Executive Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

President Bush Delivers State of the Economy Report

President Bush Delivers State of the Economy Report
Federal Hall
New York, New York

11:12 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Thanks for being here. I'm pleased to be back in Federal Hall. You know, I drove in, and there stood George Washington. I like to call him George W. (Laughter.) It's nice to be back here.

Last week, I delivered my State of the Union. This morning, I've come to deliver a State of the Economy speech -- and there's no better place to do it than in America's financial capital. More than two centuries ago, Alexander Hamilton led the U.S. Treasury Department from this building. Today, New York City is headquarters of global corporations, it's a center for capital markets, it's the home of three of the world's greatest stock exchanges. You have a Mayor whose name is a fixture on trading floors across the world. And until I took him to Washington, you had Hank Paulson -- who, by the way, is doing a fabulous job.

As we begin this New Year, America's businesses and entrepreneurs are creating new jobs every day. Workers are making more money -- their paychecks are going further. Consumers are confident, investors are optimistic. Just today, we learned that America's economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. That means our economy grew at 3.4 percent last year, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2005. Ladies and gentlemen: The state of our economy is strong. (Applause.) And with the hard work of the American people and the right policies in Washington, we're going to make it even stronger.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for being here. I appreciate you coming. You're doing what people want you to do, and that is to lead this city.

I appreciate Bill Rudin -- thanks for having me, Bill. Good to see you again. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us -- Pete King, Vito Fossella, Carolyn Maloney, and Tom Reynolds. Thanks for flying down with me today. Do you want a ride back? (Laughter.)

Mr. Mayor -- David Dinkins, thank you for being here. Proud you're here. And it's good to see my buddy, Mayor Ed Koch. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.)

I thank the members of the Association of a Better New York who have joined us. I appreciate all the state and local officials who are here.

Bill mentioned that I was here in October 2001. I recognized then our economy had been hit hard and there was great uncertainty about the future. It was a tough time for the country. Many people were out of work. By mid-December, nearly a million jobs had been lost. The collapse of the Twin Towers had left dangerous cracks in this building's foundations.

I said that day that I was optimistic that our economy would recover from these attacks. But if I'd have told you that we would also make the recession one of the shortest on record, that we'd have confronted corporate scandals, absorb a tripling in the price of oil, fight a global war, and help a whole region of our country recover from a hurricane, you might have been a little skeptical.

Yet America's economy has overcome all these things. Federal Hall has been fully restored. It's on solid ground. And so is the New York City economy -- as the Mayor mentioned, it's booming -- with a bond rating at an all-time high, and unemployment near an all-time low. Across our nation, small businesses and entrepreneurs are creating millions of new jobs. Retail sales are up, consumer spending is strong, exports of goods and services have jumped by nearly 35 percent. The Dow Jones has set new records 26 times in the last four months. Productivity is strong, and that's translating into higher wages.

When people across the world look at America's economy what they see is low inflation, low unemployment, and the fastest growth of any major industrialized nation. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the United States. There is one undisputed leader in the world in terms of economy, and that's the United States of America. (Applause.)

On Wall Street, you know that America's economic leadership rests on strong and flexible capital markets. Capital markets connect entrepreneurs with the investment they need to turn their ideas into new businesses. America's capital markets are the deepest, the broadest, and the most efficient in the world. Yet excessive litigation and over-regulation threaten to make our financial markets less attractive to investors, especially in the face of rising competition from capital markets abroad. To keep America's economic leadership, America must be the best place in the world to invest capital and to do business.

One important step we've taken in Washington is to pass litigation reform like the Class Action Fairness Act. It's important for people in Congress to understand that excessive lawsuits will make it hard for America to remain the economic leader that we want to be. Another important step we've taken is to strengthen our business institutions by passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. This law helped boost investor confidence by establishing high standards for transparency and corporate governance. The principles of Sarbanes-Oxley are as important today as when they were passed. Yet complying with certain aspects of the law, such as Section 404, has been costly for businesses and may be discouraging companies from listing on our stock exchanges.

We don't need to change the law. We need to change the way the law is implemented. America needs a regulatory environment that promotes high standards of integrity in our capital markets, and encourages growth and innovation. And I'm pleased of the progress that Hank Paulson and Chairman Chris Cox are making to make sure the regulatory burden is not oppressive, and fair, and helps us meet a great national objective to keep the United States the economic leader in the world.

Our economic leadership also depends on sensible, pro-growth tax policies. To help bring our economy out of a recession and recover from September the 11th, we cut taxes on the American people. We cut taxes on everybody who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. We cut taxes on small businesses. And we cut taxes on dividends and capital gains.

There's a lot of political debate about these tax cuts. But here are some of the facts: Since we enacted major tax relief into law in 2003, our economy has created nearly 7.2 million new jobs. Our economy has expanded by more than 13 percent. That expansion is roughly the size of the entire Canadian economy. This economic growth has led to record tax revenues, which has helped us cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule. One fact should be clear when you look at the statistics: The fastest way to kill a recovery would be to raise taxes on the people who created it. Now is not the time for the federal government to be raising taxes on the American people. (Applause.)

We must ensure that the money you send to Washington is spent wisely. Next Monday, I'm going to submit to Congress a budget that will eliminate the deficit by 2012. In order to do so, we need to set priorities in Washington. You can't try to be all things to all people when it comes to spending your money if you want to keep taxes low, keep the economy growing, and balance the budget. And my number one priority is to protect this country. And we're going to make sure our troops have all the equipment they need to do the job we've sent them to do -- (applause) -- and make sure our citizens have what it takes to defend this homeland.

That means we've got to be careful about how we spend money in other areas. One thing we can do to show the American people that we're going to be smart about how we spend their money is to do something about earmarks -- it's that system of appropriations where things end up being spent even though nobody has voted on them. And I'm going to work with Congress to reduce the amount of earmarks and the number of dollars spent by earmarks in a significant way to earn the trust of the taxpayers of this country, and at the same time, be wise about how we spend their money.

I believe I need a line-item veto to help Congress spend money wisely. And so I put forth a plan that says the legislative branch and the executive branch will work together to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary spending.

We're about to pass a farm bill that provides a strong safety net, while tightening spending and cutting subsidies. We can manage this short-term deficit -- and I look forward to working with Congress to do so. But it's important for Congress to understand there are unfunded liabilities inherent in Social Security and Medicare that we need to do something about now.

And I understand it's tough work that requires political will from both the President and the Congress to come together and solve this problem. I'm hopeful that we can set aside needless politics and address the issues with entitlements in a constructive way. That way people will say, they came to Washington and they did the job we expect them to do.

Our growing economy is also a changing economy. The rise of new technologies, new competition, and new markets abroad is bringing changes -- and these changes are coming faster than ever. There was a time when most people expected they'd keep a job for life. Now the average American has 10 jobs before the age of 40. It used to be that a company's name would stay the same for decades. New companies are now -- now companies are merging and splitting, and creating new names and new stock symbols. Some of us can still remember when cell phones were the size of bricks and considered a luxury. Now they fit in your pocket, they take photos, they play music, and every teenager in America has one, it seems like.

By and large, our dynamic and innovative economy has helped Americans live better and more comfortable lives. Yet the same dynamism that is driving economic growth is also -- can be unsettling for people. For many Americans, change means having to find a new job, or to deal with a new boss after a merger, or to go back to school to learn new skills for a new career. And the question for America is whether we treat the changes in our economy as opportunity to help improve people's lives, or as an excuse to retreat into protectionism.

I believe that the changes present us with historic opportunities -- America's growing economy allows us to approach them from a position of strength. And so today, I'm going to discuss actions we should take to make America's economy more flexible and dynamic in four areas -- trade, health, energy and education.

First, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by expanding trade. America has about 5 percent of the world's population. That means 95 percent of our potential customers are abroad. Every time we break down barriers to trade and investment, we open up new markets for our businesses and our farmers. As we improve free trade, consumers get lower prices. There are better American jobs. You see increased productivity. Jobs supported by exports of goods pay wages that are 13 to 18 percent higher than the average. So one of our top priorities has been to remove obstacles to trade everywhere we can.

When I took office, America had free trade agreements with three countries. We have free trade agreements in force now with 13 countries -- and we have more on the way. These agreements are leading to direct benefits for America's businesses and, equally importantly, America's workers. Yesterday, I went to the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois

-- that's where they make big bulldozers. The folks there told me that Caterpillar now exports more than one-half of the products they make. They see immediate results when we have broken down barriers to trade. Within two years of implementing our free trade agreement with Chile, Caterpillar's exports to that country have nearly doubled. The opening of this and other export markets has led Cat to add thousands of new jobs here in America.

Manufacturers, farmers, and service providers all across our country have similar stories. So we need to continue to level the playing field for our goods and services. I strongly believe this: When people around the world have a choice, they choose goods that say "Made in the USA."

In this global economy, new competition means that American businesses must constantly approve [sic]*. Global competition can also lead to hardships for our workers and their families. Government has a responsibility to help displaced workers find new jobs, or even a new career. So my administration has reformed job training programs and expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance to help more displaced workers learn the new skills they need to succeed. I'm going to work with Congress to reauthorize and to improve the Trade Adjustment Assistance this year, so we can help Americans take advantage of this growing, dynamic economy.

At this moment, the most promising opportunity to expand free and fair trade is by concluding the Doha Round at the World Trade Organization. Global trade talks like Doha have the potential to lower trade barriers all around the world. They come around only once every decade or so. Successful trade talks will have an enormous impact on people around the world. Since World War II, the opening of global trade and investment has resulted in income gains of about $9,000 a year for the average American household.

The Doha Round is a chance to level the playing field for our goods and services -- in other words, so we can be treated fairly in foreign markets -- but it also is a great opportunity to lift millions of people out of poverty around the world. And so we're going to work hard to complete it. We are dedicated to making sure we have a successful Doha Round.

The only way America can complete Doha and make headway on other trade agreements is to extent Trade Promotion Authority. This authority allows the President to negotiate complicated trade deals for our country, and then send them to Congress for an up or down vote on the whole agreement. Presidents of both parties have considered this authority essential to completing good trade agreements. Our trading partners consider it essential for our success at the negotiating table. The authority is set to expire on July 1st -- and I ask Congress to renew it. I know there's going to be a vigorous debate on trade, and bashing trade can make for good sound bites on the evening news. But walling off America from world trade would be a disaster for our economy. Congress needs to reject protectionism, and to keep this economy open to the tremendous opportunities that the world has to offer.

Second, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by reforming our health care system. Across the country, business owners tell me that the cost of health care is their biggest problem, and it's becoming harder to provide coverage for their workers. American workers and their families also find that the health care system is rigid and confusing. They end up with medical bills that are impossible to understand, and spend hours filling out complicated insurance forms. They feel locked into jobs because they're worried about losing the health insurance if they leave their job. They have no way to measure the quality of their doctors and hospitals. They see good doctors being driven out of practice because of frivolous lawsuits. All this leads to higher medical costs, and higher insurance premiums for businesses and their families.

Listen, federal government has an important role to play when it comes to health care, and that is to help the poor and the disabled and the elderly. And we're keeping those obligations. But for all other Americans, I believe that private health insurance is the best way for them to meet their needs. Many Americans cannot afford private health insurance. So we're taking steps to make it more affordable and to give patients more choices and more control over their health care decisions.

We created health savings accounts, which put patients in charge of their medical decisions and helps reduce the cost of their coverage. And I ask Congress to strengthen health savings accounts. We need to pass Association Health Plans, so that small businesses can insure their workers by pooling risk at the same discount that big companies are able to get.

We're using information technology. Listen, we're a giant consumer of health care at the federal level. And we're insisting upon new technologies to make health care more efficient, and thereby reducing costs inherent in an inefficient system, and reducing medical errors. We believe that the health care industry needs to post price and quality, so as consumers have more choice, they're able to make better decisions about the health care they get. We understand that a non-transparent system where somebody else pays the bills is likely to cause costs to continue to rise. Congress needs to pass medical liability reform. If you're interested in available and affordable health care, we should not have a legal system that's running good doctors out of practice and running up the cost of your medicine. (Applause.)

And one of the most promising ways to make private health insurance more affordable is to reform the tax code. Under current law, workers who get health insurance from their companies get a tax benefit. If you buy insurance on your own, you do not get the tax benefit. The tax code is not fair. So in my State of the Union address I proposed to end this unfair bias in the tax code by creating a standard deduction for every American who has health insurance, no matter where you get it from.

This deduction would also apply to payroll taxes, so those who do not pay income taxes would still get a benefit. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. Those who now purchase health insurance on their own would save money on their taxes. Millions of others who have now no health insurance at all would find basic private coverage within their reach.

As well, we need to do more to help the states and localities deal with the uninsured. I think the most innovative programs are developed at the state level. And I think it's in our interest to support states that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens to have help from the federal government, to help them with the poor, to help them with the uninsured. So we're asking Congress to join us in setting up "affordable choices" grants to make sure that the poor and the sick have private health insurance available to them, as well.

All these steps will bring America closer to a health care system where patients are in charge of their medical decisions. In a reformed system, there will be a vibrant individual market, in which health insurance companies actually compete for your business. When you leave your job for a better opportunity elsewhere, you will be able to take your health care plan with you. If people change jobs 10 times before they're 40, we need a health care system that is flexible and consumer-oriented. Health care providers will have an incentive to improve their service. Your medical records would fit on a CD, so you would not have to fill out multiple forms every time you visit your doctor. In the end, you would have a more flexible health care system that responds to your needs, and at the same time helps us keep our economy flexible and dynamic.

Third, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by diversifying our energy supply. Energy is vital to businesses and farmers and families all across our nation. Yet, we have a fundamental problem: We're too dependent on oil. That creates vulnerabilities. When demand for oil goes up in China or India, it affects the price of gasoline here in America. If a terrorist were to attack oil infrastructure, it affects the supply of energy here in America.

Dependency on oil means we're not being as good a steward of the environment as we should be. The way to overcome these challenges is through innovation and technology. I believe it is a good use of your money to spend at the federal level on new technologies to make us less dependent on oil -- and that's exactly what we've done. We're spending money on cellulosic ethanol -- that's a fancy word for saying some day we're going to be able to convert switch grass into energy that powers your cars. We're spending money on biodiesel fuels. We're spending money on advanced batteries, so some day you'll be able to plug in your automobile and drive the first 40 miles on electricity, and your car is not going to look like a golfcart. We're spending money on solar and wind energy, and clean coal and nuclear power.

Since 2001, my administration, working with Congress, has invested up to more than $10 billion to develop cleaner energy alternatives. And this federal funding has helped America's scientists and engineers make tremendous progress toward a goal of becoming less dependent on oil. As well, the private sector is responding. You know it better than I do, but a lot of people are seeing interesting opportunities available in alternative energies. And private money is flowing into these new alternatives.

So we're on the threshold of dramatic technological breakthroughs. And now the challenge is to move the technologies from research lab into the marketplace. In my State of the Union I set an ambitious goal of reducing gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years. If you want to become less dependent on oil, the quickest way to do so is to use less gasoline. Meeting this goal will require significant changes in supply and demand. On the demand side, we have got to reform our economy -- fuel economy standards, that will reduce the amount of gasoline that cars and SUVs consume. And on the supply side, I have proposed a new mandatory fuel standard that is nearly a fivefold increase over the current target for renewable and alternative fuels.

We'll leave it to the market to decide the mix of fuels that most effectively and efficiently meet this goal. But that goal can be achieved, and that's why I put it out there. It's a necessary goal for our national security and economic security. It's an important goal to deal with the issue of climate change. Imagine what these technologies will mean for somebody living in New York -- the fuel in your car is going to come from a cornfield in Iowa, or perhaps switch grass out of Texas. Hybrid electric taxicabs will be running on new generation lithium ion batteries. The financial pages will be filled with new stock symbols for dynamic American companies in the growing field of alternative fuels.

This day is coming, but it's not going to happen overnight. If you want to be less dependent on foreign oil, we ought to be drilling for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways here in the United States. And if you're concerned about a terrorist attack which could disrupt oil supplies, it makes sense for Congress to double the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

So I hope Congress moves forward on these initiatives, and I'm looking forward to working with them. The idea is to diversify our energy supply, keep our air clean and help create new jobs through new industries that will meet the demand for alternative sources of energy.

Fourth, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by strengthening public education. A strong and vibrant education system is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge in the world. A strong and vibrant education system will ensure that every citizen can share in this nation's prosperity.

I know some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind. We have an obligation to help ensure that every citizen shares in this country's future. The fact is that income inequality is real; it's been rising for more than 25 years. The reason is clear: We have an economy that increasingly rewards education, and skills because of that education. One recent study of male earnings showed that someone with a college degree earns about 72 percent more than someone with a high school diploma. The earnings gap is now twice as wide as it was in 1980 -- and it continues to grow. And the question is whether we respond to the income inequality we see with policies that help lift people up, or tear others down. The key to rising in this economy is skills -- and the government's job is to make sure we have an education system that delivers them.

And that's why I think one of the most important economic initiatives of my presidency has been the No Child Left Behind Act. The philosophy behind No Child Left Behind says: We're going to spend federal money, but we expect you, at the local level to deliver results. In other words, we've insisted upon accountability. I understand some people don't like accountability, but how can you make sure if our kids are getting the foundation for the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century unless you measure? And when you measure and find failure, correct problems early before it's too late.

The No Child Left Behind Act is working. There's an achievement gap in America that's not fair and it's not right, and it's beginning to close. You know how I know? Because we're measuring. This good law is working, and the Congress needs to reauthorize it. (Applause.)

The agenda to strengthen education and make America more competitive extends beyond the primary grades. And that's why I proposed -- and I'm working with the Congress to pass -- the American Competitiveness Initiative. That means we're going to improve math and science education in the middle schools and high schools. You can't compete in the 21st century unless we're educating young engineers and physicists and chemists -- unless our kids have the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

I also believe it's a vital role for the federal government to spend money on basic scientific research. So I've called upon Congress to double the funding for basic scientific research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, or the Department of Energy's Office of Science, or the National Science Foundation. In other words, there's things we can do in Washington to put good policies in place to make sure that we stay on the cutting edge of change, and at the same time, educate our kids so they can take advantage of the world we're in.

I believe -- and I appreciate Congress's expanding Pell Grants. It's a strong initiative I support. Pell Grants are a good way to help our poor students go to college. And I'm a big believer in the community college system here in America. Community colleges work. They're available and they're affordable, and they have the capacity to change curriculum to meet the needs of the local work force. And it makes sense for the federal government to support community colleges -- for this reason: It doesn't take much additional education to gain a new skill set so you can find jobs in this 21st century.

Let me give you an example. I went to Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland and I met Jeannetta Smith. She used to work in the textile industry. She left to study nursing. She recognized that in nursing she could make a better living for her family and herself. And so she went to a community college and she got some low-interest loans to help her, and she became a registered nurse. With a little bit of extra education and some help, she went to the community college and she's now making three times what she did in her old job. Education enables one to gain new skills necessary to fill the jobs that are coming in the 21st century. She said about her new career, "It's been very, very good. The opportunities are boundless." And that's what we want people saying in America: I have got the skill set to be able to say, the opportunities are boundless.

America's businesses have responsibilities here in America. I know you know that. A free and vibrant economy depends on public trust. Shareholders should know what executive compensation packages look like. I appreciate the fact that the SEC has issued new rules to ensure that there is transparency when it comes to executive pay packages. The print ought to be big and understandable. When people analyze their investment, they ought to see loud and clear -- they ought to be able to see with certainty the nature of the compensation packages for the people entrusted to run the companies in which they've got an investment.

Government should not decide the compensation for America's corporate executives, but the salaries and bonuses of CEOs should be based on their success at improving their companies and bringing value to their shareholders. America's corporate boardrooms must step up to their responsibilities. You need to pay attention to the executive compensation packages that you approve. You need to show the world that American businesses are a model of transparency and good corporate governance.

One New Yorker who understands corporate responsibility is a fellow named John Duffy. John Duffy grew up in the Bronx. He became CEO of a Manhattan investment and research firm called Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. On September the 11th, KBW had its offices in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That day the firm lost 67 people, including John's 23-year-old son. Many thought KBW was finished. But not John Duffy. He moved his company to temporary offices. He paid out $40 million to the families of the employees the firm lost. He set up a charitable trust to help them with medical bills and college expenses. And he rebuilt his business. Last year, KBW went public, and now the firm has twice as many employees as it did on September the 11th.

I want the people to listen to what John Duffy said: "If that day was our final day, it would have meant that the bad guys had won. Our way to fight back was to keep going." It says something about John Duffy that the terrorist attacks only made him more determined to succeed. It says something about New York that there are countless stories like KBW's, of hardworking men and women who picked themselves up and rebuilt bigger and better than before. It says something about America that we continue to produce citizens who come back from adversity and create new opportunity for themselves and for others.

And this is the true strength of our economy. That's what makes us the economic leader of the world. And that's why I'm confident that we can remain that economic leader, because we're a nation of dreamers and doers and believers -- God-fearing, decent, honorable people. And I'm proud to be the President of such a nation. God bless. (Applause.)

END 11:50 A.M. EST


Keene, New Hampshire and Hillary's Media Investment

All the news in Keene, New Hampshire is Hillary's upcoming visit. Why New Hampshire? The same reason she is going to New Hampshire is the reason every politician will visiting small towns across the nation. The schmooze power of tiny town visits helps a candidate calibrate the marketing fire power needed to suck in the voters from statistically - demographically similar areas.

Hillary Clinton to visit Keene on Sunday

Hillary, with her bank account and popularity, is using this as market research. She is in a great position to adjust her campaign strategy. As a liberal-minded candidate, she recognizes middle-America will not easily be swayed. To manipulate the voters accordingly, she needs to do a few tests to level set. New Hampshire is not the most conservative state, of course, so a visit there is safer than a traditionally 100% blue state.

She knows the campaign will be tough, and the election needs a strong fight from her. There are still a substantial number of prolife and non-extra gay rights voters that will vote against her in both parties. The Republicans have the bulk of such voters, but they've not locked that perspective up. If a more center of left candidate comes along among the Democrats, Hillary will lose votes, and then Obama might have the edge. A loss in the primary means no big election, no White House.

She's on the right path. By gaining some political and media currency in New Hampshire, she can work her way into the big cities. In New Hampshire, where she'll come off as more casual and folksy, she can practice her spiel. She'll refine it in such places where the news is less about she said and more that she visited. Lots of photo opportunities, and whammy, she's got a presence in the media arena. Low risk, high returns.

Great investment Hillary! All your money is being spent intelligently.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Scorecard: Who is Running for President - Republicans

Republican Party
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2008

Official candidates who have filed with the FEC for the Republican Party
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas
John H. Cox of Illinois
Representative Duncan Hunter of California
Michael Charles Smith of Oregon

Candidates who have formed exploratory committees
Former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas
Senator John McCain of Arizona
Representative Ron Paul of Texas
Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts
Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado
Former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin

Candidates who have expressed serious interest
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia (Winning the Future)
Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (Sandhills PAC)
Former Governor George Pataki of New York (21st Century Freedom PAC)

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Scorecard: Who is Running for President - Democrats

Democratic Party
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2008

Official candidates who have filed with the FEC for the Democratic Party
Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut
Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina
Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska
Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
Former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa

Candidates who have formed exploratory committees
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware (Unite Our States PAC)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico

Candidates who have expressed serious interest
Retired General Wesley Clark of Arkansas (WesPAC - Securing America)
Reverend Al Sharpton of New York

Press Briefing by Tony Snow - January 29, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
Press Briefing
1:09 P.M. EST
source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070129-2.html

MR. SNOW: All right. As all of you know, the President is going to be highlighting the strength of the economy over the next couple of days. First, there will be a visit to Peoria, Illinois. He'll visit the Caterpillar headquarters and speak to employees, highlighting, among other things, the benefits of global trade and the way in which free and fair trade have enabled companies like Caterpillar to prosper on the global market.

Then he'll head to New York, the world's leading financial center, and deliver a speech on the state of the economy. He will deliver the New York speech at Federal Hall, where I believe George Washington took the oath of office, and Alexander Hamilton held forth as Treasury Secretary. The President also -- double check on that one, as well -- the President last was there in October of 2001.

Over the last six years the American economy has had to endure a great deal: recession, September 11th terrorist attacks, the bursting of the technology bubble, devastating hurricanes that have crippled entire regions. We have had corporate scandals, we have had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a larger war on terror; we have had an oil shock. And, despite all that, the economy continues to thrive.

And the President is going to talk about how to make sure that we build a basis for future and further prosperity in an increasingly competitive global economic environment that includes giving our kids the intellectual and educational skills they're going to need to compete. It means that we are going to try to reduce reliance on foreign oil. It means that we are also going to try to create better, fairer, more efficient legal and health care systems; deal with our long-term entitlement programs -- that is something that inflicts other industrialized nations; continue to expand free and fair trade and keep taxes low; and allow small businesses to thrive. So that is what the President will be doing the next couple of days -- you are all invited.


Q The President said today that the United States would take firm action against Iran if military activities in Iraq threaten Americans. He doesn't seem persuaded that Iran's statement that it's going to become more military involved or in the economy of Iraq as a positive development.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, we'll wait and see whether it's a positive development or not. You're talking about statements to the effect that the Iranians are thinking about opening a series of banks within Iraq, and that they have also offered to do military cooperation.

What we've said is to the extent that anybody -- including Iranians -- are smuggling weapons, bringing in fighters, killing Americans, trying to destabilize the democracy in Iraq, we will take appropriate measures to defend our troops and also to defend the mission.

But the Iranians understand that there's a burden of proof for them, and so it's an interesting statement. As I told you before, we don't have much more on it, and we don't have a lot of detail on it. But the Iraqi government is sovereign and it certainly can make arrangements with its neighbors. And I daresay it's not going to make arrangements that are going to be detrimental to its security or its prosperity.

Q Is that something that the President might talk to the Prime Minister about, to find out where that's going or --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm sure that there are ongoing conversations. The Prime Minister talks regularly with the ambassador and other officials in Baghdad. I honestly don't know where they stand in terms of those conversations. But they may discuss it.

Q Do you take it at face value that they're trying to help their economy and want to cooperate --

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll just have to see. You don't take -- it's a statement, let's see what actions follow.

Q Tony, if I could follow, just on balance, does the Bush administration see Iran's activities inside of Iraq as more of a positive than a negative?

MR. SNOW: Right now what we are seeing is some evidence that the Iranians have been involved in activities that have led to the deaths of American soldiers and also the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians -- and to the extent that that kind of activity continues, we will respond appropriately.

What you're asking us to do is to respond to something that hasn't happened. There is a statement of intent and we'll see how they follow through on it. We would certainly welcome Iran to start playing a constructive role in the region. And among other things, they could stop smuggling arms -- or at least contributing arms. They could stop contributing to terrorist organizations. They could stop supporting Hezbollah. They could, in fact, encourage people within the Middle East to promote peaceful negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution. There are a whole series of positive things they can do.

On a separate but equally important track, they could accept the offer that the United States and other nations have made to give them peaceful civil nuclear power in exchange for their renouncing any programs, verifiably, that could lead to the creation of nuclear weapons. And we have certainly extended our hand, in terms of much warmer, more constructive relations should they do so.

Q So it's fair to say the Bush administration still considers Iran's role largely negative inside of Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Again, what we have seen -- I'm going to twist it in a different direction. We would love to see them start playing a positive role.

Q Have you seen anything positive, Tony? I mean, why would you believe this might be a positive role?

MR. SNOW: We don't believe, we just -- as I just said, Martha, let's see what the actions are. You've characterized accurately the situation, which is, we have a statement. Let's see what happens in terms of actions, and then we will assess them.

Q The President is going to talk about trade tomorrow. Does he need -- would he like to have fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals?

MR. SNOW: Absolutely. What he wants to do is to continue to have Trade Promotion Authority; every other President has had it. It is the ability to negotiate a good faith trade agreement without their later being changed by Congress, which means you have to go back to the table and kind of renegotiate. It is an important device in extending free trade and also allowing negotiators to operate effectively. President Clinton used it to positive effect during his presidency, as have prior presidents, and we certainly think it is important that Congress renew it.

Q Will he talk about that tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: I don't know if he's talking about it tomorrow or Thursday, but he will be talking about it -- I mean, tomorrow or Wednesday, but he will talk about it this week.


Q What did the President think of the march on Washington?

MR. SNOW: I don't think he really thought a lot about it. It's nice to see Jane Fonda in front of the camera again. There are a number of people who were here making statements, and that's perfectly appropriate. This is a vigorous democracy.

Q You said something earlier this morning, though. Would you like to repeat that?

MR. SNOW: It's simply that there were predictions of a larger audience than showed up for the protest.

Q And you really counted heads?

MR. SNOW: No. Did you? Did you see 100,000?

Q Don't you think we had a good turnout?

MR. SNOW: Honestly, I didn't go there, Helen, so I'm not going to characterize.

Q How do you make a statement like that?

MR. SNOW: Well, because it's pretty clear from the press accounts that nobody attached six figures to the number who appeared.

Q Tony, the President touched briefly in that NPR interview about the actions Sunday in Najaf. What is the feeling inside the White House about what happened over the weekend, these raids, and the prospects for moving forward?

MR. SNOW: Well, what the President also said is we're getting briefed up on them and he had not been fully briefed. So it's a little -- I'm afraid I'm not in a position to comment specifically on it.

But let's talk generally about the kind of action we've been seeing of late within Iraq, which is Iraqi and U.S. forces standing up against those who are trying to commit acts of violence -- at least according to press accounts, and that's all I can go on now, Bret. They were talking about an operation, actually, on Shia and Sunni together, who were trying to commit acts of violence that would disrupt Shia religious observances, much as we saw last year with the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

We have seen the kind of impact that sort of action could have, in terms of inflaming sectarian violence. And it is important to go after those who try to commit such acts of violence. So it is certainly the kind of thing we expect to see more of, in terms of U.S. and Iraqi forces in joint operations going after these acts of violence. It also means that somebody had to provide information that was necessary for carrying out the operation.

Ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to find a way to provide for their own security, and they are going to need to be able to conduct these kind of operations. They will need the intelligence capabilities, they will need the logistical capabilities. They clearly will need the arms and training to do it in a professional manner. So I know it's a very general answer to the question because even now the kinds of reporting we're getting are fluctuating, in terms of casualty counts and exactly where it was and so on, so I don't want to be too specific because, frankly, we don't have the specifics yet.

Q Follow on a different track -- politics. Senator Clinton in Iowa talking about the war said, "The President has said that this war is going to be left to his successor. He's said that on more than one occasion. I really resent that. This was his decision to go to war." And she described it as "the height of irresponsibility."

MR. SNOW: All right, well, expect a lot of "can you top this" rhetoric early on, on the campaign trail. But let's talk about the merits of the case, as well. Senator Clinton voted to authorize action in Iraq. And Senator Clinton, in many cases, has stood with the President, including providing funding for our forces there. The real question here is, the United States Senate that voted 81 to nothing -- I think that was the vote -- for General Petraeus, now it ought to go ahead and supply what he needs in terms of reinforcements and resources for finishing the job in Iraq.

But, more importantly, you've got ask yourself, what do you really want. If you want American forces out of Iraq, probably the best way to do that is to support the President and support the combatant commanders in doing what they say they need. We have seen already, in the wake of the President's announcing a new way forward, a shift in the way people are behaving in Iraq. We have seen -- apparently some terror groups are making their ways out of Baghdad. You've seen a direct change in the public stance of Muqtada al Sadr. You have also seen very good signs of determination on the part of Prime Minister Maliki, not only in terms of public statements, but also in terms of operations that have been aimed at Shia and Sunni organizations that seem to be working to undermine the government.

And it's important to realize that every time the United States shows strength and determination in operations like this, it makes a difference. After the United States Army went into -- or the U.S. military actually went to Baghdad in three-and-a-half weeks, you saw that Mommar Ghadafi made a calculation about what he thought was in his nation's best interest and decided to stop being part of the problem with terror and started to cooperating with the United States. And you saw in the wake of that a number of nations in the region extending the franchise. You saw the Lebanese putting together the Cedar Revolution.

And as the President also pointed out, last year in the wake of those successes, terrorists decided to fight back. It is important to realize that withdrawal from Iraq without success means that the President would be handing his successor failure. And failure could have dire consequences.

The other thing is when the President talks about handing things to the next President, he's not merely talking about Iraq, he's talking about a larger war on terror. And the point he has also made -- tried to make is that he understands right now that there's enormous political controversy. But he also understands that, like it or not, the terrorists are simply not going to lay down their hatred on January 20, 2009, just as they did not lay down their hatreds when George W. Bush took the oath of office, and they had already been in the stages of planning for September 11th.

This is a long war, based on deep and profound hatred of the United States and its way of life, and a determination to kill us, people who spend their time scheming to find ways of killing us. And the President wants to make sure that the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States will have access to intelligence that can save American lives; will have access to law enforcement tools that will allow people in the United States to go ahead and break up cells before they can act; will have access to the kind of military, diplomatic and economic levers that are going to force nations to make a choice about whether they're going to support us or be against us in the war on terror.

All of those things are essential. And his view is not one of simply trying to confine his field of vision to Iraq, but to say, he will do everything in his power to make it possible for the next President to succeed in a war on terror that surely will continue, even if everybody is home from Iraq, when the next President takes the oath of office.


Q Can you repeat that? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Let me try. (Laughter.)

Q I want to ask you about the mixed messages that NPR pointed out during an interview with the President -- that the Vice President has been quoted as saying there's a lot of success in Iraq; the President has said there's not been enough success in Iraq, and that he doesn't approve of what's going on, either. How do you explain this disconnect and the kind of --

MR. SNOW: I see it less a disconnect as two different ways of looking at it. When you talk to combatant commanders, they make the point that every time there's a military engagement, such as the one that Bret was talking about, the other side doesn't win. On the other hand, what we have seen is a change in the situation on the ground, particularly with regard to sectarian violence, and also some strengthening -- although the locals have been fighting back against it in Anbar province. So what the President sees is the situation of violence in Baghdad and he says this is unacceptable -- and the Vice President agrees.

But the Vice President, I think, was also trying to make the statement that American forces, contrary to popular opinion, aren't just sitting ducks. They have, in fact, been engaged in military operations, and when there is direct conflict, they're successful. And it is important now to create the ability for the most important success of all, which is training up and creating capability within the Iraqi forces so that, sooner rather than later, they can assume full control for their security.

Q But when the President says that his Vice President is a glass half full kind of guy, might that be more charitable than others would allow, and they might think, no, when the Vice President talks about things going so swimmingly, that he's out of touch with what's going on?

MR. SNOW: You mean others are more critical of the Vice President than the President may be?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Well, the Vice President does have a lot of critics.

Q Well, right, but the point is that, whether these are Republican critics or Democratic critics, the idea to -- when the President says he's a glass half full kind of guy, he's not being a little bit charitable, I guess?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. Again, I think there are two ways you look at it. You can take a look at what happens -- it's important -- everybody says, we support the troops, and everybody praises the troops. Well, then acknowledge what they do. And when they do have conflicts in the field, they do succeed.

But the question now is building that capability among the Iraqis and also change in the way we do business in Baghdad proper, so that once you clean out a neighborhood you can keep it cleaned out, you can bring in jobs, you can build a foundation for real and permanent success. That's not something that was being done before and, frankly, the prior efforts didn't work. And so those of -- I think that's what the President and the Vice President are both talking about.

Q But to follow this, are the President and the Vice President -- can we characterize them as being on the same page with their read on Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And the Vice President's comments reflect the administration's thinking?

MR. SNOW: Both the President and the Vice President -- again, you can take a look at this in two ways, Jim. If you take a look in terms of specific military engagements, you can point to successes. For instance, you take a look at what's been going on in Anbar, you can take a look at operations recently in Diala, you can take a look at what's been going on down south with attempts to create acts of violence or to commit acts of violence against Shia worshipers -- those would all count as "successes."

But on the other hand, there's also been, over the last year, the new phenomenon of sectarian violence that was not addressed effectively, and I think the President and the Vice President both agree that it was not addressed effectively and we need to find better ways of doing it.

Q Tony, why a separate state of the economy speech? Isn't that something typically in the State of the Union speech?

MR. SNOW: Yes, but it wasn't in the State of the Union speech; hence a state of the economy speech.

Q Why? Why the decision to shift it off separately?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's see. the State of the Union speech, as it was, took sort of the normal hour, once you put everything together, and we wanted a State of the Union address that could be focused on key issues and bold initiatives. And you know what? It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is.

We are starting to see signs of it, in terms of people's general confidence in the economy and certainly consumer behavior. But you look at polls a lot of times and people think, well, it's going great for me, but maybe it's not going great for everybody else. The fact is that the American economy, having absorbed the kind of body blows that lesser economies would not have been able to survive, has continued to thrive.

And the last thing we can do -- you know, American workers have done this -- there haven't been any special acts of heroism, people have just gone to work and they've worked hard and they've saved and they've said, okay, I'm going to do what I need for a home addition, or I'm going to save up some money and buy something for my kid, I'll buy more this year for Christmas -- whatever the case may be. People have worked hard to pursue the kind of goals to make life better for themselves and their families. And that has made our economy stronger. And the last thing we need to do to these workers who have put the U.S. economy on their back, through all of these various challenges, is now to say, do you know what, job well done, we're now going to cut your pay in the form of a tax increase.

So what the President is really arguing for is, let's go ahead, let's make permanent the tax increases that have enabled people to have more cash in hand to pump back into the economy, to create conditions of economic growth, and let's make life more rewarding, literally, for the people who are working hard in this country, including small businesses.

Q He's not downgrading that by taking it out of the State of the Union speech?

MR. SNOW: No. No. I don't think -- as a matter of fact, this offers a chance to highlight it, don't you think? I mean, it's a separate speech.

Q Is he also, in a sense, trying to prod the Democrats into acting on this issue? Is this a message really directed to the Hill?

MR. SNOW: If you take a look -- any time a President gives a speech about politics, Sheryl, there are multiple audiences -- certainly Capitol Hill, but also the American public. For instance, in the State of the Union address, a health care plan that really does offer the possibilities of revolutionary change in the health care system that will make it user friendly, which a lot people complain that it is not today. He is talking about taking a new look at the way we go ahead and pursue energy innovation, so we cut our dependence on foreign oil, but at the same time we make the environment cleaner and we create new economic opportunity, rather than throwing people out of work.

Q Does he really expect Democrats to partner with him on those two issues, and to make his tax cuts permanent?

MR. SNOW: Well, we're going to find out. The Democrats, as I've noted many times, said that they wanted to come to Washington, they wanted to work with the President, they wanted to get things done. And I think the President has proposed things that make sense. People understand it. They understand that what he is talking about addresses some of their basic concerns about education, about the environment, about energy, about health care, about immigration, and people want to see action on those. And I think there are enough people of good will on both sides of the aisle that we may, in fact, be able to get things done.

Q Tony, talking about people want to see action on things, you also brought into the issue of the economy the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. You have Mark Morial, the head of the National Urban League, calling for a summit, and you have people like Bruce Gordon still very upset. What can the White House do to help in this lowest (inaudible), particularly as it's concerned with New Orleans, because there seems to be a disparity between the other (inaudible) in the state.

MR. SNOW: Well, as the papers in Louisiana have pointed out, that's really a question to point toward officials in Louisiana, because whereas -- the federal government has made more than $100 billion available for hurricane relief, and it has made billions of dollars available for housing. In the state of Mississippi, thousands of people have received checks, and they've been able to proceed with the business of rebuilding their homes and their lives. My understanding is that in New Orleans, that number is still less than 300, even though they've already spent more than $100 million in administrative costs. So it is an important question -- we will do everything we can to work with local officials, in terms of trying to increase the speed.

But right now, the federal government has made the money available, and we will do whatever those officials think they need in terms of assistance to finish their part of the job.

Q Tony, apparently it's not necessarily about money, it's about when do you say when, and not just work with, but help guide them, push them to move in --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think they're getting pushed a lot by their constituents right now.


Q Tony, so the main issue tomorrow in Peoria is trade; is that right?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q There seemed to be some movement on this over the weekend, on the issue of world trade talks. What do you see -- what's your assessment for a world trade agreement at this point?

MR. SNOW: Sue Schwab and her counterpoint -- counterpart with the EU have been working very hard, and they've also been reaching out to the G20 nations. It's a very complex set of negotiations going forward. Also it's, I think, realized that it is going to be in the best interest of all to have success in the Doha round.

I cannot and would not get into details at this point. We are at a very important point of the negotiations. We've got a small window to get a lot of things done. And I know all sides are working very hard on this. But the President is deeply committed to working with all our allies. And they've assured us that they're committed also in working with us toward resolution.

Q And will he address this tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: He's not going to talk in detail about it, but what he will do is once again point to the importance of free trade. You see, not only do we have free trade within the global structure of the Doha round, but also the United States is engaged in a series of free trade agreements that also have yielded real benefits for American businesses and workers.

Q On another issue there, he's going to the Caterpillar plant, and that company was among those last week -- you know, called for the mandatory emissions controls. Do you think that issue will come up?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll have to see. I certainly expect it to come up in reporter questions. But I don't know. Certainly, we're aware of the concern. And, frankly, what we do share is the belief that it is important to figure out every possible way to reduce carbon emissions and at the same time create conditions for continuing a strong economic growth.

There has been in the past -- and I think environmentalists realize this -- the creation of a kind of environmentalism that said the only way that we can clean the environment is to throw people out of work, shut down the factory, impose killer regulations -- in point of fact, there are real markets for making the economy cleaner. We have seen auto companies advertising the fact that their cars are cleaner than others and so on. It's something that Americans want and desire, so there are real market forces in favor of a cleaner environment. And, certainly, we'll continue working with any and all companies to do whatever we can.


Q Tony, this morning in a preview of the economic speech, you mentioned robust growth of India and China. And you said the President was going to lay out why it was important to stay number one.

MR. SNOW: No, what -- I was -- he is not. What I was saying, I was talking in general terms. So that was my characterizing the fact that we've got a very competitive global environment. And in this environment, it is important to make sure that our workers have the education they need, the training -- because you need to have the intellectual capacity to change jobs and change careers a number of times. It happens now with amazing swiftness. Companies themselves change. They change names. They have new logos. They change their missions.

We have an economy that has far more sweeping rapid irregular change than previous generations -- than the previous generations of Americans have had to deal with. It creates a sense of excitement, but also there is a challenge to make sure that you've got the conditions to allow companies to innovate and flourish, and also the ability to make sure that workers have the training and education necessary to compete in that kind of an environment.

Q So he's not going to cast this, then, as a global competition?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no.


Q Thank you. Tony, Saudi Arabia is offering to try and broker peace between Hamas and Fatah as violence continues in Gaza. Does the President support such an effort?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way, what we would like to see is a Palestinian partner that is willing to talk about peace with the Israelis. We saw a suicide bombing today in Eilat. It is important to have a negotiating partner that renounces violence, acknowledges Israel's right to exist and will abide by all prior agreements made by previous Palestinian administrations with the Israelis. What we're interested in is a reliable partner for peace.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. To the President's knowledge, has the United States Senate ever before voted to confirm appointment of a combat commanding general, like General Petraeus, and then voted to condemn the mission that he will lead in what would be an astounding hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, I am not -- I don't think that the people who are discussing resolutions would characterize them in that manner, and nothing has been passed yet.

Q No, of course not, because they're engaged in the hypocrisy. But isn't it hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you -- thank you for the editorial comment. Let's go to question number two.

Q The Hill newspaper on Capitol Hill reports that Jane Fonda's fellow anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of the west front steps of the U.S. Capitol building on Saturday after U.S. Capitol Police were ordered by Chief Phillip Morse to fall back, after which 300 protestors spray painted, "Our Capitol building and you can't stop us."

And my question, does the executive branch believe the legislative branch should have allowed this treatment of the Capitol building of the United States?

MR. SNOW: Well, Les, what you're doing is -- I would encourage you, or all others interested, to call the Capitol Police and find out how this came to pass. I just -- I can't answer it.

Q Yes, one wonders what does the President -- he must have an opinion of this? Doesn't he? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

Q How closely is the President following the Libby trial?

MR. SNOW: Not that closely really. I know there's this perception that we're all sitting around buzzing about it, but we really aren't.

Q Well, I mean, you've got Rove and Bartlett both subpoenaed, and you've got the Vice President testifying. I would think there would be some interest in the White House.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but it's just -- look, it is what it is, it's an ongoing trial, and we're not going to comment on it further.

Q What is the President's response to seeing the White House portrayed as being at war with itself?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, as I said, as tempting as it is to jump into that, we're not commenting.

Q Are you glad you were not press secretary then? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I am glad I'm press secretary now.

Q North Korea insists they would never, ever return to the six-party talks unless BDA matter is resolved. Is there any precondition (inaudible) on North Korea?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into talks, but we've made it clear the North Koreans need to return to the talks without precondition, and then we can move forward.


Q Considering the size of the potential crowds of candidates who are already going to Iowa and New Hampshire, has the President been asked to authorize Secret Service protection for any of the announced candidates yet? And will the budget that comes out next week provide for what may be an unusually large number of candidates?

MR. SNOW: I know the answer to neither. We will get them for you. Obviously, on the budget stuff, you're going to have to wait until we release the budget. I will find out and we will attach an asterisk if we do have an answer.

Q Is the President concerned that Israel may have used U.S. cluster bombs in South Lebanon, according to preliminary findings of the State Department?

MR. SNOW: What we're doing is -- I would encourage you to call the State Department about that. That's in their bailiwick, and they'll have a better answer for you.

Paula. You know, I noted you earlier you were in the second row. Now you're way back. I miss you. Come closer.

Q Same type of question, either way. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: In that case, go back. (Laughter.)

Q In terms of health care --

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

Q In case of -- now you've got me speechless. The administration approach to health care, it's been argued that if you really wanted to reach low and middle class families you should have taken a refundable health care tax credit approach.

MR. SNOW: What we've done is we've tried to put together two pieces that together we think offer the opportunity to get private health care in everybody's hands. Number one, you create a health care deduction that allows everybody to have cash in hand that are going to require insurance companies suddenly to compete for their business, and say, let me give you what you want, rather than now, where we stand in lines once a year at open enrollment and we take what they'll give us.

It is really a sea change in the way that market is going to operate. It's going to make it more user friendly. And based on the experience that we've seen with the prescription drug benefit, where there's been vigorous competition to make people happy, we can expect an improvement not only in the quality of the product, but also lower prices.

On the other hand, we do understand that there are some people who, even under this system, are not going to be able to afford health care, and therefore we are working with states to put together programs that are going to allow those states to make private insurance available to all. So I know there are two different ways of cutting the issue. There are a series of -- there are varied series of pluses and minuses to either.

We think this is a strong way to do two things. Number one, create a responsive health care market. Immediately it's going to lower costs for 100 million Americans -- that's a good thing. But also, in addition to providing private health care for the poor, it's also going to give them an opportunity to enter an entirely different kind of health care system, one that's going to be, by design, more user friendly.

Q Also, on health care and climate change, a growing number of states and localities are actually approaching the health care issue by trying to establish universal health care coverage, and also putting their own caps on greenhouse gas emissions, because they apparently feel the federal government isn't setting a high enough bar on either of those.

MR. SNOW: We believe in federalism. On the other hand, we also believe in competition. States are certainly free to try out whatever they can. We think private markets are going to work better than a single payer plan, because, again, a single player plan forces consumers to do whatever government offers them, as opposed to saying to consumers, here is your money, have people go out and compete for the right to get your dollars. That makes the -- that gives the companies a far more profound incentive to reform the system in a way that's going to make it a happier experience for us all.

Q Thank you.

END 1:43 P.M. EST

Biography of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton
source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/hc42.html

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton observed, "Our lives are a mixture of different roles. Most of us are doing the best we can to find whatever the right balance is . . . For me, that balance is family, work, and service."

Hillary Diane Rodham, Dorothy and Hugh Rodham's first child, was born on October 26, 1947. Two brothers, Hugh and Tony, soon followed. Hillary's childhood in Park Ridge, Illinois, was happy and disciplined. She loved sports and her church, and was a member of the National Honor Society, and a student leader. Her parents encouraged her to study hard and to pursue any career that interested her.

As an undergraduate at Wellesley College, Hillary mixed academic excellence with school government. Speaking at graduation, she said, "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

In 1969, Hillary entered Yale Law School, where she served on the Board of Editors of Yale Law Review and Social Action, interned with children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman, and met Bill Clinton. The President often recalls how they met in the library when she strode up to him and said, "If you're going to keep staring at me, I might as well introduce myself." The two were soon inseparable--partners in moot court, political campaigns, and matters of the heart.

After graduation, Hillary advised the Children's Defense Fund in Cambridge and joined the impeachment inquiry staff advising the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives. After completing those responsibilities, she "followed her heart to Arkansas," where Bill had begun his political career.

They married in 1975. She joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas Law School in 1975 and the Rose Law Firm in 1976. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, and Bill Clinton became governor of Arkansas. Their daughter, Chelsea, was born in 1980.

Hillary served as Arkansas's First Lady for 12 years, balancing family, law, and public service. She chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children's Hospital, Legal Services, and the Children's Defense Fund.

As the nation's First Lady, Hillary continued to balance public service with private life. Her active role began in 1993 when the President asked her to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. She continued to be a leading advocate for expanding health insurance coverage, ensuring children are properly immunized, and raising public awareness of health issues. She wrote a weekly newspaper column entitled "Talking It Over," which focused on her experiences as First Lady and her observations of women, children, and families she has met around the world. Her 1996 book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us was a best seller, and she received a Grammy Award for her recording of it.

As First Lady, her public involvement with many activities sometimes led to controversy. Undeterred by critics, Hillary won many admirers for her staunch support for women around the world and her commitment to children's issues.

She was elected United States Senator from New York on November 7, 2000. She is the first First Lady elected to the United States Senate and the first woman elected statewide in New York.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

TV Guide Starts Talking Hillary (and I don't mean Duff)

This will be difficult, won't it? Choosing between the highly charismatic Obama, and the long-time heir to the presidency, Clinton.

Which is more electable? Who, really, is a better investment? Hillary has money. Obama is capable of raising millions.

Hillary will remain a lightening rod for conservatives. Period. Her best efforts will not change the minds of those who see her as the opposite of a bridge builder. Obama is a bridge builder, but carries the weight of being the new kid on block.

Obama misses a negative history. Example: He can say, unlike Hillary, he did not vote us into Iraq. He cannot say he voted against Iraq, however. She has been through politics though, and has a knowledge of how to get things done.

Who, if either, to pick?

Hollywood stars choose between Clinton, Obama
TV Guide

By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Even as they ponder their Oscar votes, the wealthy stars of Hollywood's liberal establishment are sizing up the choice between the Democratic Party's two leading lights for president in 2008.

The entertainment industry has long been a cornerstone of support for Democrats seeking public office, and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, like her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has been one of the chief beneficiaries.

But a newcomer to Hollywood's money trail, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, is headed next month to a fund-raiser hosted by three of the most influential moguls in show business -- Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks.

Invitations went out this week to 700 donors and activists asking them to give the allowed annual maximum of $2,300 per person to meet Obama at a Beverly Hills reception on February 20.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Clinton Makes First Iowa Campaign Appearance

With Hillary leading the money and publicity game, it only follows that she should lead the schmooze campaign. The rest of the politicians will follow, equally pushing the public pulpit with fabricated cheers planted by their local supporters. Campaigns and cheers cost money. Hopefully, Hillary's visit and he related media noise will helps the Iowa economy.

Iowa, known as a barometer of national views (but hardly the last view, which is that of we independent voters who claim no party, no candidate, but issues).

Unfortunately, she is aiming at the gender card. I though better of her than that, but so it is as it is. Maybe we'll be lucky, and she'll turn it around and become an issue candidate, and not one that relies on biology.

In the NY Times, she is quoted, "I know there are people who either say or wonder, would we ever elect a woman president?" (Clinton Makes First Iowa Campaign Appearance, January 27, 2007).

The NY Times' PATRICK HEALY says, "Iowa polls are close to meaningless at this stage."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Liz Taylor gives to Clinton campaign

How long before Michael Jackson kicks in?

Liz Taylor gives to Clinton campaign
WIS - 10 hours ago(Los Angeles-AP) January 25, 2007 - Elizabeth Taylor says she supports Senator Hillary Clinton's White House bid. Taylor says Clinton's savvy and smarts have won her support.
all 306 news articles »

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hillary Clinton on Wikipedia

Wiki Wiki Wiki

We learn her middle name at birth was Diane, she was a Brownie, and that she campaigned for Republican Barry Goldwater.

We also learn that "In a Gallup poll conducted during May, 2005, 54% of respondents considered Senator Clinton a liberal, 30% considered her a moderate, and 9% considered her a conservative."

No one is surprised about the 84% who think of her as a moderate or liberal, but 9% see her as conservative?


There is an entire article dealing with things that have dogged her, real and fabricated. I did not know she had been accused of anti-Semitic comments. Also new to me was a lie she made about being named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the great Mt Everest climber. Weird things are in there too, like how she neglected to mention the ghostwriter who Hillary had paid $120,000 to write "It Takes a Village."

There are the usual questions of money buying or paying for votes, dirty money issues, and some dicey statements some conclude to be racist. Look up George Bush and see that he gets his fair share, as does Bill Clinton.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

John Kerry Quits Presidential Race

John Kerry, realizing his failure in 2004 caused his supporters to drop him quickly, said today he will not be seeking non-election on 2008. It is good he caught up with the rest of the nation, given his popularity might only be equalled by GWB.

Now, he is getting out of the way so that Hillary might have a chance. I would not be surprised if he was asked to, so that the Democratic Party will avoid future embarassment.

The tone of his letter sounds like the kind of speech given to congratulate the victor. It has an undertone that communicates, "Had I run for president, I would have only been a one issue candidate, and you deserve better than that. You deserve better than me."

He, like Alan Keyes in 2004 (IL Republican carpetbagger), was a one issue candidate before. Instead, he'll take his issue on the road. Unfortunately for John Kerry, there are far more interesting anti-war speakers, but good for him to give it a go. He's no Bill Clinton.

He says on his website:

Dear Friend,

I wanted to start by just saying thank you -- thank you to each and
every one of you who has come together in the johnkerry.com community.

Thanks to you, we have a new Democratic Congress that is fighting to stop the administration's disastrous course in Iraq, thanks to you we can be a Congress that addresses issues like climate change and health care, and thanks to you, change is coming to Washington.

Over the last two years, when you could've walked off the field after getting knocked down in 2004, you didn't walk away, you kept fighting. Together, three million strong, you helped provide $14 million to more than 260 candidates, committees and progressive causes. Nineteen of those candidates received over $100,000 each in donations from our community. Just think of the special support that you helped us provide to veterans running for office -- helping to make Chris Carney, Tim Walz, Joe Sestak, and Patrick Murphy members of Congress today. And because you dug in early when a lot of people said it couldn't be done, you helped a courageous
Vietnam veteran Jim Webb on his march to become the 51st Senator and give
Democrats our majority in the Senate.

I hope you are as proud of what you've accomplished as I am. But this isn't a time to rest on our accomplishments.

The work isn't over. Today I hope you'll help me with another big mission.

35 years ago, I got into public life to end a war that was wrong. I believe now as strongly as I did then that it is wrong to ask more young Americans to die for anyone's mistakes. And I believe that a Congress that shares responsibility for getting us into this war must bear responsibility for getting us out.

Americans went to the polls and voted for change in Iraq. They sent a strong and clear message to all of us, on both sides of the aisle, that they wanted real change in Iraq. They certainly did not vote for us to sit by while some national leaders actually
advocate escalating the war and sending more American troops into the middle of
an Iraqi civil war. We must stand for a change in Iraq, or we don't stand for
anything at all.

This mission, this responsibility, is something all of us must accept. As someone who voted for the resolution that gave the president the authority to go to war, I feel the weight of a personal responsibility to act.

I sought the presidency to lead us on a different course. There are powerful reasons to want to continue that fight now. But I've concluded this isn't the time for me to mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the new Democratic majority in the Senate, to do all I can to end this war and strengthen our security and our ability to fight the real war on terror.

The people of Massachusetts have given me an incredible privilege to serve in the Senate, to represent the birthplace of freedom, the cradle of liberty, and a state where in Faneuil Hall patriotic dissenters stood on principle. I want to continue
representing Massachusetts, and that's why I am running for reelection so I can
use my voice all day every day to end this war and galvanize grassroots action
to force Washington and our Democratic Party to live up to its responsibility.

Together, all of us, starting with the three million of you who have built this online community, must remain steadfast in protecting the principles we fought for every day of our campaign. You have a responsibility to urge those who are running this time to step up and address those issues, and particularly on Iraq to find not just a new way forward, but the right way forward.

Above all else, the mission we must all join is to end the war in Iraq.

Our first step toward that goal is to force President Bush to set a deadline to redeploy our troops.

I hope you will come to http://www.setadeadline.com and take the opportunity to speak out on the importance of setting a deadline to redeploy our troops and bring our heroes home. Speak out at http://www.setadeadline.com.

Now that a new Democratic Congressional majority has convened in the U.S. Capitol, a deadline must be set. Working together as Americans, holding leaders accountable, is our best hope to ensure that it is.

Please come to http://www.setadeadline.com and get on board.

Thank you,

John Kerry

source: johnkerry.com

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

They Both Prayed to God

Of all the things the Democrats agreed with Bush about, the most surprising is how they too prayed to God.

The prayer was one of the most direct supplications.

God bless America.

Look at it. It commands God to bless America. None of the "I'll do this for you, if you bless us" deal-no-deal malarkey. Hardcore telling God what to do. Not even please.

The Democratic Response to the State of the Union

Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown – an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering.


The damage to our reputation around the world.

The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.

And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

source: democrats.org

State of the Union 2007 - President George Bush

President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address
United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.

State of the Union 2007
State of the Union 2007 Policy Initiatives

9:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own -- as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Congratulations, Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood. (Applause.)

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together.

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate -- and I congratulate the Democrat majority. (Applause.) Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us. (Applause.)

We're not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on -- as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. (Applause.) Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them to build a future of hope and opportunity -- and this is the business before us tonight.

A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have. We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise. (Applause.)

Next week, I'll deliver a full report on the state of our economy. Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.

First, we must balance the federal budget. (Applause.) We can do so without raising taxes. (Applause.) What we need is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. (Applause.) Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. (Applause.) I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and we can balance the federal budget. (Applause.)

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. (Laughter.) In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session. (Applause.)

And, finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet, we're failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true -- yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and goodwill, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid -- and save Social Security. (Applause.)

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. (Applause.) We must increase funds for students who struggle -- and make sure these children get the special help they need. (Applause.) And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children -- and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. (Applause.) When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. (Applause.) But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

And so tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax -- or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings -- $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans. (Applause.)

My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create "Affordable Choices" grants. These grants would give our nation's governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts. (Applause.) We need to help small businesses through Association Health Plans. (Applause.) We need to reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology. (Applause.) We will encourage price transparency. And to protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America -- with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we're doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists. (Applause.) We'll enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers, so there's no excuse left for violating the law. (Applause.)

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. (Applause.) We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. (Applause.) Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol -- (applause) -- using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. (Applause.) When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target. (Applause.) At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks -- and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it's not going to eliminate it. And so as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. (Applause.) And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Applause.)

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. We have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings. As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty, as well, to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (Applause.)

For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger. Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that the terrorists can cause. We've had time to take stock of our situation. We've added many critical protections to guard the homeland. We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us -- unless we stop them.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled: that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them. (Applause.)

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that's the case, America is still a nation at war.

In the mind of the terrorist, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah -- a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people. (Applause.)

This war is more than a clash of arms -- it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom

-- societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies -- and most will choose a better way when they're given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must. (Applause.)

In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. (Applause.)

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia -- and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory. (Applause.)

We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq -- a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it's time for their government to act. Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad -- and they must do so. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party -- and they need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad. Iraq's leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks -- to achieve reconciliation, to share oil revenues among all of Iraq's citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life, to hold local elections, and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all of this to happen, Baghdad must be secure. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally -- their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you've made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way. (Applause.)

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that's why it's important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It's why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We'll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. (Applause.) Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. (Applause.) A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle because we're not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism. In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We're working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq's government.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. (Applause.) With the other members of the Quartet -- the U.N., the European Union, and Russia -- we're pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. (Applause.) In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda offensive -- the first time the Alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area. Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we're pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur. (Applause.)

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease -- and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) Because you funded our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries. (Applause.)

I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat. And let us continue to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hope for lifting lives and eliminating poverty. (Applause.)

When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people. The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage, and self-sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look -- and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine -- but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. (Laughter.) Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth, or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand new hospital in his old hometown. A friend has said of this good-hearted man: "Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things." And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America. (Applause.)

After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment, and began filming children's videos in her basement. The Baby Einstein Company was born, and in just five years her business grew to more than $20 million in sales. In November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to the Walt Disney Company, and with her help Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she is using her success to help others -- producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julie says of her new project: "I believe it's the most important thing that I have ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe." And so tonight, we are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur -- Julie Aigner-Clark. (Applause.)

Three weeks ago, Wesley Autrey was waiting at a Harlem subway station with his two little girls, when he saw a man fall into the path of a train. With seconds to act, Wesley jumped onto the tracks, pulled the man into the space between the rails, and held him as the train passed right above their heads. He insists he's not a hero. He says: "We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We have got to show each other some love." There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey. (Applause.)

Tommy Rieman was a teenager pumping gas in Independence, Kentucky, when he enlisted in the United States Army. In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire; he used his body as a shield to protect his gunner. He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs -- yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy's position. For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and the gratitude of our entire country. (Applause.)

In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America -- and these qualities are not in short supply. This is a decent and honorable country -- and resilient, too. We've been through a lot together. We've met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence -- because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on. God bless. (Applause.)

See you next year. Thank you for your prayers.

END 10:02 P.M. EST
source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007