving impartiality. On September 11th it killed thousands of Americans, and it left the twin towers in smoldering ruins. Last night I laid a wreath on the 9/11 memorial. It was deeply moving. But as I was going there, one thing echoed in my mind: the outrageous words of the president of Iran on this podium yesterday. He implied that 9/11 was an American conspiracy. Some of you left this hall. All of you should have. (Applause.)

Since 9/11, militant Islamists slaughtered countless other innocents — in London and Madrid, in Baghdad and Mumbai, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in every part of Israel. I believe that the greatest danger facing our world is that this fanaticism will arm itself with nuclear weapons. And this is precisely what Iran is trying to do.

Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday — can you imagine him armed with nuclear weapons? The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late. If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter. That would be a tragedy. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to replace tyranny with liberty, and no one would benefit more than Israel if those committed to freedom and peace would prevail.

This is my fervent hope. But as the prime minister of Israel, I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking. Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.

And the world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous. Militant Islam has already taken over Lebanon and Gaza. It’s determined to tear apart the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. It’s poisoned many Arab minds against Jews and Israel, against America and the West. It opposes not the policies of Israel but the existence of Israel.

Now, some argue that the spread of militant Islam, especially in these turbulent times — if you want to slow it down, they argue, Israel must hurry to make concessions, to make territorial compromises. And this theory sounds simple. Basically it goes like this: Leave the territory, and peace will be advanced. The moderates will be strengthened, the radicals will be kept at bay. And don’t worry about the pesky details of how Israel will actually defend itself; international troops will do the job.

These people say to me constantly: Just make a sweeping offer, and everything will work out. You know, there’s only one problem with that theory. We’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked. In 2000 Israel made a sweeping peace offer that met virtually all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it. The Palestinians then launched a terror attack that claimed a thousand Israeli lives.

Prime Minister Olmert afterwards made an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas didn’t even respond to it.

But Israel did more than just make sweeping offers. We actually left territory. We withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from every square inch of Gaza in 2005. That didn’t calm the Islamic storm, the militant Islamic storm that threatens us. It only brought the storm closer and make it stronger.

Hezbollah and Hamas fired thousands of rockets against our cities from the very territories we vacated. See, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the moderates didn’t defeat the radicals, the moderates were devoured by the radicals. And I regret to say that international troops like UNIFIL in Lebanon and UBAM (ph) in Gaza didn’t stop the radicals from attacking Israel.

We left Gaza hoping for peace.

We didn’t freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them. We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements.

And I don’t think people remember how far we went to achieve this. We uprooted thousands of people from their homes. We pulled children out of — out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. We even — we even moved loved ones from their graves. And then, having done all that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.

Now the theory says it should all work out, and President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority now could build a peaceful state in Gaza. You can remember that the entire world applauded. They applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship. It was a bold act of peace.

But ladies and gentlemen, we didn’t get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas promptly kicked out the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority collapsed in a day — in one day.

President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.

Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand that, given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What’s to prevent this from happening again in the West Bank? See, most of our major cities in the south of the country are within a few dozen kilometers from Gaza. But in the center of the country, opposite the West Bank, our cities are a few hundred meters or at most a few kilometers away from the edge of the West Bank.

So I want to ask you. Would any of you — would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens? Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there. And that’s why we need to have real security arrangements, which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us.

Israelis remember the bitter lessons of Gaza. Many of Israel’s critics ignore them. They irresponsibly advise Israel to go down this same perilous path again. Your read what these people say and it’s as if nothing happened — just repeating the same advice, the same formulas as though none of this happened.

And these critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.

So in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice. Better a bad press than a good eulogy, and better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extends beyond breakfast, and which recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

I believe that in serious peace negotiations, these needs and concerns can be properly addressed, but they will not be addressed without negotiations. And the needs are many, because Israel is such a tiny country. Without Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, Israel is all of 9 miles wide.

I want to put it for you in perspective, because you’re all in the city. That’s about two-thirds the length of Manhattan. It’s the distance between Battery Park and Columbia University. And don’t forget that the people who live in Brooklyn and New Jersey are considerably nicer than some of Israel’s neighbors.

So how do you — how do you protect such a tiny country, surrounded by people sworn to its destruction and armed to the teeth by Iran? Obviously you can’t defend it from within that narrow space alone. Israel needs greater strategic depth, and that’s exactly why Security Council Resolution 242 didn’t require Israel to leave all the territories it captured in the Six-Day War. It talked about withdrawal from territories, to secure and defensible boundaries. And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.

I explained this to President Abbas. He answered that if a Palestinian state was to be a sovereign country, it could never accept such arrangements. Why not? America has had troops in Japan, Germany and South Korea for more than a half a century. Britain has had an airspace in Cyprus or rather an air base in Cyprus. France has forces in three independent African nations. None of these states claim that they’re not sovereign countries.

And there are many other vital security issues that also must be addressed. Take the issue of airspace. Again, Israel’s small dimensions create huge security problems. America can be crossed by jet airplane in six hours. To fly across Israel, it takes three minutes. So is Israel’s tiny airspace to be chopped in half and given to a Palestinian state not at peace with Israel?

Our major international airport is a few kilometers away from the West Bank. Without peace, will our planes become targets for antiaircraft missiles placed in the adjacent Palestinian state? And how will we stop the smuggling into the West Bank? It’s not merely the West Bank, it’s the West Bank mountains. It just dominates the coastal plain where most of Israel’s population sits below. How could we prevent the smuggling into these mountains of those missiles that could be fired on our cities?

I bring up these problems because they’re not theoretical problems. They’re very real. And for Israelis, they’re life-and- death matters. All these potential cracks in Israel’s security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared, not afterwards, because if you leave it afterwards, they won’t be sealed. And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.

The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first. (Applause.)

And there’s one more thing. Hamas has been violating international law by holding our soldier Gilad Shalit captive for five years.

They haven’t given even one Red Cross visit. He’s held in a dungeon, in darkness, against all international norms. Gilad Shalit is the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit. He is the grandson of Zvi Shalit, who escaped the Holocaust by coming to the — in the 1930s as a boy to the land of Israel. Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli family. Every nation represented here should demand his immediate release. (Applause.) If you want to — if you want to pass a resolution about the Middle East today, that’s the resolution you should pass. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, last year in Israel in Bar-Ilan University, this year in the Knesset and in the U.S. Congress, I laid out my vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. Yes, the Jewish state. After all, this is the body that recognized the Jewish state 64 years ago. Now, don’t you think it’s about time that Palestinians did the same?

The Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including the more than 1 million Arab citizens of Israel. I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state, for as Palestinian officials made clear the other day — in fact, I think they made it right here in New York — they said the Palestinian state won’t allow any Jews in it. They’ll be Jew-free — Judenrein. That’s ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That’s racism. And you know which laws this evokes.

Israel has no intention whatsoever to change the democratic character of our state. We just don’t want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state. (Applause.) We want to give up — we want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.

President Abbas just stood here, and he said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that’s odd. Our conflict has been raging for — was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank. So if what President Abbas is saying was true, then the — I guess that the settlements he’s talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva. Maybe that’s what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn’t say from 1967; he said from 1948. I hope somebody will bother to ask him this question because it illustrates a simple truth: The core of the conflict is not the settlements. The settlements are a result of the conflict. (Applause.)

The settlements have to be — it’s an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations. But the core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.

I think it’s time that the Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious international leader has recognized, from Lord Balfour and Lloyd George in 1917, to President Truman in 1948, to President Obama just two days ago right here: Israel is the Jewish state. (Applause.)

President Abbas, stop walking around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state, and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects. They should live in a free state of their own. But they should be ready, like us, for compromise. And we will know that they’re ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel’s security requirements seriously and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.

I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That’s like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we’re called “Jews”? Because we come from Judea.

In my office in Jerusalem, there’s a — there’s an ancient seal. It’s a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there’s a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That’s my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin — Binyamin — the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Sumeria 4,000 years ago, and there’s been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.

And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back: Jews in Spain, on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine, fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land. (Applause.)

As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred generations of Jews who were dispersed throughout the lands, who suffered every evil under the Sun, but who never gave up hope of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace. I’ve worked hard to advance that peace. The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations without preconditions. President Abbas didn’t respond. I outlined a vision of peace of two states for two peoples. He still didn’t respond. I removed hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, to ease freedom of movement in the Palestinian areas; this facilitated a fantastic growth in the Palestinian economy. But again — no response. I took the unprecedented step of freezing new buildings in the settlements for 10 months. No prime minister did that before, ever. (Scattered applause.) Once again — you applaud, but there was no response. No response.

In the last few weeks, American officials have put forward ideas to restart peace talks. There were things in those ideas about borders that I didn’t like. There were things there about the Jewish state that I’m sure the Palestinians didn’t like.

But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward on these American ideas.

President Abbas, why don’t you join me? We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations. Let’s just get on with it. Let’s negotiate peace. (Applause.)

I spent years defending Israel on the battlefield. I spent decades defending Israel in the court of public opinion. President Abbas, you’ve dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause. Must this conflict continue for generations, or will we enable our children and our grandchildren to speak in years ahead of how we found a way to end it? That’s what we should aim for, and that’s what I believe we can achieve.

In two and a half years, we met in Jerusalem only once, even though my door has always been open to you. If you wish, I’ll come to Ramallah. Actually, I have a better suggestion. We’ve both just flown thousands of miles to New York. Now we’re in the same city. We’re in the same building. So let’s meet here today in the United Nations. (Applause.) Who’s there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?

And I suggest we talk openly and honestly. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s do as we say in the Middle East: Let’s talk “doogli” (ph). That means straightforward. I’ll tell you my needs and concerns. You’ll tell me yours. And with God’s help, we’ll find the common ground of peace. (Applause.)

There’s an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand — the hand of Israel — in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham. My people call him Avraham. Your people call him Ibrahim. We share the same patriarch. We dwell in the same land. Our destinies are intertwined. Let us realize the vision of Isaiah — (speaks in Hebrew) — “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.” Let that light be the light of peace. (Applause.)

END.

Via IsraelPolitik

Emphasis mine.

Also see:

Palestinian Authority Chooses Mother of 4 Jihadists as Face of Palestinian Statehood Campaign

Palestinians Throw Rocks At 20 Month Old Israeli Baby

Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority & Fatah ‘No Peace, No Israel’

Video June 2011: PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: “We Refuse to Recognize a Jewish State” [Updated]

Obama Primetime Debt Speech July, 25, 2011

July 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to care what his words mean, only how they sound, only what they get him. The answer, then, is yes, when this president speaks, it really is just words. ~Andrew Klavan

Primetime Debt Speech
Monday, July 25, 2011
Washington, DC
Good evening. Tonight, I want to talk about the debate we’ve been having in Washington over the national debt – a debate that directly affects the lives of all Americans.

For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. [Bush card!] But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars [Libya]and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.

As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office. [Bush card!]To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more – on tax cuts for middle-class families; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off. These emergency steps also added to the deficit.

Now, every family knows that a little credit card debt is manageable. But if we stay on the current path, our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy. More of our tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on our loans. Businesses will be less likely to open up shop and hire workers in a country that can’t balance its books. Interest rates could climb for everyone who borrows money – the homeowner with a mortgage, the student with a college loan, the corner store that wants to expand. And we won’t have enough money to make job-creating investments in things like education and infrastructure, or pay for vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it. And over the last several months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. I won’t bore you with the details of every plan or proposal, but basically, the debate has centered around two different approaches.

The first approach says, let’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let’s cut out the waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare – and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.

This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much. It would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion and put us on a path to pay down our debt. And the cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small business and middle-class families get back on their feet right now.

This approach is also bipartisan. While many in my own party aren’t happy with the painful cuts it makes, enough will be willing to accept them if the burden is fairly shared. While Republicans might like to see deeper cuts and no revenue at all, there are many in the Senate who have said “Yes, I’m willing to put politics aside and consider this approach because I care about solving the problem.” And to his credit, this is the kind of approach the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was working on with me over the last several weeks.

The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach – an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about – cuts that place a greater burden on working families.

So the debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices. Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done. Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?

That’s not right. It’s not fair. We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country – things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.

Keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98% of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all. None. In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families. What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade – millionaires and billionaires – to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make. And I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in. In fact, over the last few decades, they’ve pitched in every time we passed a bipartisan deal to reduce the deficit. The first time a deal passed, a predecessor of mine made the case for a balanced approach by saying this:

“Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer.”

Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan. But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach – an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, President Clinton, myself, and many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. So we are left with a stalemate.

Now, what makes today’s stalemate so dangerous is that it has been tied to something known as the debt ceiling – a term that most people outside of Washington have probably never heard of before.

Understand – raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up. In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it. President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it 7 times. And we have to do it by next Tuesday, August 2nd, or else we won’t be able to pay all of our bills.

Unfortunately, for the past several weeks, Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they’ll vote to prevent America’s first-ever default is if the rest of us agree to their deep, spending cuts-only approach.

If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills – bills that include monthly Social Security | checks, [Obama scare mongering senior citizens -evil liar] veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.

For the first time in history, our country’s Triple A credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet. Interest rates would skyrocket on credit cards, mortgages, and car loans, which amounts to a huge tax hike on the American people. We would risk sparking a deep economic crisis – one caused almost entirely by Washington.

Defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate. And Republican leaders say that they agree we must avoid default. But the new approach that Speaker Boehner unveiled today, which would temporarily extend the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now. In other words, it doesn’t solve the problem.

First of all, a six-month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates that all Americans would have to pay as a result. We know what we have to do to reduce our deficits; there’s no point in putting the economy at risk by kicking the can further down the road.

But there’s an even greater danger to this approach. Based on what we’ve seen these past few weeks, we know what to expect six months from now. The House will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach. Again, they will refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up their tax cuts or deductions. Again, they will demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare. And once again, the economy will be held captive unless they get their way.

That is no way to run the greatest country on Earth. It is a dangerous game we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now. Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake. We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.

Congress now has one week left to act, and there are still paths forward. The Senate has introduced a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don’t have to go through this again in six months.

I think that’s a much better path, although serious deficit reduction would still require us to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform. Either way, I have told leaders of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days that can pass both houses of Congress – a compromise I can sign. And I am confident we can reach this compromise. Despite our disagreements, Republican leaders and I have found common ground before. And I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress.

I realize that a lot of the new members of Congress and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But we were each elected by some of the same Americans for some of the same reasons. Yes, many want government to start living within its means. And many are fed up with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few. But do you know what people are fed up with most of all?

They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word. They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They are offended by that. And they should be.

The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government. So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your Member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.

America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise. As a democracy [A REPUBLIC a POTUS should know that] made up of every race and religion, where every belief and point of view is welcomed, we have put to the test time and again the proposition at the heart of our founding: that out of many, we are one. We have engaged in fierce and passionate debates about the issues of the day, but from slavery to war, from civil liberties to questions of economic justice, we have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote: “Every man cannot have his way in all things…Without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”

History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed. But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good. We remember the Americans who held this country together during its most difficult hours; who put aside pride and party to form a more perfect union.

That’s who we remember. That’s who we need to be right now. The entire world is watching. So let’s seize this moment to show why the United States of America is still the greatest nation on Earth – not just because we can still keep our word and meet our obligations, but because we can still come together as one nation. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Update:

Press Secretary Carney admits Obama has no deficit, debt plan - Resist Tyranny Now

White House press secretary Jay Carney spends nine minutes here pretending that the President has an actual written-on-paper plan to reduce the annual budget deficit and, ultimately, our national debt. But, oops! He eventually admits that Obama has no actual written plan at all: [...]

LibertyAtStake at THE ASSIGNED READING LIST  links…thanks!

Transcript: Obama Twitter Town Hall –July 6, 2011

July 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

MR. DORSEY: Excellent. Well, first question comes from a curator in New Hampshire. And we have eight curators around the country helping us pick tweets from the crowd so that we can read them to the President.

And this one comes from William Smith: “What mistakes have you made in handling this recession and what would you do differently?”

THE OBAMA: That’s a terrific question. When I first came into office we were facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. So, looking around this room, it’s a pretty young room — it’s certainly the worst recession that we’ve faced in our lifetimes. And we had to act quickly and make some bold and sometimes difficult decisions.

It was absolutely the right thing to do to put forward a Recovery Act that cut taxes for middle-class folks so they had more money in their pocket to get through the recession. It was the right thing to do to provide assistance to states to make sure that they didn’t have to lay off teachers and cops and firefighters as quickly as they needed to. And it was the right thing to do to try to rebuild our infrastructure and put people back to work building roads and bridges and so forth.

It also was the right thing to do, although a tough decision, to save the auto industry, which is now profitable and gaining market share — the U.S. auto industry — for the first time in a very long time.

I think that — probably two things that I would do differently. One would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this. I think even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude, of the recession until fairly far into it, maybe two or three months into my presidency where we started realizing that we had lost 4 million jobs before I was even sworn in.

And so I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. And I take responsibility for that, because setting people’s expectations is part of how you end up being able to respond well.

The other area is in the area of housing. I think that the continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn’t bottomed out as quickly as we expected. And so that’s continued to be a big drag on the economy.

We’ve had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up. But of all the things we’ve done, that’s probably been the area that’s been most stubborn to us trying to solve the problem.

MR. DORSEY: Mr. President, 27 percent of our questions are in the jobs category, as you can see from the screen over here. Our next question has to do about jobs and technology. It comes from David: “Tech and knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing. Why not be realistic about jobs?”

THE OBAMA: Well, it’s not an either/or question; it’s a both/and question. We have to be successful at the cutting-edge industries of the future like Twitter. But we also have always been a country that makes stuff. And manufacturing jobs end up having both higher wages typically, and they also have bigger multiplier effects. So one manufacturing job can support a range of other jobs — suppliers and the restaurant near the plant and so forth. So they end up having a substantial impact on the overall economy.

What we want to focus on is advanced manufacturing that combines new technology, so research and development to figure out how are we going to create the next Twitter, how are we going to create the next Google, how are we going to create the next big thing — but make sure that production is here.

So it’s great that we have an Apple that’s creating iPods, iPads and designing them and creating the software, but it would be nice if we’re also making the iPads and the iPods here in the United States, because that’s some more jobs that people can work at.

And there are going to be a series of decisions that we’ve got to make. Number one, are we investing in research and development in order to emphasize technology? And a lot of that has to come from government. That’s how the Internet got formed. That’s how GPS got formed. Companies on their own can’t always finance the basic research because they can’t be assured that they’re going to get a return on it.

Number two, we’ve got to drastically improve how we train our workforce and our kids around math and science and technology.

Number three, we’ve got to have a top-notch infrastructure to support advanced manufacturing, and we’ve got to look at sectors where we know this is going to be the future. Something like clean energy, for example. For us not to be the leaders in investing in clean energy manufacturing so that wind turbines and solar panels are not only designed here in the United States but made here in the United States makes absolutely no sense. We’ve got to invest in those areas for us to be successful.

So you can combine high-tech with manufacturing, and then you get the best of all worlds.

MR. DORSEY: You mentioned education. There’s a lot of questions coming about education and its impact on the economy. This one in particular is from a curator who is pulling from a student in Ohio, named Dustin: “Higher ed is necessary for a stronger economy, but for some middle-class Americans it’s becoming too expensive. What can be done?”

THE OBAMA: Well, here is some good news. We’ve already done something that is very significant, and people may not know. As part of a higher education package that we passed last year, what we were able to do was to take away subsidies that were going to banks for serving as middlemen in the student loan program and funnel that to help young people, through Pell Grants and lower rates on student loans. And so there are millions of students who are getting more affordable student loans and grants as a consequence of the steps that we’ve already taken. This is about tens of billions of dollars’ worth of additional federal dollars that were going to banks are now going to students directly.

In addition, what we’ve said is that starting in 2013, young people who are going to college will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their income in repayment. And that obviously helps to relieve the burden on a lot students — because, look, I’m a guy who had about $60,000 worth of debt when I graduated from law school, and Michelle had $60,000. And so we were paying a bigger amount every month than our mortgage. And we did that for eight, 10 years. So I know how burdensome this can be.

I do think that the universities still have a role in trying to keep their costs down. And I think that it’s important — even if we’ve got better student loan programs, more grants, if the costs keep on going up then we’ll never have enough money, you’ll never get enough help to avoid taking on these huge debts. And so working with university presidents to try to figure out, where can you cut costs — of course, it may mean that the food in the cafeteria is a little worse and the gym is not as fancy. But I think all of us have to figure out a way to make sure that higher education is accessible for everybody.

One last point — I know, Twitter, I’m supposed to be short. (Laughter.) But city — community colleges is a huge, under-utilized resource, where what we want to do is set up a lifelong learning system where you may have gotten your four-year degree, but five years out you decide you want to go into another field or you want to brush up on new technologies that are going to help you advance. We need to create a system where you can conveniently access community colleges that are working with businesses to train for the jobs that actually exist. That’s a huge area where I think we can make a lot of progress.

MR. DORSEY: You mention debt a lot. That’s come up in conversation a lot recently, especially in some of our recent questions, specifically the debt ceiling. And this is formulated in our next question from RenegadeNerd out of Atlanta: “Mr. President, will you issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling pursuant to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment?”

THE OBAMA: Can I just say, RenegadeNerd, that picture is — captures it all there. (Laughter.) He’s got his hand over there, he’s looking kind of confused. (Laughter.)

Let me, as quickly as I can, describe what’s at stake with respect to the debt ceiling. Historically, the United States, whenever it has a deficit, it finances that deficit through the sale of treasuries. And this is a very common practice. Over our lifetimes, typically the government is always running a modest deficit. And Congress is supposed to vote on the amount of debt that Treasury can essentially issue. It’s a pretty esoteric piece of business; typically has not been something that created a lot of controversy.

What’s happening now is, is that Congress is suggesting we may not vote to raise the debt ceiling. If we do not, then the Treasury will run out of money. It will not be able to pay the bills that are owing, and potentially the entire world capital markets could decide, you know what, the full faith and credit of the United States doesn’t mean anything. And so our credit could be downgraded, interest rates could go drastically up, and it could cause a whole new spiral into a second recession, or worse.

So this is something that we shouldn’t be toying with. What Dexter’s question referred to was there are some people who say that under the Constitution, it’s unconstitutional for Congress not to allow Treasury to pay its bills and are suggesting that this should be challenged under the Constitution.

I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue. Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We’ve always paid them in the past. The notion that the U.S. is going to default on its debt is just irresponsible. And my expectation is, is that over the next week to two weeks, that Congress, working with the White House, comes up with a deal that solves our deficit, solves our debt problems, and makes sure that our full faith and credit is protected.

MR. DORSEY: So back to jobs. We have a question from New York City about immigrant entrepreneurs: “Immigrant entrepreneurs can build companies and create jobs for U.S. workers. Will you support a startup visa program?”

THE OBAMA: What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are willing and interested in starting up businesses can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs.

So we’re working with the business community as well as the entrepreneurial community to figure out are there ways that we can streamline the visa system so if you are studying here, you’ve got a PhD in computer science or you’ve got a PhD in engineering, and you say I’m ready to invest in the United States, create jobs in the United States, then we are able to say to you, we want you to stay here.

And I think that it is possible for us to deal with this problem. But it’s important for us to look at it more broadly. We’ve got an immigration system that’s broken right now, where too many folks are breaking the law but also our laws make it too hard for talented people to contribute and be part of our society. And we’ve always been a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And so we need comprehensive immigration reform, part of which would allow entrepreneurs and high-skilled individuals to stay here — because we want to be attracting that talent here. We don’t want that — we don’t want to pay for training them here and then having them benefit other countries.

MR. DORSEY: Our next question was just — was sent just an hour ago and touches on alternative energy and job creation: “Will you focus on promoting alternative energy industries in oil states like Louisiana and Texas?”

THE OBAMA: I want to promote alternative energy everywhere, including oil states like Louisiana and Texas. This is something that I’m very proud of and doesn’t get a lot of attention. We made the largest investment in clean energy in our history through the Recovery Act. And so we put forward a range of programs that provided credits and grants to startup companies in areas like creating wind turbines, solar panels.

A great example is advanced battery manufacturing. When I came into office, advanced batteries, which are used, for example, in electric cars, we only accounted for 2 percent of the world market in advanced batteries. And we have quintupled our market share, or even gone further, just over the last two years. And we’re projecting that we can get to 30 to 40 percent of that market. That’s creating jobs all across the Midwest, all across America.

And whoever wins this race on advanced battery manufacturing is probably going to win the race to produce the cars of the 21st century. China is investing in it. Germany is investing in it. We need to be investing in it as well.

MR. DORSEY: I wanted to take a moment and point out the map just behind you. These are tweets coming in, in real time, and these are questions being asked right now. And it flips between the various categories that we’ve determined and also just general askObama questions.

So our next question is coming up on the screen now, from Patrick: “Mr. President, in several states we have seen people lose their collective bargaining rights. Do you have a plan to rectify this?”

THE OBAMA: The first thing I want to emphasize is that collective bargaining is the reason why the vast majority of Americans enjoy a minimum wage, enjoy weekends, enjoy overtime. So many things that we take for granted are because workers came together to bargain with their employers.

Now, we live in a very competitive society in the 21st century. And that means in the private sector, labor has to take management into account. If labor is making demands that make management broke and they can’t compete, then that doesn’t do anybody any good.

In the public sector, what is true is that some of the pension plans that have been in place and the health benefits that are in place are so out of proportion with what’s happening in the private sector that a lot of taxpayers start feeling resentful. They say, well, if I don’t have health care where I only have to pay $1 for prescription drugs, why is it that the person whose salary I’m paying has a better deal?

What this means is, is that all of us are going to have to make some adjustments. But the principle of collective bargaining, making sure that people can exercise their rights to be able to join together with other workers and to negotiate and kind of even the bargaining power on either side, that’s something that has to be protected. And we can make these adjustments in a way that are equitable but preserve people’s collective bargaining rights.

So, typically, the challenges against bargaining rights have been taking place at the state level. I don’t have direct control over that. But what I can do is to speak out forcefully for the principle that we can make these adjustments that are necessary during these difficult fiscal times, but do it in a way that preserves collective bargaining rights. And certainly at the federal level where I do have influence, I can make sure that we make these adjustments without affecting people’s collective bargaining rights.

I’ll give you just one example. We froze federal pay for federal workers for two years. [Lie] Now, that wasn’t real popular, as you might imagine, among federal workers. On the other hand, we were able to do that precisely because we wanted to prevent layoffs and we wanted to make sure that we sent a signal that everybody is going to have to make some sacrifices, including federal workers.

By the way, people who work in the White House, they’ve had their pay frozen since I came in, our high-wage folks. So they haven’t had a raise in two and a half years, and that’s appropriate, because a lot of ordinary folks out there haven’t, either. In fact, they’ve seen their pay cut in some cases.

MR. DORSEY: Mr. President, 6 percent of our questions are coming in about housing, which you can see in the graph behind me. And this one in particular has to do with personal debt and housing: “How will admin work to help underwater homeowners who aren’t behind in payments but are trapped in homes they can’t sell?” From Robin.

THE OBAMA: This is a great question. And remember, I mentioned one of our biggest challenges during the course of the last two and a half years has been dealing with a huge burst of the housing bubble.

What’s happened is a lot of folks are underwater, meaning their home values went down so steeply and so rapidly that now their mortgage, the amount they owe, is a lot more than the assessed worth of their home. And that obviously burdens a lot of folks. It means if they’re selling, they’ve got to sell at a massive loss that they can’t afford. It means that they don’t feel like they have any assets because the single biggest asset of most Americans is their home.

So what we’ve been trying to do is to work with the issuers of the mortgages, the banks or the service companies, to convince them to work with homeowners who are paying, trying to do the right thing, trying to stay in their homes, to see if they can modify the loans so that their payments are lower, and in some cases, maybe even modify their principal, so that they don’t feel burdened by these huge debts and feel tempted to walk away from homes that actually they love and where they’re raising their families.

We’ve made some progress. We have, through the programs that we set up here, have probably seen several million home modifications either directly because we had control of the loan process, or because the private sector followed suit. But it’s not enough. And so we’re going back to the drawing board, talking to banks, try to put some pressure on them to work with people who have mortgages to see if we can make further adjustments, modify loans more quickly, and also see if there may be circumstances where reducing principal is appropriate.

MR. DORSEY: And our next question comes from someone you may know. This is Speaker Boehner.

THE OBAMA: Oh, there you go. (Laughter.)

MR. DORSEY: “After embarking on a record spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?” And I want to note that these characters are his fault. (Laughter.)

THE OBAMA: First of all –

MR. DORSEY: Not his fault, not his fault.

THE OBAMA: — John obviously needs to work on his typing skills. (Laughter.) Well, look, obviously John is the Speaker of the House, he’s a Republican, and so this is a slightly skewed question. (Laughter.) But what he’s right about is that we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need. I mean, we lost, as I said, 4 million jobs before I took office, before I was sworn in. About 4 million jobs were lost in the few months right after I took office before our economic policies had a chance to take any effect.

And over the last 15 months, we’ve actually seen two million jobs created in the private sector. And so we’re each month seeing growth in jobs, But when you’ve got a 8 million dollar — 8-million-job hole and you’re only filling it 100,000-200,000 jobs at a time each month, obviously that’s way too long for a lot of folks who are still out of work.

There are a couple of things that we can continue to do. I actually worked with Speaker Boehner to pass a payroll tax cut in December that put an extra $1,000 in the pockets of almost every single American. That means they’re spending money. That means that businesses have customers. And that has helped improve overall growth.

We have provided at least 16 tax cuts to small businesses who have needed a lot of help and have been struggling, including, for example, saying zero capital gains taxes on startups — because our attitude is we want to encourage new companies, young entrepreneurs, to get out there, start their business, without feeling like if they’re successful in the first couple of years that somehow they have to pay taxes, as opposed to putting that money back into their business.

So we’ve been able to cooperate with Republicans on a range of these issues. There are some areas where the Republicans have been more resistant in cooperating, even though I think most objective observers think it’s the right thing to do. I’ll give you a specific example.

It’s estimated that we have about $2 trillion worth of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt. Roads, bridges, sewer lines, water mains; our air traffic control system doesn’t make sense. We don’t have the kind of electric grid that’s smart, meaning it doesn’t waste a lot of energy in transmission. Our broadband system is slower than a lot of other countries.

For us to move forward on a major infrastructure initiative where we’re putting people to work right now — including construction workers who were disproportionately unemployed when the housing bubble went bust — to put them to work rebuilding America at a time when interest rates are very low, contractors are looking for work, and the need is there, that is something that could make a huge, positive impact on the economy overall. And it’s an example of making an investment now that ends up having huge payoffs down the road.

We haven’t gotten the kind of cooperation that I’d like to see on some of those ideas and initiatives. But I’m just going to keep on trying and eventually I’m sure the Speaker will see the light. (Laughter.)

MR. DORSEY: Speaking of startups, there’s a ton of questions about small businesses and how they affect job creation. This one comes from Neal: “Small biz create jobs. What incentives are you willing to support to improve small business growth?”

THE OBAMA: Well, I just mentioned some of the tax breaks that we’ve provided not only to small businesses, but also in some cases were provided big businesses. For example, if they’re making investments in plants and equipment this year, they can fully write down those costs, take — essentially depreciate all those costs this year and that saves them a pretty big tax bill. So we’re already initiating a bunch of steps.

The biggest challenge that I hear from small businesses right now actually has to do with financing, because a lot of small businesses got their financing from community banks. Typically, they’re not getting them from the big Wall Street banks, but they’re getting them from their various regional banks in their communities. A lot of those banks were pretty over-extended in the commercial real estate market, which has been hammered. A lot of them are still digging themselves out of bad loans that they made that were shown to be bad during the recession.

And so, what we’ve tried to do is get the Small Business Administration, the federal agency that helps small businesses, to step in and to provide more financing — waiving fees, seeing if we can lower interest rates in some cases, making sure that the threshold for companies that qualify for loans are more generous. And that’s helped a lot of small businesses all across the country. And this is another example of where, working with Congress, my hope is, is that we can continue to provide these tax incentives and maybe do even a little bit more.

Q Our next question was tweeted less than five minutes ago and comes to us from Craig: “My question is, can you give companies a tax break if they hire an honorable discharged veteran?”

THE OBAMA: This is something that I’ve been talking a lot about internally. We’ve got all these young people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan; have made incredible sacrifices; have taken on incredible responsibilities. You see some 23-year-old who’s leading a platoon in hugely dangerous circumstances, making decisions, operating complex technologies. These are folks who can perform. But, unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that a lot of these young veterans have a higher unemployment rate than people who didn’t serve. And that makes no sense.

So what we’d like to do is potentially combine a tax credit for a company that hires veterans with a campaign to have private companies step up and do the right thing and hire more veterans. And one of the things that we’ve done is internally in the federal government we have made a huge emphasis on ramping up our outreach to veterans and the hiring of veterans, and this has been a top priority of mine. The notion that these guys who are sacrificing for our freedom and our security end up coming home and not being able to find a job I think is unacceptable.

MR. DORSEY: Mr. President, this next question comes from someone else you may recognize. And what’s interesting about this question, it was heavily retweeted and voted up by our userbase. This comes from NickKristof: “Was it a mistake to fail to get Republicans to commit to raise the debt ceiling at the same time tax cuts were extended?”

THE OBAMA: Nicholas is a great columnist. But I have to tell you the assumption of the question is, is that I was going to be able to get them to commit to raising the debt ceiling.

In December, we were in what was called the lame duck session. The Republicans knew that they were going to be coming in as the majority. We only had a few short weeks to deal with a lot of complicated issues, including repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” dealing with a START treaty to reduce nuclear weapons, and come to terms with a budget. And what we were able to do was negotiate a package where we agreed to do something that we didn’t like but that the Republicans badly wanted, which is to extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy for another two years.

In exchange, we were able to get this payroll tax that put $1,000 — tax cut that put $1,000 in the pockets of every American, which would help economic growth and jobs. We were also able to get unemployment insurance extended for the millions of Americans out there who are still out of work and whose benefits were about to run out. And that was a much better deal than I think a lot of people expected.

It would have been great if we were able to also settle this issue of the debt ceiling at that time. That wasn’t the deal that was available. But here’s the more basic point: Never in our history has the United States defaulted on its debt. The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people [Violent rhetoric!! -VH]

[Speaking of "guns": 'Fast & Furious' gets hotter for Holder --VH]

…to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners, or oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars because the price of gasoline has gone up so high.

Barack Obama: “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” (January 2008)
YouTube Preview Image

I’m happy to have those debates. I think the American people are on my side on this. What we need to do is to have a balanced approach where everything is on the table. We need to reduce corporate loopholes. We need to reduce discretionary spending on programs that aren’t working. We need to reduce defense spending. Everything has — we need to look at entitlements, and we have to say, how do we protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security for not just this generation but also future generations. And that’s going to require some modifications, even as we maintain its basic structure.

So what I’m hoping to see over the next couple of weeks is people put their dogmas aside, their sacred cows aside; they come together and they say, here’s a sensible approach that reduces our deficit, makes sure that government is spending within its means, but also continues to make investments in education, in clean energy, and basic research that are going to preserve our competitive advantage going forward.

MR. DORSEY: So speaking of taxes, our next question is coming from us — from Alabama, from Lane: “What changes to the tax system do you think are necessary to help solve the deficit problem and for the system to be fair?”

THE OBAMA: Well, I think that, first of all, it’s important for people to realize that since I’ve been in office I’ve cut taxes for middle-class families, repeatedly. The Recovery Act cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. The payroll tax cut that we passed in December put an extra thousand dollars in the pockets of every family in America.

And so we actually now have the lowest tax rates since the 1950s. Our tax rates are lower now than they were under Ronald Reagan. They’re lower than they were under George Bush — senior or George Bush, junior. They’re lower than they were under Bill Clinton.

The question is how do we pay for the things that we all think are important and how do we make sure that the tax system is equitable? And what I’ve said is that in addition to eliminating a whole bunch of corporate loopholes that are just not fair — the notion that corporate jets should get a better deal than commercial jets, or the notion that oil and gas companies that made tens of billions of dollars per quarter need an additional break to give them an incentive to go drill for oil — that doesn’t make sense.

But what I’ve also said is people like me who have been incredibly fortunate, mainly because a lot of folks bought my book — (laughter) — for me to be able to go back to the tax rate that existed under Bill Clinton, to pay a couple of extra percentage points so that I can make sure that seniors still have Medicare or kids still have Head Start, that makes sense to me. And, Jack, we haven’t talked about this before, but I’m assuming it makes sense to you, given Twitter has done pretty well. (Laughter.)

I think that for us to say that millionaires and billionaires can go back to the tax rate that existed when Bill Clinton was President, that doesn’t affect middle-class families who are having a tough time and haven’t seen their incomes go up. It does mean that those who are in the top 1-2 percent, who have seen their incomes go up much more quickly than anybody else, pays a little bit more in order to make sure that we can make the basic investments that grow this country — that’s not an unreasonable position to take. And the vast majority of Americans agree with me on that.

That doesn’t mean that we can just continue spending anything we want. We’re still going to have to make some tough decisions about defense spending, or even some programs that I like but we may not need. But we can’t close the deficit and debt just by cutting things like Head Start or Medicare. That can’t be an equitable solution to solving the problem. And then, we say to millionaires and billionaires, you don’t have to do anything. I don’t want a $200,000 tax break if it means that some senior is going to have to pay $6,000 more for their Medicare that they don’t have, or a bunch of kids are going to be kicked off of Head Start and aren’t going to get the basics that they need in order to succeed in our society. I don’t think that’s good for me; I don’t think it’s good for the country.

MR. DORSEY: So we have a follow-up question to your answer about homeowners being underwater. And this one came in under 10 minutes ago from Shnaps: “Is free-market an option? Obama on homeowners underwater: have made some progress, but plus needed looking at options.”

THE OBAMA: Well, when Shnaps — (laughter) — when Shnaps talks about free market options, I mean, keep in mind that most of this is going to be a function of the market slowly improving because people start having more confidence in the economy; more people decide, you know what, the housing market has kind of bottomed out, now is the time to buy. They start buying. That starts slowly lifting up prices, and you get a virtuous cycle going on.

So a lot of this is going to be determined by how well the overall economy does: Do people feel more confident about jobs? Do they feel more confident that they’re going to be able to make their mortgage? And given the size of the housing market, no federal program is going to be able to solve the housing problem. Most of this is going to be free market.

The one thing that we can do it make sure that for homeowners who have been responsible, didn’t buy more house than they could afford, had some tough luck because they happened to buy at the top of the market, can afford to continue to pay for that house, can afford their current mortgage, but need some relief, given the drop in value — that we try to match them up with bankers so that each side ends up winning. The banker says, you know, I’m going to be better off than if this house is foreclosed upon and I have to sell it at a fire sale. The mortgage owner is able to stay in their home, but still pay what’s owed.

And I think that that kind of adjustment and negotiation process is tough. It’s difficult partly because a lot of banks these days don’t hold mortgages. They were all sold to Wall Street and were sliced and diced in these complex financial transactions. So sorting through who owns what can be very complicated. And as you know, some of the banks didn’t do a very good job on filing some of their papers on these foreclosure actions, and so there’s been litigation around that.

But the bottom line is we should be able to make some progress on helping some people, understanding that some folks just bought more home than they could afford and probably they’re going to be better off renting.

MR. DORSEY: So 10 percent of our questions now are about education, and this one was surfaced from our curator in California by Marcia: “Public education here in California is falling apart, not graduating enough skilled workers or smart citizens. Privatization looming?”

THE OBAMA: Look, when America was making a transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society, we as a country made a decision that we were going to have public high schools that would upgrade the skills of young people as they were leaving the farms and start participating in a more complex industrial economy. When my grandfather’s generation came back from World War II, we made a decision that we were going to have a GI Bill that would send these young people to college because we figured that would help advance our economy.

Every time we’ve made a public investment in education, it has paid off many times over. For us now to give short shrift to education when the world is more complex than ever, and it’s a knowledge-based society and companies locate based on whether they’ve got skilled workforces or not, that makes no sense.

And so we’ve got to get our priorities straight here. It is important for us to have a healthy business climate, to try to keep taxes low, to make sure that we’re not spending on things that don’t work. It’s important that we get a good bang for the buck in education. And so my administration has pushed more reform more vigorously across the country through things like Race to the Top than most previous administrations have been able to accomplish. So we don’t just need more money; we need more reform.

But we do have to pay for good teachers. Young, talented people aren’t going to go into teaching if they’re getting paid a poverty wage. We do have to make sure that buildings aren’t crumbling. It’s pretty hard for kids to concentrate if there are leaks and it’s cold and there are rats running around in their schools. And that’s true in a lot of schools around the country.

We do have to make sure that there are computers in a computer age inside classrooms, and that they work and that there’s Internets that are actually — there are Internet connections that actually function.

And I think that those states that are going to do well and those countries that do well are the ones that are going to continue to be committed to making education a priority.

MR. DORSEY: We have another follow-up sent about 10 minutes ago in response to your answer on Vietnam vets. From Brendan: “We definitely need to get more vets into jobs, but when are we going to support the troops by cutting oil dependence?”

THE OBAMA: Reducing our dependence on oil is good for our economy, it’s good for our security, and it’s good for our planet — so it’s a “three-fer.” And we have not had a serious energy policy for decades. Every President talks about it; we don’t get it done.

Now, I’d like to see robust legislation in Congress that actually took some steps to reduce oil dependency. We’re not going to be able to replace oil overnight. Even if we are going full-throttle on clean energy solutions like solar and wind and biodiesel, we’re going to need oil for some time. But if we had a goal where we’re just reducing our dependence on oil each year in a staggered set of steps, it would save consumers in their pocketbook; it would make our businesses more efficient and less subject to the whims of the spot oil market; it would make us less vulnerable to the kinds of disruptions that have occurred because of what happened in the Middle East this spring; and it would drastically cut down on our carbon resources.

So what I — unfortunately, we have not seen a sense of urgency coming out of Congress over the last several months on this issue. Most of the rhetoric has been about, let’s produce more. Well, we can produce more, and I’m committed to that, but the fact is, we only have 2 to 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves; we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. We can’t drill our way out of this problem.

What we can do that we’ve already done administratively is increase fuel-efficiency standards on cars, just to take one example. That will save us millions of barrels of oil, just by using existing technologies and saying to car companies, you can do better than 10 miles a gallon or 15 miles a gallon. And you’re starting to see Detroit respond. U.S. car companies have figured out, you know what, if we produce high-quality electric vehicles, if we produce high-quality low gas — or high gas mileage vehicles, those will sell.

And we’re actually starting to see market share increase for American cars in subcompact and compact cars for the first time in many years. And that’s partly because we increased fuel-efficiency standards through an administrative agreement. It’s also because, as part of the deal to bail out the oil companies, we said to them, start focusing on the cars of the future instead of looking at big gas guzzlers of the past.

MR. DORSEY: So all of our questions now are coming in real time — this one less than 10 minutes ago, and surfaced from a curator: “So will you raise taxes on the middle class at least to President George W. Bush levels?”

THE OBAMA: No, what we’ve said is let’s make permanent the Bush tax cuts for low and moderate income folks — people in — for the 98 percent of people who, frankly, have not seen their wages go up or their incomes go up over the last decade. They don’t have a lot of room; they’re already struggling to meet the rising cost of health care and education and gas prices and food prices.

If all we do is just go back to the pre-Bush tax cut rates for the top income brackets, for millionaires and billionaires, that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars. And if you combine it with the cuts we’ve already proposed, we could solve our deficit and our debt problems.

This is not something that requires radical solutions. It requires some smart, common-sense, balanced approaches. I think that’s what the American people are looking for and that’s what I’ve proposed. And that’s what I’m going to keep on trying to bring the parties together to agree to, is a balanced approach that has more cuts than revenue, but has some revenue, and that revenue should come from the people who can most afford it.

Q So a slight deviation from the economy — we have a lot of questions, and this will be our last before we start reading some responses to your question — about the space program. And this one from Ron: “Now that the space shuttle is gone, where does America stand in space exploration?”

THE OBAMA: We are still a leader in space exploration. But, frankly, I have been pushing NASA to revamp its vision. The shuttle did some extraordinary work in low-orbit experiments, the International Space Station, moving cargo. It was an extraordinary accomplishment and we’re very proud of the work that it did. But now what we need is that next technological breakthrough.

We’re still using the same models for space travel that we used with the Apollo program 30, 40 years ago. And so what we’ve said is, rather than keep on doing the same thing, let’s invest in basic research around new technologies that can get us places faster, allow human space flight to last longer.

And what you’re seeing now is NASA I think redefining its mission. And we’ve set a goal to let’s ultimately get to Mars. A good pit stop is an asteroid. I haven’t actually — we haven’t identified the actual asteroid yet, in case people are wondering. (Laughter.) But the point is, let’s start stretching the boundaries so we’re not doing the same thing over and over again, but rather let’s start thinking about what’s the next horizon, what’s the next frontier out there.

But in order to do that, we’re actually going to need some technological breakthroughs that we don’t have yet. And what we can do is for some of this low-orbit stuff, some of the more routine space travel — obviously no space travel is routine, but it could become more routine over time — let’s allow the private sector to get in so that they can, for example, send these low-Earth orbit vehicles into space and we may be able to achieve a point in time where those of you who are just dying to go into space, you can buy a ticket, and a private carrier can potentially take you up there, while the government focuses on the big breakthroughs that require much larger investments and involve much greater risk.

MR. DORSEY: So, Mr. President, we received a lot of responses to your question over the last hour. And we wanted to go through seven of them that we picked out and just spend some time giving feedback on each. This one from Brian: “Cut defense contracting, end war on drugs, eliminate agribiz and big oil subsidies, invest in public campaign financing.”

THE OBAMA: Well, that’s not a bad list. (Laughter.) The defense contracting is something we’re already making progress on.

I think with respect to the war on drugs, what we’ve always said is that investing in prevention, reducing demand, is going to be the most cost-effective thing that we can do. We still have to interdict the big drug kingpins and we still have to enforce our drug laws. But making sure that we’re spending more on prevention and treatment can make a huge difference.

With respect to some of these big agribusiness and big oil subsidies, those are the examples of the kinds of loopholes we can close. And public campaign financing is something that I’ve supported in the past. There is no doubt that money has an impact on what happens here in Washington. And the more we can reduce money’s impact on Washington, the better off we’re going to be.

MR. DORSEY: Our next response from Elizabeth in Chicago: “Stop giving money to countries that waste it — Pakistan. Keep military, share the wealth between branches, and don’t cut education.”

THE OBAMA: You know, the one thing I would say is, on the notion of giving money to countries that waste it — and Pakistan is listed there — I think it’s important for people to know that foreign aid accounts for less than 2 percent of our budget. And if you defined it just narrowly as the kind of foreign aid to help feed people and what we think of classically as foreign aid, it’s probably closer to 1 percent.

So sometimes people have an exaggerated sense that we spend 25 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. It’s a tiny amount that has a big impact. And I think America, to be a leader in the world, to have influence, to help stabilize countries and create opportunity for people so that they don’t breed terrorists or create huge refugee flows and so forth, it’s smart for us to make a very modest investment in foreign aid. It’s a force multiplier and it’s something that even in tough fiscal times America needs to continue to do as part of our role as a global leader.

MR. DORSEY: This next one is pretty simple, from Daniel: “We need to raise taxes, period.” (Laughter.)

THE OBAMA: As I said before, if wealthy individuals are willing to simply go back to the rates that existed back in the 1990s when rich people were doing very well — it’s not like they were poor — and by the way, that’s when we saw the highest job growth rates and that’s when we saw the highest — the greatest reduction in poverty, and that’s when we saw businesses very profitable — if the wealthiest among us — and I include myself in this category — are willing to give up a little bit more, then we can solve this problem. It does not take a lot.

And I just have to say, when people say, job-killing tax increases, that’s what Obama is proposing, we’re not going to — you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. [O is exempted ..of course] And the facts are that a modest increase for wealthy individuals is not shown to have an adverse impact on job growth. [Lie]

I mean, we can test the two theories. You had what happened during the ’90s — right? Taxes for wealthy individuals were somewhat higher, businesses boomed, the economy boomed, great job growth. And then the 2000s, when taxes were cut on wealthy individuals, jobs didn’t grow as fast, businesses didn’t grow as fast. I mean, it’s not like we haven’t tried what these other folks are pitching. It didn’t work. And we should go with what works.

MR. DORSEY: So our next response — we have about nine minutes left and four more responses — this one from Tammy: “Cut military spending on oil subsidies and keep education investments.”

THE OBAMA: I agree with this. The one thing I’ll say about military spending — we’ve ended the war in Iraq, our combat mission there, and our — all our troops are slated to be out by the end of this year. We’ve already removed 100,000. I announced that we were going to begin drawing down troops in Afghanistan and pivot to a transition process where Afghans are taking more responsibility for their defense.

But we have to do all of this in a fairly gradual way. We can’t simply lop off 25 percent off the defense budget overnight. We have to think about all the obligations we have to our current troops who are in the field, and making sure they’re properly equipped and safe. We’ve got to make sure that we are meeting our commitments for those veterans who are coming home. We’ve got to make sure that — in some cases, we’ve got outdated equipment that needs to be replaced.

And so I’m committed to reducing the defense budget, but as Commander-in-Chief, one of the things that we have to do is make sure that we do it in a thoughtful way that’s guided by our security and our strategic needs. And I think we can accomplish that. And the nice thing about the defense budget is it’s so big, it’s so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget. Not — I’m exaggerating, but it’s so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of head room to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.

Q Our next response from southwest Ohio, Mostlymoderate: “Cut subsidies to industries which are no longer in crisis or are unsuccessful, cotton, oil, corn subsidies from ethanol.”

THE OBAMA: Well, there’s been a interesting debate taking place in Congress recently. I’m a big supporter of biofuels. But one of the things that’s become clear is, is that we need to accelerate our basic research in ethanol and other biofuels that are made from things like woodchips and algae as opposed to just focusing on corn, which is probably the least efficient energy producer of these various other approaches.

And so I think that it’s important for even those folks in farm states who traditionally have been strong supporters of ethanol to examine are we, in fact, going after the cutting-edge biodiesel and ethanol approaches that allow, for example, Brazil to run about a third of its transportation system on biofuels. Now, they get it from sugar cane and it’s a more efficient conversion process than corn-based ethanol. And so us doing more basic research in finding better ways to do the same concept I think is the right way to go.

Q I believe you addressed this next one, so we’re going to skip past it.

THE OBAMA: I did.

Q But from Ryan: “I would cut defense spending.”

Q And James: “I’d cut costs by cutting some welfare programs. People will never try harder when they are handed everything.”

THE OBAMA: Well, here’s what I would say. I think we should acknowledge that some welfare programs in the past were not well-designed and in some cases did encourage dependency. And as somebody who worked in low-income neighborhoods, I’ve seen it, where people weren’t encouraged to work, weren’t encouraged to upgrade their skills, were just getting a check, and over time their motivation started to diminish. And I think even if you’re progressive, you’ve got to acknowledge that some of these things have not been well-designed.

I will say that today, welfare payments are not the big driver of our deficit or our debt. There are work obligations attached to welfare, that the vast majority of folks who are getting welfare want to work but can’t find jobs. And what we should be doing is in all our social programs evaluating what are upgrading people’s skills, giving them the tools they need to get into the workforce, nudging them into the workforce but letting them know that we’re there to support you and encourage you as long as you’re showing the kind of responsibility for being willing to work that every American should be expected to show.

And I’m somebody who believes that we can constantly improve any program, whether it’s a defense program — those who say that we can’t cut military at all, they haven’t spent a lot of time looking at military budgets. Those who say that we can’t make any changes to our social welfare programs or else you’re being mean to poor people, that’s not true. There are some programs that can always be improved. And some programs, if they don’t work, we should have the courage to eliminate them, and then use that money to put it into the programs that do work.

But the bottom line is that our core values of responsibility, opportunity, making sure that the American Dream is alive and well so that anybody who is willing to put in the time and the effort and the energy are able to get a good education in this society, find a job that pays a living wage, that they’re able to send their kids to college without going broke, that they’ve got basic health care, they’re going to be able to retire with some dignity and some respect, that that opportunity is open to anybody regardless of race or religion or sexual orientation — that that basic principle, that’s what holds us together. That’s what makes us Americans.

We’re not all tied together by ethnicity or a single religion. What ties us together is this idea that everybody has got a shot. As long as you carry out your responsibilities, you can make it. You can get into the middle class and beyond. And you can start a company and suddenly help bring the whole world together. That’s what makes this country outstanding.

But in order to do that, it requires us to both have a commitment to our individualism and our freedom and our creativity and our idiosyncrasies. But it also requires us to have a commitment to each other, and recognize that I would not be President if somebody hadn’t helped provide some scholarships for my school, and you would not have Twitter if the Department of Defense, at some point, and a bunch of universities hadn’t made some investments in something that ended up being the Internet. And those were public goods that were invested in.

So you and I are sitting here because somebody, somewhere, made an investment in our futures. We’ve got the same obligation for the folks who are coming up behind us. We’ve got to make sure that we’re looking out for them, just like the previous generations looked out for us. And that’s what I think will help us get through what are some difficult times and make sure that America’s future is even brighter than the past.

MR. DORSEY: And on that note, thank you very much, Mr. President. (Applause.)

THE OBAMA: Thank you. I appreciate it. (Applause.) All right, thank you, guys. Thanks. (Applause.)

END 3:12 P.M. EDT

Transcript: Obama News Conference June 29 2011

June 30, 2011 at 10:14 am

OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat, please.  I just want to say a few words about the economy before I take your questions.

There are a lot of folks out there who are still struggling with the effects of the recession.  Many people are still looking for work or looking for a job that pays more.  Families are wondering how they’d deal with a broken refrigerator or a busted transmission, or how they’re going to finance their kids’ college education, and they’re also worrying about the possibility of layoffs.

The struggles of middle-class families were a big problem long before the recession hit in 2007.  They weren’t created overnight, and the truth is our economic challenges are not going to be solved overnight.  But there are more steps that we can take right now that would help businesses create jobs here in America.

Today, our administration is trying to take those steps, so we’re reviewing government regulations so that we can fix any rules in place that are an unnecessary burden on businesses.  We’re working with the private sector to get small businesses and start-ups the financing they need to grow and expand.  And because of the partnership that we’ve launched with businesses and community colleges, 500,000 workers will be able to receive the right skills and training for manufacturing jobs in companies all across America — jobs that companies are looking to fill.

In addition to the steps that my administration can take on our own, there are also things that Congress could do right now that will help create good jobs.  Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea –- because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs.  That’s something Congress could do right now.

Right now, Congress could send me a bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding roads and bridges –- not by having government fund and pick every project, but by providing loans to private companies and states and local governments on the basis of merit and not politics.  That’s pending in Congress right now.

Right now, Congress can advance a set of trade agreements that would allow American businesses to sell more of their goods and services to countries in Asia and South America -– agreements that would support tens of thousands of American jobs while helping those adversely affected by trade.  That’s pending before Congress right now.

And right now, we could give middle-class families the security of knowing that the tax cut I signed in December will be there for one more year.

So there are a number of steps that my administration is taking, but there are also a number of steps that Congress could be taking right now on items that historically have had bipartisan support and that would help put more Americans back to work.

Many of these ideas have been tied up in Congress for some time.  But, as I said, all of them enjoy bipartisan support, and all of them would help grow the economy.  So I urge Congress to act on these ideas now.

Of course, one of the most important and urgent things we can do for the economy is something that both parties are working on right now –- and that’s reducing our nation’s deficit.  Over the last few weeks, the Vice President has been leading negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on this issue, and they’ve made some real progress in narrowing down the differences.  As of last week, both parties had identified more than $1 trillion worth of spending cuts already.

But everyone also knows that we’ll need to do more to close the deficit.  We can’t get to the $4 trillion in savings that we need by just cutting the 12 percent of the budget that pays for things like medical research and education funding and food inspectors and the weather service.  And we can’t just do it by making seniors pay more for Medicare.  So we’re going to need to look at the whole budget, as I said several months ago.  And we’ve got to eliminate waste wherever we find it and make some tough decisions about worthy priorities.

And that means trimming the defense budget, while still meeting our security needs.  It means we’ll have to tackle entitlements, as long as we keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities by maintaining the fundamental security that Medicare and Medicaid provide.  And, yes, we’re going to have to tackle spending in the tax code.

There’s been a lot of discussion about revenues and raising taxes in recent weeks, so I want to be clear about what we’re proposing here.  I spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary Americans, and I want to extend those middle-class tax cuts.  The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.

It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit.  And if we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, [Oops!] if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship.  That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research.  That means that food safety may be compromised.  That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.  Those are the choices we have to make.

So the bottom line is this:  Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions.  And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys.  I don’t think that’s real radical.  I think the majority of Americans agree with that.

So the good news is, because of the work that’s been done, I this we can actually bridge our differences.  I think there is a conceptual framework that would allow us to make huge progress on our debt and deficit, and do so in a way that does not hurt our economy right here and right now.

And it’s not often that Washington sees both parties agree on the scale and the urgency of the challenge at hand.  Nobody wants to put the creditworthiness of the United States in jeopardy.  Nobody wants to see the United States default.  So we’ve got to seize this moment, and we have to seize it soon.  The Vice President and I will continue these negotiations with both leaders of both parties in Congress for as long as it takes, and we will reach a deal that will require our government to live within its means and give our businesses confidence and get this economy moving.

So, with that, I will take your questions.  I’ve got my list here.  Starting off with Ben Feller, Associated Press.

Q  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I’d like to follow up on the comments you just made as you try to reach a deal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit.  You keep saying that there needs to be this balanced approach of spending cuts and taxes.  But Republicans say flatly, they won’t –

OBAMA:  That they don’t want a balanced approach.

Q  They don’t want any tax increases, as they put it.  And the House Speaker says not only that he doesn’t support that, but that plan won’t — will not pass the House.  So my question is will you insist, ultimately, that a deal has to include those tax increases that you just laid out?  Is that an absolute red line for you?  And if it is, can you explain to us how that can possibly get through the Congress?

OBAMA:  Look, I think that what we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news, but that hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people.  And that’s what I expect to happen this time.  Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead.

Now, I just want to be clear about what’s at stake here.  The Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit.  Every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician, says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope that we need to without having a balanced approach that looks at everything.

Democrats have to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our constituencies and we may not like.  And we’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good.  To say, look, there are some things that are good programs that are nice to have; we can’t afford them right now.

I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to have difficult conversations with the Pentagon saying, you know what, there’s fat here; we’re going to have to trim it out.  And Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more.  And I promise you the preference of the Pentagon would not to cut any more, because they feel like they’ve already given.

So we’re going to have to look at entitlements — and that’s always difficult politically.  But I’ve been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of health care spending and Medicare and Medicaid in the out-years, not by shifting costs on to seniors, as some have proposed, but rather by actually reducing those costs.  But even if we’re doing it in a smart way, that’s still tough politics.  But it’s the right thing to do.

So the question is, if everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done.  Or, we’re so concerned about protecting oil and gas subsidies for oil companies that are making money hand over fist — that’s the reason we’re not going to come to a deal.

I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.  And the truth of the matter is, if you talk to Republicans who are not currently in office, like Alan Simpson who co-chaired my bipartisan commission, he doesn’t think that’s a sustainable position.  Pete Domenici, Republican, co-chaired something with Alice Rivlin, the Democrat, says that’s — he doesn’t think that’s a sustainable position.  You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix.

And the revenue we’re talking about isn’t coming out of the pockets of middle-class families that are struggling.  It’s coming out of folks who are doing extraordinarily well and are enjoying the lowest tax rates since before I was born.

If you are a wealthy CEO or a health — hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been.  They’re lower than they’ve been since the 1950s.  And you can afford it.  You’ll still be able to ride on your corporate jet; you’re just going to have to pay a little more.

And if we — I just want to emphasize what I said earlier.  If we do not have revenues, that means there are a bunch of kids out there who are not getting college scholarships.  If we do not have those revenues, then the kinds of cuts that would be required might compromise the National Weather Service.  It means that we would not be funding critical medical research.  It means that food inspection might be compromised.  And I’ve said to some of the Republican leaders, you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break.  And I’m pretty sure what the answer would be.

So we’re going to keep on having these conversations.  And my belief is, is that the Republican leadership in Congress will, hopefully sooner rather than later, come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country; that everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position — they need to do the same.

Q    You think they’ll ultimately give in?

OBAMA:  My expectation is that they’ll do the responsible thing.

Chuck Todd.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been a lot of questions about the constitutionality — constitutional interpretations of a few decisions you’ve made, so I’ll just simply ask:  Do you believe the War Powers Act is constitutional?  Do you believe that the debt limit is constitutional, the idea that Congress can do this?  And do you believe that marriage is a civil right?

OBAMA:  Well, that was a hodgepodge.  (Laughter.)  Chuck, we’re going to assign you to the Supreme Court, man.  (Laughter.)

I’m not a Supreme Court justice so I’m not going to — putting my constitutional law professor hat on here.  Let me focus on, initially, the issue of Libya.  I want to talk about the substance of Libya because there’s been all kinds of noise about process and congressional consultation and so forth.  Let’s talk about concretely what’s happened.

Muammar Qaddafi, who, prior to Osama bin Laden, was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people.  And as part of an international coalition, under a U.N. mandate that is almost unprecedented, we went in and took out air defense systems so that an international coalition could provide a no-fly zone, could protect — provide humanitarian protection to the people on the ground.

I spoke to the American people about what we would do.  I said there would be no troops on the ground.  I said that we would not be carrying the lion’s share of this operation, but as members of NATO, we would be supportive of it because it’s in our national security interest and also because it’s the right thing to do.

We have done exactly what I said we would do.  We have not put any boots on the ground.  And our allies — who, historically, we’ve complained aren’t willing to carry enough of the load when it comes to NATO operations — have carried a big load when it comes to these NATO operations.  And as a consequence, we’ve protected thousands of people in Libya; we have not seen a single U.S. casualty; there’s no risks of additional escalation.  This operation is limited in time and in scope.

So I said to the American people, here’s our narrow mission.  We have carried out that narrow mission in exemplary fashion.  And throughout this process we consulted with Congress.  We’ve had 10 hearings on it.  We’ve sent reams of information about what the operations are.  I’ve had all the members of Congress over to talk about it.  So a lot of this fuss is politics.

And if you look substantively at what we’ve done, we have done exactly what we said to do, under a U.N. mandate, and we have protected thousands of lives in the process.  And as a consequence, a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down and the noose is tightening around him.

Now, when you look at the history of the War Powers resolution, it came up after the Vietnam War in which we had half-a-million soldiers there, tens of thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent — and Congress said, you know what, we don’t want something like that happening again.  So if you’re going to start getting us into those kinds of commitments you’ve got to consult with Congress beforehand.

And I think that such consultation is entirely appropriate.  But do I think that our actions in any way violate the War Powers resolution?  The answer is no.  So I don’t even have to get to the constitutional question.  There may be a time in which there was a serious question as to whether or not the War Powers resolution — act was constitutional.  I don’t have to get to the question.

We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world — somebody who nobody should want to defend — and we should be sending a unified message to this guy that he should step down and give his people a fair chance to live their lives without fear.  And this suddenly becomes the cause célèbre for some folks in Congress?  Come on.

So you had, what, a three-parter?  (Laughter.)  What are the other two?

Q    There is some question about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act.

OBAMA:  I’m just saying I don’t have to reach it.  That’s a good legal answer.

Q    (Inaudible.)

OBAMA:  Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation.  And we have done more in the two and a half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 Presidents to uphold that principle, whether it’s ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples.  Across the board — hate crimes — we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration, because I think it’s a central principle of America.

Now, what we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.  And so we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.

What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week I think was a good thing, because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues.  It was contentious; it was emotional; but, ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriage.  And I think that’s exactly how things should work.

And so I think it is — I think it is important for us to work through these issues — because each community is going to be different and each state is going to be different — to work through them.  In the meantime, we filed a — we filed briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny, and we don’t think that DOMA is unconstitutional [sic].  And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we’re taking administratively, all are how the process should work.

Q    Are you at all uncomfortable that there could be different rules in different states, you know, and for somebody to make the argument that’s what we saw during segregation –

OBAMA:  Chuck, I think what you’re seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they’ve got to be treated like every other American.  And I think that principle will win out.  It’s not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the President — I’ve discovered since I’ve been in this office — can’t dictate precisely how this process moves.  But I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and I think that’s a good thing.

Julianna.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I only have a two-parter.  (Laughter.)

OBAMA:  Thanks.

Q    Are you concerned that the current debate over debt and deficits is preventing you from taking the kind of decisive and more balanced action needed to create jobs in this country, which is the number one concern for Americans?

And also, one of the impediments to job growth that the business community repeatedly cites is the regulatory environment.  So do you think that the NLRB complaint against Boeing, that this has created some of the — is an example of the kinds of regulations that chill job growth, and also that you yourself have called “just plain dumb”?

OBAMA:  I think it’s important to understand that deficit reduction, debt reduction, should be part of an overall package for job growth over the long term.  It’s not the only part of it, but it’s an important part of it.

So as I mentioned at the top, I think it’s important for us to look at rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in this country.  That could put people back to work right now — construction workers back to work right now.  And it would get done work that America needs to get done.  We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports.  We don’t anymore.  And that’s not good for our long-term competitiveness.

So we could put people to work right now and make sure that we’re in a good position to win the future, as well.  I think –

Q    — spending and (inaudible.).

OBAMA:  I’m going to get to it.  I think that it’s important for us to look at the tax code and figure out, are there ways that we can simplify it and also build on the work that we’ve already done, for example, saying to small businesses or start-up businesses, you don’t have to pay capital gains when you’re in start-up mode, because we want you to get out there and start a business.  That’s important.  Making sure that SBA is helping to get financing to small businesses, that’s important.

So there are a whole range of things that we can be doing.  I think these trade deals will be important — because right now South Korea, frankly, has a better deal when it comes to our trading relationship than we do.  Part of the reason I want to pass this trade deal is you see a whole bunch of Korean cars here in the United States and you don’t see any American cars in Korea.  So let’s rebalance that trading relationship.  That’s why we should get this passed.

So there are a range of things that we could be doing right now.  Deficit and debt reduction should be seen as part of that overall process, because I think if businesses feel confident that we’ve got our act together here in Washington, that not only is the government not going to default but we’re also preparing for a future in which the population is getting older and we’re going to have more expenses on the Medicare side and Social Security, that businesses will feel more confident about investing here in the United States of America.

So I don’t think they’re contradictory.  And as I’ve said before, certainly in my job, but I think Congress, as well, they’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  So we can focus on jobs at the same time as we’re focusing on debt and deficit reduction.

Now, one of the things that my administration has talked about is, is there, in fact, a bunch of — a tangle of regulations out there that are preventing businesses from growing and expanding as quickly as they should.  Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations.  When unemployment is at 3 percent and they’re making record profits, they’re going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.

I’ve got an obligation to make sure that we’re upholding smart regulations that protect our air and protect our water and protect our food.  If you’re flying on a plane, you want to make sure that there are some regulations in place to assure safety in air travel, right?  So there are some core regulations that we’ve got to maintain.

But what I have done — and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration has done this before — is I’ve said to each agency, don’t just look at current regulations — or don’t just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them.  And we are in the process of doing that, and we’ve already identified changes that could potentially save billions of dollars for companies over the next several years.

Now, you asked specifically about one decision that was made by the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, and this relates to Boeing.  Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant.  And it’s an independent agency.  It’s going before a judge.  So I don’t want to get into the details of the case.  I don’t know all the facts.  That’s going to be up to a judge to decide.

What I do know is this — that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate.  They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system.  And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.  And what it doesn’t make — what I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement.

So my hope is, is that even as this thing is working its way through, everybody steps back for a second and says, look, if jobs are being created here in the United States, let’s make sure that we’re encouraging that.  And we can’t afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we’re competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world.  And obviously, the airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage, and I want to make sure that we keep it.

Mark Lander.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  Yesterday, Admiral McRaven testified before Congress that he was concerned that there wasn’t a clear procedure to be followed if a terrorist were captured alive abroad.  The administration has also been clear that it doesn’t want to continue to send suspected terrorists to Guantanamo.

What message do you have for American men and women in uniform who are undertaking missions, like the very risky one to capture and kill bin Laden, about what they should do in the event that they capture someone alive?  And does the lack of these clear procedures raise the risk that forces might be more inclined to kill suspected terrorists in the field, rather than capture them alive, thus depriving the U.S. of the intelligence that they could provide?

OBAMA:  Well, first of all, my top priority in each and every one of these situations is to make sure that we’re apprehending those who would attack the United States; that we are getting all the intelligence that we can out of these individuals, in a way that’s consistent with due process of law; and that we try them, we prosecute them, in a way that’s consistent with rule of law.

And, frankly, there are going to be different dispositions of the case depending on the situation.  And there are going to be sometimes where a military commission may be appropriate.  There are going to be some times where Article III courts are appropriate in terms of prosecution.  And we do have a process to work through all the agencies — Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI, anybody else who might be involved in these kinds of operations — to think through on a case-by-case basis how a particular individual should be dealt with.

And I think that when it comes to our men and women in uniform who might be carrying out these missions, the instructions are not going to be based on whether or not the lawyers can sort out how we detain them or how we prosecute them.  Their mission is to make sure that they apprehend the individual; they do so safely with minimum risk to American lives.  And that’s always going to be the priority, is just carrying out the mission.  And that message is sent consistently to our men and women in uniform anytime they start carrying out one of these missions.

But I think it’s important to understand, and the American people need to be assured that anytime we initiate a mission like this, our top priorities are making sure this person is not able to carry out attacks against the United States and that we’re able to obtain actionable intelligence from those individuals.  And so that mitigates against this danger that you’re suggesting that our main goal is going to be to kill these individuals as opposed to potentially capturing them.  Okay?

Mike Emanuel, FOX. [This is the only time that obama mentioned the news org a journo is affiliated with...interesting...]

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last week when you gave your Afghanistan drawdown speech, the word “victory,” in terms of the overall war in Afghanistan, was not in your speech.  So I’m wondering, sir, if you can define for the 100,000 troops you have in harm’s way in Afghanistan “victory” in the war, and for their families, as well, sir.

OBAMA:  Well, I didn’t use “victory” in my West Point speech, either.  What I said was we can be successful in our mission, which is narrowly drawn, and that is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the United States of America or our allies or our interests overseas, and to make sure that we have an Afghan government that — and an Afghan people that can provide for their own security.

We are being successful in those missions.  And the reason that we’re in a position to draw down 10,000 troops this year and a total of 33,000 troops by the end of next summer is precisely because of the extraordinary work of our men and women in uniform.  What they’ve been able to do is to severely cripple al Qaeda’s capacities.

Obviously bin Laden got the most attention, but even before the bin Laden operation we had decimated the middle ranks and some of the upper ranks of al Qaeda.  They’re having a great deal of difficulty operating, a great deal of difficulty communicating and financing themselves, and we are going to keep the pressure on.  And in part that’s because of the extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan.

What we’ve also been able to do is to ramp up the training of Afghan forces.  So we’ve got an additional 100,000 Afghan troops, both Army and police, that have been trained as a consequence of this surge.  And that is going to give the Afghans more capacity to defend themselves because it is in our national interest to make sure that you did not have a collapse of Afghanistan in which extremist elements could flood the zone once again, and over time al Qaeda might be in a position to rebuild itself.

So what I laid out was a plan in which we are going to be drawing down our troops from Afghanistan after 10 very long years and an enormous sacrifice by our troops.  But we will draw them in a — draw them down in a responsible way that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and will give us the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al Qaeda until that network is entirely defeated.

Q    — the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel yesterday, sir?  And does that concern you that Afghan forces may not be able to step up if these guys are able to attack a high-profile target in the nation’s capital?

OBAMA:  Well, keep in mind the drawdown hasn’t begun.  So we understood that Afghanistan is a dangerous place, that the Taliban is still active, and that there are still going to be events like this on occasion.  The question is, in terms of overall trend, is Afghanistan capacity increasing.

Kabul, for example, which contains a huge proportion of the Afghan population as a whole, has been largely policed by Afghan forces for quite some time.  And they’ve done a reasonably good job.  Kabul is much safer than it was, and Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were.

That doesn’t mean that there are not going to be events like this potentially taking place, and that will probably go on for some time.  Our work is not done.  But as I said in my speech, the tide of war is receding.  We have shifted to a transition phase.  And much like we’ve seen in Iraq, where we’ve drawn down our troops, the remainder of our troops will be coming out by the end of this year, but Iraq has been able to maintain a democratic government and to tamp down violence there — we think a similar approach makes sense in Afghanistan.

But even in Iraq, you still see the occasional attack.  These are still countries that are digging themselves out of a lot of war, a lot of conflict.  They’re dangerous places.  And so they’re not going to be perfectly safe, even if we were there.  But we can improve the chances for the Afghan people to defend themselves.

Jim Sciutto.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You’re aware that Senators Kerry and McCain have a proposal on the Senate floor to give you the leeway to continue operations in Libya for a further year.  You’ve just said that this, from the beginning, has been an operation limited in time and scope.  Initially you said days, not weeks.  Are you prepared, are the American people prepared for this operation, with American support, to continue for a further year?  And is there any other definition of success than Qaddafi being removed from power?

OBAMA:  Well, first of all, Jim, just a slight correction.  What I told the American people was that the initial phase where Americans were in the lead would take days, perhaps weeks.  And that’s exactly what happened, right?  I mean, after — around two weeks, a little less than two weeks, we had transitioned where NATO had taken full control of the operation.  So promise made, promise kept.

Second, I think when you have the former Republican nominee for President, John McCain, and the former nominee for President on the Democratic side, John Kerry, coming together to support what we’re doing in Libya, that should tell the American people that this is important.  And I very much appreciate their efforts in that regard.

Third, when it comes to our definitions of success, the U.N. mandate has said that we are there to make sure that you do not see a massacre directed against Libyan civilians by the Libyan regime.  The Libyan regime’s capacity has been greatly reduced as a consequence of our operation.  That’s already been successful.  What we’ve seen both in the East and in the West is that opposition forces have been able to mobilize themselves and start getting organized, and people are starting to see the possibility of a more peaceful future on the horizon.

What is also true is, as long as Qaddafi is still presenting himself as the head of the Libyan government, and as long as he still controls large numbers of troops, the Libyan people are going to be in danger of counter-offensives and of retribution.  So there is no doubt that Qaddafi stepping down from power is — from the international community’s perspective — going to be the primary way that we can assure that the overall mission of Libya’s people being protected is accomplished.

And I just want to point out — I know it’s something you know — the International Criminal Court identified Qaddafi as having violated international law, having committed war crimes.  What we’ve seen is reports of troops engaging in horrible acts, including potentially using rape as a weapon of war.  And so when you have somebody like that in charge of large numbers of troops, I think it would be hard for us to feel confident that the Libyan people are going to be protected unless he steps down.

Now, what that means, whether there’s the possibility of Libyans arriving at some sort of political settlement, that I think is something that ultimately the Libyan people are going to have to make a decision about — because the international community is there in service of that broader goal, of a peaceful Libya.

Q    Would you accept a political settlement with him involved as success from the American perspective?

OBAMA:  I would accept him stepping down so that he is not directing armed forces against the Libyan people.  He needs to step down.  He needs to go.

Laura Meckler.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In these debt talks, would you accept — would you like to see some sort of tax breaks aimed at stimulating the economy, even though that would of course add to the deficit itself?

And I’d also like to follow up on one of your earlier answers about same-sex marriage.  You said that it’s a positive step that so many states, including New York, are moving towards that.  Does that mean that you personally now do support same-sex marriage, putting aside what individual states decide?  Is that your personal view?

OBAMA:  I’m not going to make news on that today.  (Laughter.)  Good try, though.

And with respect to the deficit and debt talks and where we need to go, I do think it’s important, since we’re looking at how do we reduce the debt and deficit both in a 10-year window as well as beyond a 10-year window, to understand that one of the most important things we can do for debt and deficit reduction is to grow the economy.

And so if there are steps that in the short term may reduce the amount of cash in the treasury but in the long term mean that we’re growing at 3.5 percent instead of 2.5 percent, then those ideas are worth exploring.

Obviously that was what we did in December during the lame duck session, when Democrats and Republicans came together and we said, you know what, a payroll tax cut makes sense in order to boost the economy; unemployment insurance makes sense in order to boost the economy.  All that stuff puts money in people’s pockets at a time when they’re still struggling to dig themselves out of this recession.  And so the American people have an extra thousand dollars, on average, in their pockets because of the tax cuts that we initiated.  And that has helped cushion some of the tough stuff that happened in the first six months of this year, including the effects on oil prices as a consequence of what happened in the Middle East as well as what happened in Japan.

I think that it makes perfect sense for us to take a look at can we extend the payroll tax, for example, an additional year, and other tax breaks for business investment that could make a big difference in terms of creating more jobs right now.

What we need to do is to restore business confidence and the confidence of the American people that we’re on track — that we’re not going to get there right away, that this is a tough slog, but that we still are moving forward.  And I think that it makes sense, as we’re looking at an overall package, to see, are there some things that we can do to sustain the recovery, so long as the overall package achieves our goals — the goals that I set out, which is $4 trillion within a 10-to 12-year window, and making sure that we’re bending the costs of things like health care over the long term.

Q    I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to say anything further on the same-sex marriage issue, but what you said before really led me to believe that that’s what is in your personal mind.  And I’m wondering what’s the distinction you’re drawing.

OBAMA:  Laura, I think this has been asked and answered.  I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one, all right?  And that won’t be today.  (Laughter.)

Q    That’s going to be — (inaudible.)

OBAMA:  Yes, exactly.  I thought you’d like that one.  (Laughter.)

Antonieta Cádiz?  There you are.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  First, if you receive a mandatory E-verify bill only without legalization, are you planning to veto that deal?

And second, on Fast and Furious, members of Congress and the government of Mexico are still waiting for answers.  Are you planning to replace ATF leadership?  And when can we expect the results of the current investigation?

OBAMA:  On the second question, as you know, my attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico.  The investigation is still pending.  I’m not going to comment on a current investigation.  I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we got to find out how that happened.  As soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.

With respect to E-verify, we need comprehensive immigration reform.  I’ve said it before.  I will say it again.  I will say it next week.  And I’ll say it six months from now.  We’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we uphold our tradition as a nation of laws and that we also uphold our tradition as a nation of immigrants.  And that means tough border security, going after employers that are illegally hiring and exploiting workers, making sure that we also have a pathway for legal status for those who are living in the shadows right now.

We may not be able to get everything that I would like to see in a package, but we have to have a balanced package.  E-verify can be an important enforcement tool if it’s not riddled with errors, if U.S. citizens are protected — because what I don’t want is a situation in which employers are forced to set up a system that they can’t be certain works.  And we don’t want to expose employers to the risk where they end up rejecting a qualified candidate for a job because the list says that that person is an illegal immigrant, and it turns out that the person isn’t an illegal immigrant.  That wouldn’t be fair for the employee and would probably get the employer in trouble as well.

So I think the goal right now is to let’s continue to see if we can perfect the E-verify system.  Let’s make sure that we have safeguards in place to prevent the kind of scenarios that I talked about.  But let’s also not lose sight of some of the other components to immigration reform.  For example, making sure that DREAM Act kids — kids who have grown up here in the United States, think of themselves as Americans, who are not legal through no fault of their own, and who are ready to invest and give back to our country and go to school and fight in our military and start businesses here — let’s make sure that those kids can stay.

We need to have a more balanced approach than just a verification system.

Q    (Inaudible.)

OBAMA:  I don’t have an answer as to whether the investigation is completed yet, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on the investigation if I don’t — if it’s not yet completed.

Jessica Yellin.  Congratulations, your first question here.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA:  No pressure.  You’re going to do great.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  Your administration has laid out four different dates by which you’ve said that the debt ceiling must be raised or the U.S. would face potential dire consequences.  Three of those dates have come and gone and we haven’t faced financial calamity.  Some of your critics have argued that these are then scare tactics to force a deal.  So why should the American people believe that the August 2nd deadline is the final deadline by which a deal must be raised?  And would you also spell out for us what you believe will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised by that date?

OBAMA:  Jessica, let’s be clear.  We haven’t given out four different dates.  We have given out dates that are markers for us getting into trouble.  It’s the equivalent of you’re driving down the street and the yellow light starts flashing.  The yellow light is flashing.  Now, it hasn’t been a red light yet.  So what Tim Geithner has said is, technically speaking, we’re in a position now where we’re having to do a whole bunch of things to make sure that our bills are paid.

By August 2nd, we run out of tools to make sure that all our bills are paid.  So that is a hard deadline.  And I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue.  This is not an abstraction.  If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable.  And that is not a good thing.

We don’t know how capital markets will react.  But if capital markets suddenly decide, you know what, the U.S. government doesn’t pay its bills, so we’re going to start pulling our money out, and the U.S. Treasury has to start to raise interest rates in order to attract more money to pay off our bills, that means higher interest rates for businesses; that means higher interest rates for consumers.  So all the headwinds that we’re already experiencing in terms of the recovery will get worse.

That’s not my opinion.  I think that’s a consensus opinion.  And that means that job growth will be further stymied, it will be further hampered, as a consequence of that decision.  So that’s point number one.

Point number two, I want to address what I’ve been hearing from some quarters, which is, well, maybe this debt limit thing is not really that serious; we can just pay interest on the debt.  This idea has been floating around in some Republican circles.

This is the equivalent of me saying, you know what, I will choose to pay my mortgage, but I’m not going to pay my car note.  Or I’m going to pay my car note but I’m not going to pay my student loan.  Now, a lot of people in really tough situations are having to make those tough decisions.  But for the U.S. government to start picking and choosing like that is not going to inspire a lot of confidence.

Moreover, which bills are we going to decide to pay?  These guys have said, well, maybe we just pay the interest on — for bondholders.  So are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese who hold treasuries and we’re not going to pay folks their Social Security checks?  Or we’re not going to pay to veterans for their disability checks?  I mean, which bills, which obligations, are we going to say we don’t have to pay?

And last point I want to make about this.  These are bills that Congress ran up.  The money has been spent.  The obligations have been made.  So this isn’t a situation — I think the American people have to understand this — this is not a situation where Congress is going to say, okay, we won’t — we won’t buy this car or we won’t take this vacation.  They took the vacation.  They bought the car.  And now they’re saying maybe we don’t have to pay, or we don’t have to pay as fast as we said we were going to, or — that’s not how responsible families act.  And we’re the greatest nation on Earth, and we can’t act that way.

So this is urgent and it needs to get settled.

Q    So is August 2nd a yellow light or a red light?

OBAMA:  I think people should think of — look, I’m the President of the United States and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics.  And I’ve tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don’t get spooked.

August 2nd is a very important date.  And there’s no reason why we can’t get this done now.  We know what the options are out there.  This is not a technical problem any longer.  This is a matter of Congress going ahead and biting the bullet and making some tough decisions.  Because we know what the decisions are.  We’ve identified what spending cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what defense cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what health care cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what loopholes in the tax code can be closed that would also raise revenue.  We’ve identified what the options are.  And the question now is are we going to step up and get this done.

And, you know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time.  Malia is 13, Sasha is 10.

Q    Impressive.

OBAMA:  It is impressive.  They don’t wait until the night before.  They’re not pulling all-nighters.  (Laughter.)  They’re 13 and 10.  Congress can do the same thing.  If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.

And I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the President needs to show more leadership on this.  Let me tell you something.  Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together.  I said we’ve got to get done — get this done.  I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process — that, by the way, has made real progress — but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues.  I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each — Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House.  I’ve met with the leaders multiple times.  At a certain point, they need to do their job.

And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we’re working through process, and when they decide they’re not happy with the fact that at some point you’ve got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, well, you know, the President needs to get this done — they need to do their job.

Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices.  That’s why they’re called leaders. And I’ve already shown that I’m willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time.  But it’s got to be done.

And so there’s no point in procrastinating.  There’s no point in putting it off.  We’ve got to get this done.  And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done.

They’re in one week, they’re out one week.  And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in.  You need to be here.  I’ve been here.  I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis.  You stay here.  Let’s get it done.

All right.  I think you know my feelings about that.  (Laughter.)

Caren Bohan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You talked about the payroll tax holiday and possibly extending that.  Are you worried, though, that by adding a discussion of short-term measures on the economy into these discussions about long-term deficit reductions that that may complicate the conversation and make it harder to pass a debt limit?

OBAMA:  I will — let me put it this way.  If we’ve got a good deal on debt and deficit reduction that focuses not just on the 10-year window but also the long term, we will get it done.  And then we can argue about some other things — because I think that’s very important.

I will say that precisely because tough votes in Congress are often avoided, that it may make sense to also deal with something like a payroll tax cut at the same time — because it does have budget implications and the American people need to know that we’re focused on jobs and not just on deficit reduction, even though, as I said, deficit reduction helps to serve the job agenda.  I think they want to have some confidence that we’ve got a plan that’s helping right now.

But I don’t think it should be a complicating factor — because if Mitch McConnell and John Boehner came to me and said, all right, we’re ready to make a deal, here’s a balanced approach to debt and deficit reduction, but we want to argue about payroll tax cuts later, they’re not set to expire until the end of this year — if that was a situation that they presented, then I think we would have a serious conversation about that.  I would not discount that completely.

I do think that the steps that I talked about to deal with job growth and economic growth right now are vitally important to deficit reduction.  Just as deficit reduction is important to grow the economy and to create jobs — well, creating jobs and growing the economy also helps reduce the deficit.  If we just increased the growth rate by one percentage point, that would drastically bring down the long-term projections of the deficit, because people are paying more into the coffers and fewer people are drawing unemployment insurance.  It makes a huge difference.

And this may be sort of a good place to wrap up.  You know, every day I get letters from folks all around the country who show incredible resilience, incredible determination, but they are having a very, very tough time.  They’re losing their homes.  Some have lost their businesses.  Some have lost work and have not been able to find jobs for months, maybe a year, maybe a year and a half.  And they feel some desperation.  And some folks who are working just are having a tough time paying the bills because they haven’t seen their wages or incomes go up in 10 years, and the costs of everything else have gone up.

And every day that weighs on me.  Every minute of every day that weighs on me.  Because I ran for President precisely to make sure that we righted this ship and we start once again creating a situation where middle-class families and people who aspire to be in the middle class, if they’re working hard, then they’re living a better life.

Now, these structural changes in our economy that have been going on for a decade — in some cases, longer — they’re not going to be solved overnight.  But we know what to do.  We know that if we are educating our kids well, then they’re going to be more competitive.  We know that if we are investing in things like infrastructure, it pays off.

*I was in Alcoa, in Iowa, one of our most successful companies.  They took a big hit during the recession, but they still invested $90 million in new equipment in a plant that makes airplane wings and parts for automobiles.  And they’ve bounced back.  They’ve hired back all their people and are increasing market share because they made those investments.

Well, just like a company like Alcoa, America has got to make some investments.  We know that we’ve got to get control of our deficit.  There are some things that aren’t going to solve all our problems but can make progress right now.  And the question is whether or not Democrats and Republicans are willing to put aside the expedience of short-term politics in order to get it done.

And these folks are counting on us.  They desperately want to believe that their leadership is thinking about them and not playing games.  And I think that if all the leadership here in Washington has the faces and the stories of those families in mind, then we will solve this debt limit issue; we will put in place steps like a payroll tax cut and infrastructure development; we’ll continue to fund education; we’ll hold true to our commitment to our seniors.

These are solvable problems, but it does require us just getting out of the short-term and, frankly, selfish approach that sometimes politics breeds.  We’ve got to think a bit long term.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END   12:47 P.M. EDT

Also see: Mark Levin blasts Obama propaganda press conference at The Right Scoop

Obama Presser About “One American Against Another”
“Federal employment is up by about 200,000 or so. Isn’t it funny the only entity in the entire nation that’s been essentially immunized, unaffected by what the rest of the country is going through, is the government!”

And: WaPo –The missing facts in President Obama’s news conference

Transcript: Obama on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal June 22, 2011

June 23, 2011 at 7:25 am

In case you missed it, Obama announced tonight that he intends on using US Troops as pawns for his re-election campaign. In a campaign stump speech from the White House this evening, he announced the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the summer of 2012. Just in time for the election, how convenient… Cold-hearted, power hungry bastard.

Good evening. Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security — one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda, and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan Security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We are starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam [And all the while al Qaeda reinforces the fact that Islam is at war with us. Clever tricksters! --Ed.]– thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan Security Forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we have already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain. [re:Islam -Ed.]This is the beginning — but not the end — of our effort to wind down this war. We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we drawdown our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and Security Forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: they must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan Constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: no safe-haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies. We will not try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people; and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures — one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We have learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan — men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the field of battle, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force — but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, ["Obama Claims The UN Can Usurp Congressional War Authority" -Ed.] where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure [Whoops! There it is! The overplayed "infrastructure rebuilding" card.-Ed.] and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons. Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extend ourselves, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force — but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we are doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure [Goody! "Shovel ready jobs"! ...Not. -Ed.] and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care, and benefits, and opportunity that you deserve.