Hello America, We don’t look to be ruled

So, the President of the United States of America addressed the Democratic convention last night, to support the nominee of the Democratic Party for President. I’m not a big fan of the Democratic Party, or Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama is not a man of a few words, but it usually pays to listen to him. Leaving aside the problems inherent in a political game corrupted by money, in a DNC obsessed with money (the DNC recently asked the White House to reward donors with slots on boards and commissions), with the Democratic and Republican shut out of independent political parties, and despite Hillary Clinton’s complacency with the rules of that corrupt game, Obama can cut through all the bullshit.

Barack 2

Hello, America! Hello, Democrats!

So 12 years ago tonight I addressed this convention for the very first time.You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha, now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride. You fell for my brilliant wife and partner, Michelle, who has made me a better father and a better man, who has gone on to inspire our nation as first lady and who somehow hasn’t aged a day. I know, the same cannot be said for me. My girls remind me all the time. Wow, you’ve changed so much, daddy. And then they try to clean it up. Not bad, just more mature. And it’s true, I was so young that first time in Boston. And look, I’ll admit it, maybe I was a little nervous addressing such a big crowd. But I was filled with faith; faith in America, the generous, bighearted, hopeful country that made my story, that made all of our stories possible.

A lot’s happened over the years. And while this nation has been tested by war and it’s been tested by recession and all manner of challenges, I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your president, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America than ever before. How could I not be, after all that we’ve achieved together? After the worst recession in 80 years, we’ve fought our way back. We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows, and our businesses create 15 million new jobs.After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, it is a right for everybody. After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil, we doubled our production of clean energy. We brought more of our troops home to their families, and we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.

Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, we opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our children. We put policies in place to help students with loans, protect consumers from fraud, cut veteran homelessness almost in half. And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land. By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime.

So tonight, I’m here to tell you that yes, we’ve still got more work to do. More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who has not yet felt the progress of these past seven-and-a-half years. We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation. We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed that all of us are created equal, all of us are free in the eyes of God. And that work involves a big choice this November. I think it’s fair to say, this is not your typical election. It’s not just a choice between parties or policies, the usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental choice about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.

Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that. it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems, just the fanning of resentment and blame and anger and hate. And that is not the America I know.

The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous. Sure, we have real anxieties about paying the bills and protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent. We get frustrated with political gridlock and worry about racial divisions. We are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice. There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures, men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten, parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had. All of that is real. We’re challenged to do better, to be better. But as I’ve traveled this country, through all 50 states, as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I have also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America.

I see people working hard and starting businesses. I see people teaching kids and serving our country. I see engineers inventing stuff, doctors coming up with new cures. I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be. And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That’s what I see! That’s the America that I know!

And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to it; a mother and grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive, a leader with real plans to break down barriers and blast through glass ceilings and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American, the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.

AUDIENCE: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

OBAMA: That’s right. That’s right.

Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year-and- a-half. Let me tell you, it was tough because Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers it was backwards in heels. And every time I thought I might have that race won, Hillary just came back stronger. But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. And she was a little surprised, some of my staff were surprised. But ultimately said yes because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us. And for four years, for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention, that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

Hillary’s still got the tenacity that she had as a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education. She’s still got the heart she showed as our first lady, working with Congress to help push through a Children’s Health Insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids. She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11, which is why, as a senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders, to help the city rebuild; why, as secretary of state, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out bin Laden.

You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. You can read about it, you can study it. But until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room, she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes, what’s at stake for the working family, for the senior citizen, for the small-business owner, for the soldier, for the veteran. And even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people and she keeps her cool and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits. That’s the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill, nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America. I hope you don’t mind, Bill, but I was just telling the truth, man.

And by the way, in case you were wondering about her judgment, take a look at her choice of running mate. Tim Kaine is as good a man, as humble and as committed a public servant as anybody that I know. I know his family. I love Anne, I love their kids. He will be a great vice president, he will make Hillary a better president, just like my dear friend and brother Joe Biden has made me a better president. Now, Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail. She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool, and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt. That’s what leaders do.

And then there’s Donald Trump.

(AUDIENCE JEERS)

Don’t boo; vote!

You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits and unpaid workers and people feeling like they got cheated. Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? Hey, if so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and seeing the economy grow and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages and better benefits and a fairer tax code and a bigger voice for workers and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if you’re rightly concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world, well, the choice is even clearer. Hillary Clinton is respected around the world, not just by leaders, but by the people they serve. I have to say this. People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election, they really don’t. Because they know Hillary, they’ve seen her work. She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. And she has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her. Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory. And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She will finish the job and she’ll do it without resorting to torture or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit and she is ready to be the next commander in chief.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster. Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights. He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, tells our NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection. Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. We bear our burdens. That’s one of the reasons why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago when I took office. America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election, the meaning of our democracy.

Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix. It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades, because he’s not actually offering any real solutions to those issues. He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election. And that’s another bet that Donald Trump will lose. And the reason he’ll lose it is because he’s selling the American people short. We are not a fragile people, we’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled.

Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that we the people can form a more perfect union. That’s who we are. That’s our birthright, the capacity to shape our own destiny. That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent. It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma and workers to organize and fight for collective bargaining and better wages. America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard and slow and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.

And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands. She knows that this is a big, diverse country, she has seen it, she’s traveled, she’s talked to folks and she understands that most issues are rarely black and white. She understands that even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise. That democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other.

She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other and see ourselves in each other, and fight for our principles, but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may sometimes seem. Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work, that we can honor police and treat every community fairly. We can do that. And she knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse, it’s creating the possibility for people of good will to join and make things better.

Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists, families that came here for the same reasons our forebears came, to work and to study and to make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please. She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American dream is something no wall will ever contain. These are the things that Hillary knows. It can be frustrating, this business of democracy. Trust me, I know. Hillary knows, too. When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall. People are hurt by the inaction. Supporters can grow impatient and worry that you’re not trying hard enough, that you’ve maybe sold out. But I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today. Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.

Democracy works, America, but we gotta want it, not just during an election year, but all the days in between. So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders’ supporters have been during this election. We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done. That’s right, feel the Bern!

If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote, not just for a president, but for mayors and sheriffs and state’s attorneys and state legislators. That’s where the criminal law is made. And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed. That’s how democracy works. If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, we’ve got to reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices. If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on things like background checks to be just as vocal and determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral that we hold. That’s how change happens.

Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left. She has been accused of everything you can imagine and some things that you cannot. But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years. She knows that sometimes during those 40 years she’s made mistakes, just like I have, just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try. That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described, not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs, but who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.” Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. She’s been there for us, even if we haven’t always noticed.

And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about “yes he will.” It’s about “yes we can.” And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands. Yes, we can! Not yes, she can; not yes, I can; yes, we can!

You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America’s lost, people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control. They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored. This isn’t an idea, by the way, that started with Donald Trump. It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time, probably from the start of our republic. And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you 12 years ago tonight about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up. See, my grandparents, they came from the heartland. Their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago. I don’t know if they had their birth certificates, but they were there.

They were Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers. Hardy, small-town folks. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them, maybe even most of them were Republicans, the party of Lincoln. And my grandparents explained that folks in these parts, they didn’t like show-offs, they didn’t admire braggarts or bullies. They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, they valued traits like honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility; helping each other out. That’s what they believed in. True things, things that last, the things we try to teach our kids. And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas. They weren’t limited to small towns.

These values could travel to Hawaii. They could travel even the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life trying to apply those values. My grandparents knew these values weren’t reserved for one race; they could be passed down to a half- Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter; in fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids living in a bungalow on the south side of Chicago. They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab. America has changed over the years. But these values that my grandparents taught me, they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here. That’s what matters.

And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end. That is America. That is America. Those bonds of affection, that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it, embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own. That’s what Hillary Clinton understands. This fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot, that’s the America she’s fighting for.

And that is why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands. My time in this office, it hasn’t fixed everything. As much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do. But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn, for all the places I’ve fallen short, I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you what’s picked me back up, every single time: It’s been you, the American people.

It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost. Do not quit. It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl with blue wings, made by a 7-year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget, a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action. It’s the small-business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession because, he said, that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America. It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.

It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who has learned to speak again and walk again, and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand. It is every American who believed we could change this country for the better, so many of you who’d never been involved in politics, who picked up phones and hit the streets and used the internet in amazing new ways that I didn’t really understand, but made change happen. You are the best organizers on the planet, and I am so proud of all the change that you made possible. Time and again, you’ve picked me up. And I hope sometimes I’ve picked you up, too.

And tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me.

I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. Because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago, when I talked about hope. It’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds were great, even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope! America, you have vindicated that hope these past eight years. And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen. So this year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me, to reject cynicism and reject fear and to summon what is best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.

Thank you for this incredible journey. Let’s keep it going. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Clinton Needs to Disavow Superdelegates

Hillary Trump

According to a Washingto Post article: Leading liberals begin new push to unify Democrats around Clinton, liberal groups must rally around Clinton because Trump’s policies would take us back 100 years. California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said, “This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun.”

Bullshit, Brown.

I don’t believe Washington’s Hillary Democrats think for a minute that now is the time to unify. This is just part of their strategy to get Hillary Clinton into the White House. They know people are supporting Senator Sanders in huge numbers. They are afraid of losing, afraid that Sanders will somehow win the nomination. They are desperate. In fact, polls are increasingly showing that Trump and Clinton are nearly tied in support. In fact Clinton could lose the general election to Trump as things stand now. They want their candidate to win the primary by acclamation, unopposed, so as to create the illusion that she has massive support, enough to defeat Trump. She does not. How many people are going to be totally disillusioned if she takes the primary only by using superdelegates? She could take the high road now, and appeal to all the Bernie supporters by refusing to use the votes of superdelegates at all. If she does so, she will have the support she wants. If not, then all those people who have been excited to participate, to vote, some of them for the first time, are going to lose heart. If they do have a chance to see their candidate make it to the convention, where, although some my expect miracles, they will accept the will of the voters: unity achieved. This morally bankrupt attempt to dangle Trump as the ultimate evil in order to rally a rebellious electorate will backfire unless Ms. Clinton takes the high road now herself. No, Sanders should not drop out before the primary convention. Get real. Clinton should disavow internal Party politics in order to clinch the nomination.

Even Elizabeth Warren has stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton at this point.

//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/461deee6-2271-11e6-b944-52f7b1793dae

Power-hungry

 

Hillary’s 2008 vs 2016 campaigns – Do as I say, not as I do.

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Hillary Clinton should be called on her duplicity, in calling on Bernie Sanders to “stop attacking Hillary” or even to drop out of the race. Eight years ago, she was on the opposite side. Read the review of her 2008 campaign rhetoric by Chris Weigant of the Huffington Post.

To tell you the truth, I never thought I’d have to write this article. I fully expected someone else to dig this stuff out, if the calls for Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race (or “say nice things about Hillary Clinton”) began. Now that they have, I still haven’t seen any detailed reminders of how the 2008 Democratic primary race ended yet. So I went ahead and dug them out on my own.

What follows is a review of the last few weeks of the 2008 primary, for those who have forgotten what it was like. All of these articles come from the Washington Post (because it made the database search easier, mostly). I apologize for not providing links; this is due to the fact that I retrieved the articles from a commercial database (with a paywall).

All of the following articles were published from mid-April to the first week in June of 2008. In other words, exactly eight years ago. I’m going to present them with only limited commentary (to only provide any needed historical context).

One more thing before I begin, in the interests of fairness. While Hillary Clinton did fight hard until the end, she is to be credited for two strategic moves from roughly the same period of time. First, she largely refused to attack Barack Obama in the midst of all the “Reverend Wright” mudslinging. She easily could have piled on, along with the rest of the political universe. She didn’t. Secondly, during the time period below, Clinton had a stock line she threw in to most of her speeches (even the ones quoted below): “I will work my heart out for the Democratic Party and the party’s eventual nominee.” She signaled that she would work for Obama’s election if she lost, which was rightly seen as a big step towards party unity.

With those caveats firmly in place, though, let’s take a look at the end of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Just before the Pennsylvania primary, from an article titled “Obama Sharpens His Tone; As Pa. Vote Nears, Clinton Criticizes Rival’s Negative Turn,” Clinton showed her displeasure at Obama’s attacks on her health care reform plan (which, at the time, had a mandate for coverage that Obama did not support):

Clinton, campaigning in Bethlehem, called her rival’s approach “so negative” and charged him with mimicking Republicans by attacking her plan for universal health care.

“He has sent out mailers, he has run ads, misrepresenting what I have proposed,” Clinton said. “I really regret that because the last thing we need is to have somebody spending as much money as he has downgrading universal health care.”

From an April 22 article entitled “Clinton in the Wilderness,” a previous and very personal slight towards Obama was noted:

But she [Clinton] has gone too far — too much disturbing stuff, some of it shocking in its coarseness. For instance, she added the coy “as far as I know” to her 60 Minutes statement that Obama is not a Muslim.

Clinton used some inartful language in an interview with USA Today, which Eugene Robinson pointed out on May 9 (“The Card Clinton Is Playing”):

From the beginning, Hillary Clinton has campaigned as if the Democratic nomination were hers by divine right. That’s why she is falling short — and that’s why she should be persuaded to quit now, rather than later, before her majestic sense of entitlement splits the party along racial lines.

If that sounds harsh, look at the argument she made Wednesday, in an interview with USA Today, as to why she should be the nominee instead of Barack Obama. She cited an Associated Press article “that found how Senator Obama’s support… among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.”

As a statement of fact, that’s debatable at best. As a rationale for why Democratic Party superdelegates should pick her over Obama, it’s a slap in the face to the party’s most loyal constituency — African Americans — and a repudiation of principles the party claims to stand for. Here’s what she’s really saying to party leaders: There’s no way that white people are going to vote for the black guy. Come November, you’ll be sorry.

How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.

On May 20, in an ironically-titled article “Democrats Observe A Fragile Cease-Fire,” the Clinton campaign tried to equate Obama with George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” photo:

Obama is favored to win the Oregon primary today, and Clinton is an even stronger favorite to win the Kentucky contest. But Obama will not celebrate primary night in either of those states. Instead, he has chosen to be in Iowa, where his victory in the caucuses in January turned the Democratic race upside down. There, at a rally in Des Moines, he is expected to declare that he has secured a majority of the pledged delegates currently eligible to attend August’s Democratic convention in Denver.

Obama and his advisers insist the event will stop short of a declaration that he has won the nomination. But it will be seen as another signal to superdelegates to climb aboard his bandwagon as quickly as possible.

The celebration, however, has rankled the Clinton campaign and the candidate herself. They see it as a highhanded effort to embarrass her and to generate renewed calls from others in the party for her to quit the race before anyone has achieved a genuine majority of pledged delegates and superdelegates.

In a signal of how fragile the detente between the two sides is, the Clinton campaign sent out a tart memo yesterday under the name of communications director Howard Wolfson calling the Obama rally in Iowa “a slap in the face of millions of voters in the remaining primary states and to Senator Clinton’s 17 million supporters.” Then, in language tying the Obama campaign to the Bush White House, the memo continues: “Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory are unwarranted. Declaring mission accomplished does not make it so.”

On May 23, Hillary Clinton said something downright despicable. There’s just no other word to describe her insinuation. From “Hillary Clinton Raises the Specter of the Unspeakable,” here is Hillary musing on a possible end to the Democratic nomination race:

Smart candidates don’t invoke the possibility of their opponents being killed. This seems so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said, but apparently, it needs to be said.

“We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” Hillary Clinton said yesterday, referencing the fact that past nomination contests have stretched into June to explain why she hasn’t heeded calls to exit the Democratic race. She was in an editorial board meeting with a South Dakota newspaper, and she didn’t even seem to notice she’d just uttered the unutterable.

The nation’s political science students, our future strategists and campaign managers, would do well to pay attention to this moment. There are taboos in presidential politics, and this is one of the biggest. To raise the specter of a rival’s assassination, even unintentionally, is to make a truly terrible thing real. It sounds like one might be waiting for a terrible thing to happen, even if one isn’t. It sounds almost like wishful thinking.

She had to immediately apologize, but within the apology article (“Clinton Sorry For Remark About RFK Assassination; Comment Was Made in Reference to Primaries”) were a few other slights she had recently made (there was an enormous battle over whether the Florida and Michigan delegations would count at the convention, since they had defied D.N.C. rules by scheduling their primaries too early):

Hillary Clinton’s reference to the shooting of Robert Kennedy on June 6, 1968, after he had just won the California primary, hardened feelings in the Obama campaign once more, following a brief thaw as it appeared that Clinton would seek to unite the party in the final weeks of the campaign. Her allusion came on the heels of two other comments over the past few days that the Obama campaign described as off-putting: her reference to the Michigan and Florida delegations as similar to the fraudulent elections in Zimbabwe, and her comparison of that dispute to the ballot recount in the 2000 presidential election.

Not mentioned in this article was the fact that she had also compared the battle over seating the delegations “with the abolition of slavery” (from a May, 25 article, “To Claim Popular Vote, Clinton Is Seeking Wins In Last 3 Primaries”).

On the very last day of primary voting, when Montana and South Dakota put Barack Obama over the top in the delegate count, Clinton essentially refused to concede his victory. From a June 3 article, “Obama Claims The Democratic Presidential Nomination,” the key line in the speech she gave:

Obama scored his final primary victory in Montana and was quickly endorsed by the state’s governor as well as the two Democratic senators. Clinton, meanwhile, claimed a come-from-behind victory in South Dakota, after trailing in the state for weeks.

Clinton, who spoke roughly 30 minutes before Obama at Baruch College in New York City, congratulated the Illinois senator for the “extraordinary race” he ran, although she did not acknowledge he had effectively won the nomination and stressed that “I will be making no decisions tonight” about her future plans.

For more context, from her speech transcript that night:

Now, the question is: Where do we go from here? And given how far we’ve come and where we need to go as a party, it’s a question I don’t take lightly. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.

But this has always been your campaign. So, to the 18 million people who voted for me, and to our many other supporters out there of all ages, I want to hear from you. I hope you’ll go to my Web site at HillaryClinton.com and share your thoughts with me and help in any way that you can.

And in the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way.

From an article (“Obama Is Poised To Clinch Victory; Clinton Ponders Options at Finish Line”) filed the same day:

As Clinton made a final push for votes across South Dakota, her advisers said her options ranged from dropping out Tuesday night and endorsing Obama to making a final effort to convince uncommitted superdelegates that she would be a stronger rival to McCain.

Another, according to senior Clinton advisers, is what they dubbed the “middle option,” for Clinton to suspend her campaign, acknowledging that Obama has crossed the delegate threshold but keeping her options open until the convention in late August. Advisers said she is looking at historical precedent while weighing her recent victories, including her landslide win in Puerto Rico, in trying to sort out what to do.

Clinton has been angered by recent calls for her to quit, her advisers said, and the “soft landing” of suspending her campaign would allow her to move ahead on her own terms.

Speaking to reporters in Sioux Falls, S.D., spokesman Mo Elleithee was unequivocal, saying that Clinton intends to spend the next several days “making the case to undecided delegates” and adding: “She’s in this race until we have a nominee. She expects to be that nominee.”

On June 6, Barack Obama met with Hillary Clinton in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s house in Washington. The next day — a full four days after the last primary finished — she finally announced the end of her campaign (from “Clinton to Publicly Withdraw, Support Obama”):

After a tumultuous 17-month journey, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will formally withdraw as a presidential candidate today, publicly declaring her support for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for the first time since he secured the Democratic nomination.

Clinton drew the wrath of many Democrats when she did not acknowledge Obama’s victory in her speech on Tuesday night. Her farewell address to supporters, scheduled for noon today at the National Building Museum at Fourth and F streets NW, is intended to repair any lingering damage from the Tuesday speech and will close the door on an epic primary campaign that, after dividing Democrats, produced the first African American presumptive nominee of any major party in history.

The former rivals made progress in their search for common ground during a clandestine hour-long meeting at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Thursday night. Details of the sit-down, held in Feinstein’s living room, began to emerge as Clinton aides turned in their cellphones, packed up their offices and put the finishing touches on her much-anticipated speech.

“Hillary will be holding an event tomorrow in Washington D.C. to thank all of her supporters, to express her support for Senator Obama, and to talk about the issues that have been at the core of her public service, the issues she will continue fighting for,” campaign manager Maggie Williams wrote in a letter yesterday inviting supporters to attend the gathering. The e-mail doubled as a fundraising solicitation — a reminder of the nearly $30 million in debt that Clinton will seek to retire.

Now, even with such a tumultuous end to the Democratic primary campaign, Hillary Clinton eventually made good on her promise to “campaign her heart out” for Obama. She personally put him over the top in the delegate voting on the convention floor (being a senator, she was also a superdelegate). Eventually, after winning the general election, Barack Obama appointed her Secretary of State (there were many rumors at the time that Bill Clinton was pushing hard for her to be named as Obama’s running mate, but obviously that didn’t come to pass).

Hillary Clinton worked for party unity, but only after a very hard-fought and contentious primary season. I offer these reminders up because now she finds herself in the opposite role. And it seems like everyone’s memory has gone fuzzy when recalling the final two months of the 2008 race. Hillary Clinton’s campaign team has no real leg to stand on now, in calling on Bernie Sanders to “stop attacking Hillary” or even to drop out of the race for her convenience. Because that’s definitely not what Hillary herself did, exactly eight years ago.

Two-faced woman

Hillary Dickory Dock, #WhichHillary

Hillary I don’t usually post negative things about people, but sometimes I make an exception for politicians. There’s too much negative about Donald Trump to go into right this moment, except to say that his campaign bears an eerie similarity to the German presidential elction of 1932. However, one of his opponents, Hillary Clinton, is getting on my nerves. I never liked her hawkish stand on the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and, although I applauded her attempt to bring about a discussion on universal health care when she was First Lady, I didn’t like her sudden dropping of the issue when she faced heavy Republican criticism for daring to intrude into male-dominated politics. There were those who felt it wasn’t her place to propose policy, both because of her sex – there was a lot of misogynist talk at the time – and because it wasn’t appropriate for a First Lady to engage in politics.

Given that beating she accepted at the time, backing away from the issue completely, many feel like her time has come, and we should elect her now. I don’t think so. Democrats want to win, and they feel she is their best chance, given her celebrity status. However, there is another woman who would be 100 times better than Hillary Clinton, and that is Elizabeth Warren. However, she has chosen not to run, so Democrats are stuck with Hillary. Well, not stuck yet, since someone similar to Senator Warren is running against Hillary to represent the Democratic Party. I like Bernie Sanders, but I think it’s delusional to think that the majority of people in the United States understand the difference between Russian socialism (a military dictatorship with state ownership of the means of production), and a U.S. version of Democratic socialism (a democratic political system alongside a somewhat socialist economic system.) Hell, people accuse President Obama of being a Socialist, when he most definitley is not. He leans slightly left of center on some issues, but really, he’s a standard Democrat, as is Hillary Clinton. Both have come down on the wrong side of the use of military power as a solution to complex problems.

Hillary 2Hillary’s ties to the prison-industrial complex are troubling as well. If she wants to end private prisons, she really shoudn’t be accepting campaign money from them. She seems to like things both ways, and appears always ready to blow with the wind.

I simply don’t trust her, and I think a majority of U.S. voters don’t either. And, just as in the case with the Bush family, it does gall people that we’re often asked to elect someone whose father, or brother, or husband was President. It smacks of royal succession, and the United States was founded on principles firmly opposed to that. Whether the succsessor is elected or appointed makes little difference to my mind. It sucks.

So, although I have been happy with much of Obama’s political views, I am unhappy that things are going to take a turn for the worse. I’m not optimisitic that Bernie Sanders can overcome decades of Cold-War hysteria. I’m not optimistic that any Republican can overcome a wildly popular opportunist like Donald Trump either. So, it’s shaping up to be a contest between a reactionary, backward-thinking populist, and a middle-of-the-road party-faithful Democrat who is not committed to democracy.

So, I’m leaning back towards ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement).

Again.

Hillary Dickory dock,
“Why scamper?” asked the clock,
“You scare me so
I have to go!
Hillary Dickory – O, fuck.

Barack Hussein Obama II – A New Hope (50.4% popular vote, 332 electoral votes)

President Obama wins four more years as America delivers decisive verdict

Barack Obama delivers his victory speech in Chicago Link to this video

Barack Obama promised the American people that the ‘the best is yet to come” as he accepted a second term in the White House after easily beating off the challenge from his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.With a second chance to fulfill some of the expectations that greeted his election in 2008, Obama used his soaring victory speech at a rally in Chicago– by far his best of the entire campaign – to press for a bipartisan approach to politics and returned once again to his theme of hope.Stepping up to the lectern to the upbeat strains of Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, Obama told the ecstatic crowd of supporters: “Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back. And we know in our hearts that for the United Statesof America the best is yet to come.”In a speech that lasted more than 25 minutes, after paying emotional tribute to his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha – as well as to his vice-president, Joe Biden – Obama returned to the message that first brought him to national attention.”We are not as divided as our politics suggests,” he said. “We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.”Obama made clear he had an agenda in mind for his second term, citing changes in the tax code, immigration reform and, as he put it, an America “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”More immediately, he and Congress needed to negotiate a new fiscal plan that avoided massive cuts in defence and other domestic spending and sharp across-the-board tax increases. Obama has called for tax increases on households earning more than $250,000; House Speaker John Boehner has rejected any tax increases.

When he finished his speech, Obama was joined on stage by Biden, whom Obama called “America’s happy warrior”. In his remarks, he paid special tribute to his campaign team and his volunteers as the best “in the history of politics. The best. The best ever.”

“Thank you for believing all the way through every hill, through every valley,” he said. “You lifted me up the whole way.”

The address was the finale to a night that had begun with many of the swing states too close to call but ended with an overwhelming victory as Obama held seven of the nine battlegrounds upon which his presidency had been founded. With votes still being counted in Florida, Romney managed to secure victory in just one state, North Carolina.

After one of the most closely fought and polarised campaigns in recent history, Obama held Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Shortly before 1am ET, Romney phoned the president to concede. In a gracious concession speech in Boston, Romney told his supporters: “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

He continued: “This is a time for great challenges for America and I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

Romney paid tribute to his wife, Ann, and running mate, Paul Ryan, as he said they had given everything to the campaign. “Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign. I so wish – I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader.

Obama, in a speech that saw a return to the kind of oratory he produced regularly on the campaign trail in 2008, offered a practical example of the kind of bipartisanship he had in mind, saying he had offered to sit down with Romney in the coming weeks to see if they could work together.

He was gracious about Romney, talking not only about his challenger but his father, the former governor of Michigan. “The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service,” Obama said.

Obama now has the chance to build a real legacy – his victory on healthcare reform – but also to preside over a possible US economic recovery. Obama has also promised to make immigration reform a priority along with major investment in education.

But he faces immediate challenges, not least finding a way to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of tax rises and automatic spending cuts that are due to kick in at the end of the year. As in his first term, he will have to deal with a hostile, Republican-led House of Representatives.

Republican activists were stunned by suddenness with which victory was declared for Obama. At a so-called ‘victory party’ in Tampa, there was a stampede for the door when the announcement came.

Among those who remained was Brad Evans. “I really don’t know what happened,” he said. “He should have hit Obama a bit harder on Libya.”
Summer Turner simply refused to accept reality. “I remember going to bed crying when they declared Al Gore the winner and I remember waking up and he was no longer the winner. So I don’t believe it,” she said.

The campaign almost throughout has been a referendum on Obama. Although there was widespread disillusionment with the slow pace of economy recovery and a high unemployment level, Americans decided to stick with the incumbent.

Historically, it would have been a disappointment for African-Americans and many white liberals if the first black presidency had ended in failure, halted prematurely.

Romney fought a largely lacklustre campaign, with only one flash, his overwhelming win over Obama in the first presidential debate on 3 October.
The Republicans now face a lengthy period of bloodletting.

While some rightwingers will argue the defeat is because Romney was not conservative enough, there is a new generation of younger Republicans such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio who will lead the argument for a new, inclusive coalition that will welcome women, Latinos and African Americans. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, unlikely to be tarnished despite running on a losing ticket, is also likely to be part of the debate.

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said he had always regarded Romney as being no more than “a transitional figure”.

Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential challenger in 2008 and one of the undeclared leaders of the Tea Party movement, told Fox she could not believe “the majority of Americans would do this”. She added: “It’s a perplexing time for many of us right now.”

Romney secured at least one consolation prize when he took North Carolina, an unexpected win in the south by Obama in 2008.

The rightwing commentator Erick Erickson saw the loss of Pennsylvania as crucial. “At this point, I am thinking game over,” he tweeted.

Turnout was reported to be at record levels in many states, reflecting the strength of feeling aroused by the long election campaign. There were still long queues of people waiting to vote after polls had officially closed.

Early exit polls showed the economy was the dominant issue for voters, with four out of 10 saying the economy was getting better – more than in 2008. Forty-six per cent said the country was headed in the right direction, while 52% said it was on the wrong track. More than half of those surveyed blamed the economic mess on George W Bush.

Asked about what they regarded as the biggest economic issue, 40% said unemployment, 37% rising prices, 13% taxes and 8% the housing market.
Eight out of 10 said they had made up their minds who to vote for in September, suggesting that neither Romney’s victory in the first presidential debate nor Obama’s widely praised handling of Sandy were major factors.

Final estimates show the election was the most expensive in US history, with Obama having raised close to $1bn and Romney more than $800m. When figures for spending by supporters – mainly by the Super Pacs – are included, the total is well over $2billion.

Video and text of President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Speech



 

Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner.  And as we mark this occasion, we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague — and our friend -– Gabby Giffords.

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can. And I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all -– for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election -– after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year. And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

But we have to do more. These steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.

So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember -– for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.  No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future.  And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.

The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs — from manufacturing to retail — that have come from these breakthroughs.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.  I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future -– if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas -– then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

Think about it. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.  We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.

You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.” That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.

Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.  We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.  And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.

Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American.  That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.  And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit –- worth $10,000 for four years of college. It’s the right thing to do.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we’re also revitalizing America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams, too. As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”

If we take these steps -– if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take –- we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.  I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information — from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts.

We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.  This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down.  As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments -– in innovation, education, and infrastructure –- will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.

So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit. It can be done.

To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -– because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans — and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.

Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.  But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people.  That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent another financial crisis.  And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law.  So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

What I’m not willing to do — what I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition.

I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business man from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their patients’ — parents’ coverage.

So I say to this chamber tonight, instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and let’s move forward.

Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.

We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.

But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.  Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.

I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.  And let’s make sure that what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.

Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.

The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year — medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.  We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.

So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress –- Democrats and Republicans -– to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.

Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient. We can’t win the future with a government of the past.

We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater.  I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.

Now, we’ve made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we’ll cut through red tape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote –- and we will push to get it passed.

In the coming year, we’ll also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it.

The 21st century government that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means. An economy that’s driven by new skills and new ideas. Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.

Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West. No one rival superpower is aligned against us.

And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high.  American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end.

Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we’re disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.

We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe havens are shrinking. And we’ve sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.

This is just a part of how we’re shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense. We’ve reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India.

This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas. Around the globe, we’re standing with those who take responsibility -– helping farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power -– it must also be the purpose behind it. In south Sudan -– with our assistance -– the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war.  Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a battlefield for most of my life,” he said. “Now we want to be free.”

And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as they’ve served us — by giving them the equipment they need, by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned, and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country -– they’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.  And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.

We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit –- none of this will be easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The costs. The details. The letter of every law.

Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working-class kid from Scranton can sit behind me.  That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.

That dream -– that American Dream -– is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It’s what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour — three or four days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued.  But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He’d already gone back home, back to work on his next project.

And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.”

We do big things.

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.

We’re a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.” “I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.” “I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try.” “I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”

We do big things.

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Ending the War in Iraq

Video and text here also

Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the End of Combat Operations in Iraq
Oval Office
August 31, 2010

8:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home.

I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans.  We’ve now been through nearly a decade of war.  We’ve endured a long and painful recession.  And sometimes in the midst of these storms, the future that we’re trying to build for our nation — a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity — may seem beyond our reach.

But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq.  Much has changed since that night.  A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.  Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart.  Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded.  Our relations abroad were strained.  Our unity at home was tested.

These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars.  Yet there has been one constant amidst these shifting tides.  At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.  As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians — and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people — Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.

This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.  Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support its government and people.

That’s what we’ve done.  We’ve removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We’ve closed or transferred to the Iraqis hundreds of bases.  And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.

This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.  U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens.  Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began.  And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations.

This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout.  A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election.  Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people.  And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt:  The Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States.  Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission:  advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces, supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilians.  Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.  As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world.  That’s a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.  Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission.  Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife.  But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals.  Iraqis are a proud people.  They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction.  They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets.  Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.  What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest — it’s in our own.  The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.  We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home.  We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people — a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.  Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility.  Now, it’s time to turn the page.

As we do, I’m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.  Here, too, it’s time to turn the page.  This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush.  It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.  As I’ve said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.  And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.

The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.  And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders — and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies — have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I’ve ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum.
As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.  But, as was the case in Iraq, we can’t do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves.  That’s why we’re training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems.  And next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility.  The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.  But make no mistake:  This transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.  We must use all elements of our power — including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example — to secure our interests and stand by our allies.  And we must project a vision of the future that’s based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes — a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world,
but also the limitless possibilities of our time.

Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners.  New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.  A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow.  Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict.  As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction — we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

Now, that effort must begin within our own borders.  Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its links to our own liberty and security.  But we have also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home.  And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we’ve not done what’s necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity.  We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.  For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.  As a result, too many middle-class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.  They have met every test that they faced.  Now, it’s our turn.  Now, it’s our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for — the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.  To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.  We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.  We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.  This will be difficult.  But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor.  As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  This is a sacred trust.  That’s why we’ve already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades.  We’re treating the signature wounds of today’s wars — post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.  And we’re funding a Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education.  Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II — including my grandfather — become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy.  Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

Two weeks ago, America’s final combat brigade in Iraq — the Army’s Fourth Stryker Brigade — journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness.  Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours.  Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired.  It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Of course, the soldiers left much behind.  Some were teenagers when the war began.  Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a mother’s kiss.  Most painfully, since the war began, 55 members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice — part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq.  As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”

Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries.  Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew.  They stared into the darkest of human creations — war — and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.

In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.  Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar — Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.  Our troops are the steel in our ship of state.  And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America, and all who serve her.