Saturday, December 22, 2012

Transcript: President Obama Weekly Address: Happy Holidays (video)

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thanked our brave troops and their families for their service.  The President and First Lady asked the American people to visit to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families, and said that we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, December 22, 2012. 
Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 22, 2012
THE PRESIDENT:  Hi everybody.  This weekend, as you gather with family and friends, Michelle and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays. 
THE FIRST LADY:  We both love this time of year.  And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House.  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible. 
This month, more than 90,000 people have come through the White House to see the holiday decorations.  And our theme for this year’s holiday season was “Joy to All” – a reminder to appreciate the many joys of the holidays: the joy of giving…the joy of service…and, of course, the joy of homecomings. 
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them.  Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive.  And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit.  
THE FIRST LADY:  That’s what makes this season so special – getting to spend time with the people we love most.
THE PRESIDENT:  And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.   
So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear.
THE FIRST LADY:  And remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them.  Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments.  And let’s not forget about our military kids, moving from base to base – and school to school – every few years, and stepping up to help out at home when mom or dad is away. 
Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country.  That’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces – an effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans and military families.  Just go to to find out how you can show your gratitude for their service. 
THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s what this season is all about.  For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.  To give of ourselves.  To be our brother’s keeper.  To be our sister’s keeper.  But those ideas are not just part of our faith.  They’re part of all faiths.  And they unite us as Americans. 
THE FIRST LADY:  In this country, we take care of each other.  And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need. 
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation.  And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.
THE FIRST LADY:  So thank you for all that you’ve done this year on behalf of your fellow Americans. 
THE PRESIDENTAnd on behalf of my favorite Americans – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – Merry Christmas, everybody. 
THE FIRST LADY:  Happy holidays.  


Fiscal Cliff takes second seat to Christmas, holiday vacations as Congress and President Obama take off (video)

With 10 days left before the so-called fiscal cliff goes into effect, one might think that Congress and President Obama would make a priority out of finding a resolution: not so. Holidays come first and Congress as well as President Obama have made certain they will spend the next few days celebrating with friends, family members and loved ones.

 Does this sit right with you?

 President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both spoke publicly on Dec. 21, 2012 after it was clear negotiations were a failure.

 President Obama stated, “In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in ten days.”

House Speaker John Boehner stated, “The President's solution of raising tax rates would still be red ink for as far as the eye can see and it would hurt jobs at a time when far too many of our citizens are struggling to find them.”

At this point, negotiations seem dismal, as Republicans don’t want to be known as the elected official that agreed to raise taxes.

As Congress and President Obama have high-tailed it out of Washington D.C. and aren’t expected to get back to tackling the fiscal cliff until at least after Christmas, some are frustrated with the level of commitment seen in public officials, especially those who rallied so hard during election time to save the middle class from what could be devastating tax hikes.

Earlier today, President Obama and the first family arrived in Hawaii, where they will celebrate the holidays. While President Obama may soon be swimming in serene waters; Middle America worries they will soon be flooded by rising taxes.  Earlier today, President Obama and the first family arrived in Hawaii, where they will celebrate the holidays.

What do you think about Congress and the President leaving for the holidays? Do you think they should stay in Washington until this is resolved?


Child falls from balcony; cruise ship turns back to seek help (video)

On Dec. 22, 2012, Click Orlando reported that a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship had turned course after an accident involving a child. According to the report, a 14-month-old toddler fell from the 11th floor unto the 10th floor of the balcony while the father had looked away. There is no word whether the father will face negligence charges, as the investigation into the matter is ongoing. The cruise line was the Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas.

Cruise Critic stated that the ship had departed Port Canaveral at approximately 4:30 p.m. and was destined for the Bahamas but returned to port following the horrific accident. The child was subsequently flown to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children located in Orlando, Florida.

Director of Global Corporate Communication Cynthia Martinez released an official statement on behalf of Royal Caribbean. The statement reads, “A 14 month old guest from India traveling on Monarch of the Seas was injured in a fall. The guest was initially treated in our medical facility, but required additional and urgent medical attention that could only be provided in a hospital.

The child’s condition is currently unknown.

What do you think about this story? Do you think the parents or father of the child should be held accountable?

Please share your comments and views below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

President Obama Weekly Address: Dec. 17, 2012: The Nation Grieves for Those in Newtown, Connecticut (videos)

Weekly Address: Nation Grieves for Those Killed in Tragic Shooting in Newtown, CT

On Friday, we learned that more than two dozen people were killed when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. 
Most of those who died were just young children with their whole lives ahead of them. And every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt.
Among the fallen were also teachers – men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
So our hearts are broken today. We grieve for the families of those we lost. And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived.  Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child’s innocence has been torn away far too early.
As a nation, we have endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years. An elementary school in Newtown. A shopping mall in Oregon. A house of worship in Wisconsin. A movie theater in Colorado. Countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia.
Any of these neighborhoods could be our own. So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics. 
This weekend, Michelle and I are doing what I know every parent is doing – holding our children as close as we can and reminding them how much we love them. 
There are families in Connecticut who can’t do that today. And they need all of us now. Because while nothing can take the place of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need – to remind them that we are there for them; that we are praying for them; and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their own memories, but also in their community, and their country. 
Thank you.

President Obama transcripts and videos on Connecticut school shooting

President Obama has addressed the Connecticut school shooting multiple times since the tragedy occurred on Dec. 14, 2012. Here are videos and transcripts from President Obama's speeches.

 President Obama Addresses Connecticut School Shooting: Dec. 14, 2012

Statement by the President on the School Shooting in Newtown, CT

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller.  I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.
We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.  And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would -- as a parent.  And that was especially true today.  I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. 
The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.  They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.  Among the fallen were also teachers -- men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. 
So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.  Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain. 
As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.  But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight.  And they need all of us right now.  In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans.  And I will do everything in my power as President to help.
Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need -- to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.
May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
3:20 P.M. EST

President Obama Speaks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Newtown, Connecticut High School: Dec. 16, 2012

Remarks by the President at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil

Newtown High School
Newtown, Connecticut
8:37 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Governor.  To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests -- Scripture tells us:  “…do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults.  They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.  I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.  I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight.  And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it.  Newtown -- you are not alone.
As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice.  We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate.  Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.
We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.” 
And we know that good guys came.  The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.
And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate.  So it’s okay.  I’ll lead the way out.”  (Laughter.)
As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown.  In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another.  This is how Newtown will be remembered.  And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.
But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions.  Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.  With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice.  And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm.  And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them.  They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments.  And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. 
And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.  It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself.  That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.  And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children. 
This is our first task -- caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations?  Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm?  Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return?  Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.  We’re not doing enough.  And we will have to change.
Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting.  The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors.  The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.  And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.  Surely, we can do better than this.  If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try. 
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?  We can’t accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
All the world’s religions -- so many of them represented here today -- start with a simple question:  Why are we here?  What gives our life meaning?  What gives our acts purpose?  We know our time on this Earth is fleeting.  We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped.  We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way.  We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships.  And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans. 
There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our children, for our families, for each other.  The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true.  The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters.  We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness.  We don’t go wrong when we do that. 
That’s what we can be sure of.  And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us.  That’s how you’ve inspired us.  You remind us what matters.  And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them -- for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Charlotte.  Daniel.  Olivia.  Josephine.  Ana.  Dylan.  Madeleine.  Catherine.  Chase.  Jesse.  James.  Grace.  Emilie.  Jack.  Noah.  Caroline.  Jessica.  Benjamin.  Avielle.  Allison. 
God has called them all home.  For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.  May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort.  And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.  (Applause.)
                         END                 8:55 P.M. EST 

President Obama Speaks on Preventing Gun Violence: Dec. 19, 2012

Remarks by the President in a Press Conference

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:02 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  It’s now been five days since the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut; three days since we gathered as a nation to pray for the victims. And today, a few more of the 20 small children and six educators who were taken from us will be laid to rest.
We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence.  We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society.  And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation -- all of us -- to try.
Over these past five days, a discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day.  And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change longstanding positions.  
That conversation has to continue.  But this time, the words need to lead to action.
We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides.  And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.  We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.  We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.  And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.
But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.  The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.
That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January -- proposals that I then intend to push without delay.  This is not some Washington commission.  This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside.  This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.  I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country.  That plan -- that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.  
The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons.  A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.  A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.  
I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner.  And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years -- the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals -- I’d suggest that they make this a priority early in the year. 
Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.  This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation.  Obviously across the country there are regional differences.  There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas.  And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible -- they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.   
But you know what, I am also betting that the majority -- the vast majority -- of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war.  I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas -- that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown -- or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.
Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother.  Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka.  A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino.  Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital.  A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year -- violence that we cannot accept as routine.
So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  We won’t prevent them all -- but that can’t be an excuse not to try.  It won’t be easy -- but that can't be an excuse not to try.  
And I'm not going to be able to do it by myself.  Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people -- it’s going to require all of you.  If we're going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans -- mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals -- and, yes, gun owners -- standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.  
It will take commitment and compromise, and most of all, it will take courage.  But if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday -- if cooperation and common sense prevail -- then I’m convinced we can make a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.  
Thank you.  And now I'm going to let the Vice President go and I'm going to take a few questions.  And I will start with Ben Feller.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I'd like to ask you about the other serious issue consuming this town right now, the fiscal cliff.
Q    Haven’t you betrayed some of the voters who supported you in the election by changing your positions on who should get a tax increase and by including Social Security benefits now in this mix?  And more broadly, there seems to be a deepening sense that negotiations aren't going very well right now.  Can you give us a candid update?  Are we likely to go over the cliff?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, there's no reason why we should.  Remember what I said during the campaign.  I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.  I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires paid their fair share.  I said that we were going to have to make some tough cuts, some tough decisions on the spending side, but what I wouldn't do was hurt vulnerable families only to pay for a tax cut for somebody like me.  And what I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.  
That's exactly what I've put forward.  What I've said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things -- some things that some Democrats don't want to see and probably there are a few Republicans who don't want to see either.  But the only way that we're going to be able to stabilize the economy, make sure we've got a platform for long-term economic growth, that we get our deficits under control and we make sure that middle-class families are protected is if we come up with something that members of both parties in Congress can support.  
And that's the plan that I've put forward.  I have gone at least halfway in meeting some of the Republicans' concerns, recognizing that even though we campaigned on these issues, even though the majority of Americans agree with me that we should be raising taxes on the wealthiest few as a means of reducing the deficit, I have also said that I'm willing to identify some spending cuts that make sense. 
And, frankly, up until about a couple of days ago, if you looked at it, the Republicans in the House and Speaker Boehner I think were in a position to say, we've gotten a fair deal.  The fact that they haven't taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you're going to have to address to them.  
I remain optimistic, though, because if you look at what the Speaker has proposed, he's conceded that income tax rates should go up -- except right now he only wants to have them go up for millionaires.  If you're making $900,000, somehow he thinks that you can't afford to pay a little more in taxes.  But the principle that rates are going to need to go up he's conceded.
I've said I'm willing to make some cuts.  What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars.  The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can't bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.  
So I'm going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress.  But, ultimately, they've got to do their job.  Right now their job is to make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up and that we have a balanced, responsible package of deficit reduction.
It is there for all to see.  It is a deal that can get done. But it is not going to be -- it cannot be done if every side wants 100 percent.  And part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here.  That’s what folks want.  They understand that they're not going to get 100 percent of what they want.  And for some reason, that message has not yet taken up on Capitol Hill. 
And when you think about what we've gone through over the last couple of months -- a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory -- the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense.
So I remain not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done.  I'd like to get it done before Christmas.  There's been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill, instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done.  And we've been wasting a lot of time.  It is the right thing to do.  I'm prepared to get it done.  But they're going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments. 
And I'll just give you one other example.  The Speaker now is proposing what he calls plan B.  So he says, well, this would raise taxes only on folks making a million dollars or more.  What that means is an average of a $50,000 tax break for every millionaire out there, at the same time as we're not providing unemployment insurance for 2 million people who are still out there looking for work.  It actually means a tax increase for millions of working families across the country at the same time as folks like me would be getting a tax break.  That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go.  
And so my hope is, is that the Speaker and his caucus, in conjunction with the other legislative leaders up there, can find a way to make sure that middle-class families don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st; that we make sure that those things that middle-class families count on like tax credits for college, or making sure that they’re getting some help when it comes to raising their kids through things like the child tax credit, that that gets done; and that we have a balanced package for deficit reduction, which is exactly what I’ve put forward.
Q    Will you give more ground if you need to, or are you done?
THE PRESIDENT:  If you look at the package that I put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition.  We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do, in every category.  And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years.  And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade -- for 10 years.  
Now, the notion that we would not do that, but instead the Speaker would run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making $500,000 or $700,000 or $800,000 or $900,000 a year, and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and raises taxes on middle-class families, and then has no cuts in it -- which is what he says he wants -- doesn’t make much sense.
I mean, let’s just think about the logic for a second.  They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes at least on folks over a million, which they say they don’t want to do, but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do.  That defies logic.  There’s no explanation for that.  
I think that any objective person out there looking would say that we’ve put forward a very balanced plan and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done.  That’s what the country needs right now.  Because I think folks have been through some wrenching times, we’re still recovering from a very tough recession, and what they’re hoping for is a sense of stability, focus, compromise, common sense over the next couple of years.  And I think we can provide it.  But this is a good test for them. 
Carol Lee. 
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Just to follow on Ben's question, what is your next move?  Are we in a position now where you're just waiting for the Speaker to make a move?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I'm going to reach out to all the leaders involved over the next couple of days and find out what is it that's holding this thing up.  What is holding it up?  If the argument from Republicans is we haven't done enough spending cuts, that argument is not going to fly because we've got close to a trillion dollars of spending cuts.  And when you add interest, then it's more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts.  
If the argument is that they can't do -- they can't increase tax rates on folks making $700,000 or $800,000 a year, that's not a persuasive argument to me and it's certainly not a persuasive argument to the American people.  
It may be that members of their caucus haven't looked at exactly what we've proposed.  It may be that if we provide more information or there's greater specificity or we work through some of their concerns, that we can get some movement then.  
But the fact of the matter is, is that what would violate my commitment to voters is if I ended up agreeing to a plan that put more of the burden on middle-class families and less of a burden on the wealthy in an effort to reduce our deficit.  That's not something I'm going to do.  What would violate my commitment to voters would be to put forward a plan that makes it harder for young people to go to college, that makes it harder for a family with a disabled kid to care for that kid.  
And there's a threshold that you reach where the balance tips, even in making compromises that are required to get something done in this town, where you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don't need help.  And we had an extensive debate about this for a year.  And not only does the majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican voters agree with me on this.  
So at some point, there's got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that -- take the deal.  They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them.  They should be proud of it.  But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.  
And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with -- it is very hard for them to say yes to me.  But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country.  And if they do that -- if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.
Q    You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000.  Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do --
THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not going to get into specific negotiations here.  My point is simple, Carol, that if you look at Speaker Boehner’s proposal and you look at my proposal, they’re actually pretty close.  They keep on saying that somehow we haven’t put forward real spending cuts.  Actually, there was I think a graph in The New York Times today that showed -- they’re the same categories, right?  There’s a little bit of tweaks here and there; there are a few differences, but we’re right there.  
And on the revenue side, there’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and a million that we just can’t afford.  I mean, keep in mind I’m in that income category; I’d love to not pay as much in taxes.  But I also think it’s the right thing to do for us to make sure that people who have less -- people who are working, people who are striving, people who are hoping for their kids -- that they have opportunity.  That’s what we campaigned about.  That’s what we talked about.  
And this is not a situation where I’m unwilling to compromise.  This is not a situation where I’m trying to rub their face in anything.  I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country.  
And so I noticed that there were a couple of headlines out there saying, oh, we’re now in the land of political posturing, and it’s the usual he said-he said atmosphere.  But look at the facts.  Look at where we started; look at where they started.  My proposal is right there in the middle.  
We should be able to get this done.  Let’s get it done.  We don’t have a lot of time.
Carrie.  Where’s -- there you are.  
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.
Q    What is your level of confidence that if you are able to reach a comprehensive deal with the Speaker, that he will be able to bring his members onboard and get it passed?  Essentially, do you still trust Speaker Boehner in this process?
THE PRESIDENT:  There is no doubt that the Speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that.  I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost.  And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right, and cooperating with me may make them vulnerable.  I recognize that.
But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective.  If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important.  And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves:  You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things.  We wish the other guy had won.  We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years.  We think his philosophy is all screwed up.  But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place; make sure middle class taxes don’t go up; make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth; give certainty to businesses large and small; not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months; allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again; focus on issues like energy and immigration reform and all the things that will really make a determination as to whether our country grows over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.  
And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.  
And I think the Speaker would like to get that done.  I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus, but also among Senate Republicans that say, the campaign is over and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country -- at least for the next month.  And then we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.
Q    If you don’t get it done, Republicans have said they’ll try to use the debt limit as a next pressure point.  Would you negotiate with them in that context?
THE PRESIDENT:  No.  And I’ve been very clear about this.  This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, the world’s economic superpower.  And the idea that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and every six months, or every nine months, that we threaten not to pay our bills on stuff we’ve already bought, and default, and ruin the full faith and credit of the United States of America -- that’s not how you run a great country.  
So I’ve put forward a very clear principle:  I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling.  We’re not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011 -- which was hugely destructive; hurt our economy; provided more uncertainty to the business community than anything else that happened.  
And I'm not alone in this.  If you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill.  
So we're not going to do that -- which is why I think that part of what I hope over the next couple of days we see is a recognition that there is a way to go ahead and get what it is that you've been fighting for.  These guys have been fighting for spending cuts.  They can get some very meaningful spending cuts. This would amount to $2 trillion -- $2 trillion -- in spending cuts over the last couple of years.  And in exchange, they're getting a little over a trillion dollars in revenue.  And that meets the pledge that I made during the campaign, which was $2 to $2.50 of spending cuts for every revenue increase.  And that's an approach that I think most Americans think is appropriate. 
But I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling.  We're not going to do that again. 
Q    Sir, may I ask a question about Newtown, please?
THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I've got David Jackson.  
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Getting back to the gun issue, you alluded to the fact that Washington commissions don't have the greatest reputation in the world.  What makes you think this one is going to be different given the passage of time and the political power of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is not going to be a commission. Joe is going to gather up some key Cabinet members who have an interest in this issue.  We're going to reach out to a bunch of stakeholders.  We're going to be reaching out to members of Congress who have an interest in this issue.  It's not as if we have to start from scratch.  There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue.
Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that's out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month.  And I would hope that our memories aren't so short that what we saw in Newtown isn't lingering with us, that we don't remain passionate about it only a month later.  
And as soon as we get those recommendations, I will be putting forward very specific proposals.  I will be talking about them in my State of The Union and we will be working with interested members of Congress to try to get some of them done.  
And the idea that we would say this is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again, and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense.  I have more confidence in the American people than that.  I have more confidence in the parents, the mothers and fathers that I’ve been meeting over the last several days all across the country from all political persuasions, including a lot of gun owners, who say, you know what, this time we’ve got to do things differently.
Q    What about the NRA?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers.  And I would expect that they’ve been impacted by this as well.  And hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection.  
And here’s what we know -- that any single gun law can’t solve all these problems.  We’re going to have to look at mental health issues.  We’re going to have to look at schools.  There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe’s group looks at.  We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment.  What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we’re going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn’t happen again.
And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all.  And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.
So I’ve got -- I’m going to take one last question.
Go ahead, Jake.
Q    It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence.  You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it.  This is not the first issue -- the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years.  Where have you been?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake.  I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars.  I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.  
And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington.  And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters.  And it’s my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe.  
A lot of things go in -- are involved in that, Jake.  So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs -- those are all relevant as well.  Those aren’t just sort of side issues.  But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue.  And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.
All right.  Thank you, everybody.
12:47 P.M. EST

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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