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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

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Robert Gates warns: 'We are now in uncharted waters' with our dysfunctional politics

Robert Gates speaks at the National constitution Center 9-22-11

Yes, we are a few days late getting through an accumulated pile of reading. But better late than never in this case.

These are the worthy remarks of Robert Gates, the newly-former secretary of Defense and former numerous other things in government and the intelligence community.

They are not very long, as Washington remarks go. But then Gates didn't give them in Washington. He spoke in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 at the National Constitution Center upon receiving its Liberty Medal.

You should read them because of the man's intelligence, thoughtfulness and long experience in our troubled national capitol. Freed from the team loyalty obligations of serving one administration or another, he speaks more candidly than we've seen him on the Sunday talk shows.

Gates, an Eagle Scout from Kansas who just turned 68, has some pointed observations to make about why Washington has become so dysfunctional. (You can skip over the divisive media part; he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech by Robert Gates, as provided by the National Constitution Center

First of all, I am deeply honored. Thank you, Captain Odierno and Sergeant Graham.

Captain, I’ve had some interaction with your father over time; you follow in a great tradition. And I thank you for both of your service to your country and for the outstanding work of the organizations you represent.

First of all, I would say that this evening is a reminder that astrology exists to give....

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Weekly remarks: Susan Collins decries federal regs; Obama wants improved education

Capitol Hill

Weekly remarks by Sen. Susan Collins, as provided by Republican Party leadership

I'm Senator Susan Collins from the Great State of Maine.

Last month, our nation produced no net new jobs. More than 14 million Americans could not find work.

I’ve asked employers what would it take to help them add more jobs. No matter the size of their business or the size of their workforce, they tell me that Washington must stop imposing crushing new regulations. 

Some regulations are just plain silly. Last year, the federal government issued a warning to a company that sells packaged walnuts. Washington claimed that the walnuts were being marketed as a drug, so the government ordered the company to stop telling consumers about the health benefits of nuts.

Other regulations have far more serious consequences. The EPA has proposed a new rule on emissions from boilers that it admits would cost the private sector billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

No wonder employers dread what is coming next out of Washington.

Over-regulation is hurting our economy; unfortunately, the problem is only....

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New gaffe: Obama hails America's historic building of 'the Intercontinental Railroad'

Barack Obama's political rally by the Brent Spence Bridge in Ohio 9-22-11

 

"We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad," Barack Obama.

That's what the president of the United States flat-out said Thursday during what was supposed to be a photo op to sell his jobs plan next to an allegedly deteriorating highway bridge.

A railroad between continents? A railroad from, say, New York City all the way across the Atlantic to France? Now, THAT would be a bridge!

It's yet another humorous gaffe by the Harvard graduate, overlooked by most media for whatever reason. Like Obama saying Abraham-Come-Lately Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party. Or Navy corpseman. Or the Austrian language. Fifty-seven states. The president of Canada. Etc.

If you talk as much as this guy likes to talk instead of governing, if you believe you are a Real Good Talker as much as this guy does, you're gonna blow a few lines. But this many?

No doubt, we'll see a collection of Obama's Best Bombs on 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend, one right after the other. No doubt. Can you imagine the media coverage of such repeated historical ignorance if it had been the last Ivy League alum president who said it?

The Democrat had traveled to Ohio on Thursday to tout his American Jobs Act, the....

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Rick Perry on Obama's Israel policy: 'Naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous'

a NY supporter embraces texas republican governor rick Perry at a  New York City news conference 9-20-11

Gov. Rick Perry's remarks on Israel, as provided by RickPerry.org

Thank you. Let me begin by thanking Dr. Solomon Frager and Aron Hirtz for helping us organize this press conference today.

I am joined today by a diverse group of Jewish leaders from here and abroad who share my concern that the United Nations could take action this week to legitimize the Palestinian gambit to establish statehood in violation of the spirit of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

We are indignant that certain Middle Eastern leaders have discarded the principle of direct negotiations between the sovereign nation of Israel and the Palestinian leadership, and we are equally indignant that the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy of appeasement has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith.rick Perrys Hands hold his remarks 9-20-11

Simply put, we would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama Policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous.

It must be said, first, that Israel is our oldest and strongest democratic ally in the Middle East and has been for more than 60 years. The Obama Policy of moral equivalency, which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a dangerous insult.

There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction. America should not be ambivalent between the terrorist tactics of Hamas and the security tactics of the legitimate and free state of Israel. By proposing ‘indirect talks” through the U.S. rather than between Palestinian leaders and Israel, this administration encouraged the Palestinians to shun direct talks.

Second, it was wrong for this Administration to suggest the 1967 borders should be the starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  When you consider this suggestion was made on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit, we see in this American Administration a willingness to isolate a close ally and to do so in a manner that is insulting and naïve.

Third, by injecting the issue of 1967 borders in addition to a construction freeze in East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements, the Obama Administration has put Israel in a position of weakness and taken away their flexibility to offer concessions as part of the negotiation process.

Indeed, bolstered by the Obama Administration’s policies and apologists at the U.N., the Palestinians are exploiting the instability in the Middle East hoping to achieve their objective without concessions or direct negotiations with Israel.

The reason is simple: if they perceive they can get what they want from the U.N. without making any concessions why should they negotiate with Israel?

While the administration is right to finally agree to fight the Arab resolution at the U.N., it bears repeating that we wouldn’t be here today if they had stuck to some basic principles concerning Palestinian statehood:

First, Palestinian leaders must publicly affirm Israel’s right to exist, and to exist as a Jewish state;

Second, President Abbas must persuade all factions including Hamas to renounce acts of terrorism and release kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit, and;

Third, Palestinian statehood must be established only through direct negotiations between the Palestinian leadership and the nation of Israel.

By not insisting on these principles, the Obama Administration has appeased the Arab Street at the expense of our own national security interests. They have sowed instability that threatens the prospects of peace.

Israel’s security is critical to America’s security. We must not forget it was Israel that took out the nuclear capabilities of Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. In both instances, their actions made the free world safer.

Today, the greatest threat to the security of Israel and, by extension, a threat to....

rick Perry Smiles at New York crowd 9-20-11

.... America, is the Iranian government developing a nuclear arsenal. One thing is clear: we must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Economic sanctions must be tightened and increased and all options must remain on the table to stop a brutally repressive regime from acquiring a nuclear capability.

To date, we have fumbled our greatest opportunity for regime change. As average Iranian citizens were marching on Tehran in the Green Revolution in 2009, America was wasting precious time on a naïve policy of outreach to both the Iranian and Syrian governments.

Who knows what the leadership of Iran would look like today if America had done everything in its power to provide diplomatic and moral support to encourage the growing movement of dissidents who sought freedom.

Our actions in recent years have destabilized the Middle East. We have been complacent in encouraging revolt against hostile governments in Iran and Syria and we have been slow to recognize the risks posed by the new regime in Egypt and the increasingly strained relationship between Israel and Turkey.

It is vitally important for America to preserve alliances with moderate Muslim regimes and Muslim leaders who seek to preserve peace and stability in the region. But today, neither adversaries nor allies alike, know where America stands.

Our muddle of a foreign policy has created greater uncertainty in the midst of the “Arab Spring.” And our policy of isolating and undermining Israel has only encouraged our adversaries in their aggression.

With the end-run on Palestinian statehood imminent before the U.N., America must act swiftly.

First, every nation within the U.N. must know America stands with Israel and the Oslo accord principle of direct negotiations without equivocation.

Second, America must make it clear that a declaration of Palestinian Statehood in violation of the spirit of the Oslo accords could jeopardize our funding of U.N. operations.

Third, the Palestinians must know their gambit comes with consequences in particular that America will have to reconsider the $4 billion in assistance we have provided to the Palestinians over the last 17 years.

Fourth, we should close the PLO office in Washington if the U.N. grants the standing of a Palestinian state.

And fifth, we must signal to the world, including nations like Turkey and Egypt whom we have considered allies in recent years, that we won’t tolerate aggression against Israel.

Israel is our friend and ally. I have traveled there several times, and met with its leaders. It is not a perfect nation, but its existence is critical to America’s security in the world.

It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians to strengthen our ties to the nation of Israel, and in the process establish a robust American position in the Middle East characterized by a new firmness and a new resolve.

If America does not head off the aggression of forces hostile to Israel we will only embolden them.

That would be a tragic mistake.    ####

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Michael Nagle / Getty Images (A New York supporter embraces Perry at a news conference on Israel, Sept. 20); Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times (Perry holds his remarks and smiles at crowd).

Weekly remarks: Obama says Congress must pass his jobs bill; GOP's Roskam hits 'red tape factory'

Democrat president barack Obama enjoys an Oval Office phone call

President Obama's weekly remarks, as provided by the White House

I’ve spent some time lately traveling the country and talking with folks outside of Washington.  And the number one issue for the people I meet is how we can get back to a place where we’re creating good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer some security.

That’s the idea behind the American Jobs Act. It’s a jobs bill that does two simple things: put more people back to work, and more money back in the pockets of people who are working.

This jobs bill puts construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and modernizing our schools.

This jobs bill puts teachers back in the classroom, and keeps cops and firefighters on our streets.

This jobs bill gives tax credits to companies that hire our veterans, because if you sign up to fight for our country, the last thing you should have to do is fight for a job when you come home. 

This jobs bill connects the long-term unemployed to temporary work to keep their skills sharp while they look for a job, and it gives hundreds of thousands of young people the hope of a job next summer.

This jobs bill cuts taxes for every small business owner in America. It cuts them even....

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President Obama hails nation's most important group: grandparents

In the wisdom that comes from having a grandparent play a warm and important role in his younger life, President Obama has proclaimed a special day in honor of, quite frankly, some of the most important people alive, grandparents.

Most presidential proclamations are meaningless PR tools to salve the egos of some group that thinks it's worthy. But grandparents are different. Influential. Also important. Nice too, most days. GrandparentsMission Ice Cream seem worthy of at least their own month, if not an entire quarter.

But for now we'll settle for a day.

There's a reason too they are called GRANDparents. They are unconditional lovers of little folks.

Grandparents can, after a modicum of experience, be the most patient of listeners to the most pointless of stories, the most diligent winder-uppers-of-things-that-get-wound-up, the most merciless ticklers of ribs and toes and the most discerning of spoilers. ("Don't tell your mother, but you look to me like someone who could use an ice cream cone right about now.")

And yet somehow, grandparents can also be the dimmest bulbs in the room.

Despite their advanced years of valuable life experience, grandparents can to the joy of a 3-year-old still appear startled by the jack-in-the-box jumping out for the 27th time in as many minutes.

So, thanks to the president for the day. And, more importantly, to the direct offspring for producing the wee ones that make grandparents' lives, well, so grand.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Proclamation by President Obama on National Grandparents Day, as provided by the White House

NATIONAL GRANDPARENTS DAY, 2011
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION

The support of loved ones provides the earliest and often most powerful influence on our lives.

Grandparents hold a special place in our families, serving as elders, caregivers, and sources of lasting inspiration. On National Grandparents Day, we honor the loving presence of these mentors who have contributed immeasurably to the strength of our families and our Nation.Obama the child with his Grandfather Stanley Dunham

As a country, we understand our welfare is determined by that of all Americans, and it is our responsibility to provide for our grandparents as they have for us. We must keep Social Security strong and viable, while preserving it for future generations.

We must strengthen Medicare by making common-sense changes that encourage high-quality care and address wasteful spending. After a lifetime of contributions to our Nation and its economy, seniors have earned this support.

Today, our grandparents continue to serve their communities in many ways. Their spirit of service and warm guidance instill in each of us the values of community and compassion and inspire all of us to reach for ever greater heights.

The greatest generation built America into a global force for prosperity, opportunity, and freedom. They taught us that with hard work, sacrifice, and a determined spirit, anything is possible. Today, we honor their contributions to our Nation and its proud story.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2011, as National Grandparents Day.

I call upon all Americans to take the time to honor their own grandparents and those in their community.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

/s/ BARACK OBAMA

Photo: Dunham family

Weekly remarks 9/11: Giuliani warns on hasty troop drawdowns; Obama on time for nation-building here

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani recalls the events of September 2001

 Weekly remarks by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as provided by Republican Party leadership<

Everyone can remember exactly where they were when they first learned that our country had been attacked.  As with Pearl Harbor and the John F. Kennedy assassination, these defining events have a big impact on a nation because they're not just a shared experience, they're a shared memory.

On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, we must take stock of what we've learned.

The attacks had two purposes. The first was to kill as many Americans as possible. The second was to destroy America's spirit.

As we remember the thousands of lives lost on that day, there’s no doubt that the terrorists achieved their first goal and will leave us with a deep wound forever.

When it comes to destroying our spirit, however … as we consider the rescue and ....

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Obama jobs speech to Congress: Providing 'a jolt to an economy that has stalled'

Capitol Bldg on a Rainy day 8-11

 

President Obama's remarks to a joint session of Congress, as provided by the White House

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse. 

This past week, reporters have been asking, “What will this speech mean for the President?  What will it mean for Congress?  How will it affect their polls, and the next election?”

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now: They don’t care about politics. They have real life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by -- giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage, postponing retirement to send a kid to college. 

These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off.   They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share –- where....

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Somehow, many media miss James Hoffa's S.O.B. quote, but not Jake Tapper

jay Carney at white house media briefing 9-6-11

Quite a few national media outlets must have missed Teamsters President James Hoffa's Labor Day speech introducing President Obama in Detroit. (Not the L.A. Times, of course.)

Because they neglected to mention the union boss' canine quote about the tea party:

Let's take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.

Let's assume for the moment, that the son of the still-missing Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, who was taken out somewhere once never to reappear, was not suggesting the enthusiastic union crowd start dating tea party members.

The living Hoffa's statement doesn't seem to quite fit Democrat Obama's past pleas for and promises of a new civility in the nation's political discourse.

You won't be surprised to learn that the media rep who tenaciously pursued this....

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Weekly remarks: GOP's Rep. Bob Goodlatte seeks balanced budgets

Capitol Hill

Weekly remarks by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, as provided by Republican Party leadership

Hello, I’m Congressman Bob Goodlatte from the Commonwealth of Virginia. It’s a pleasure to speak with you on Labor Day weekend as we honor the ingenuity and perseverance of America’s workers.

Of course, ours are the best workers in the world, and given a level playing field, they can compete and win against anyone.

Except we don’t have a level playing field. Our employers face some of the highest tax rates in the world.  Endless red tape makes it harder to plan and invest. Our national debt – much of which is owed to China – is on track to exceed the size of our entire economy.

The president’s ‘stimulus’ spending has proven counterproductive. Government has gotten in the way when it can be part of the solution.  With millions of Americans still asking ‘where are the jobs?,’ the president should help lead a bipartisan effort to remove government barriers to job creation.

We can start by eliminating burdensome mandates and regulations; stopping policies that drive up gas prices; expanding American energy production in order to increase jobs and American manufacturing; and approving free trade agreements that open new markets to American-made goods.

These ideas and other much-needed reforms are part of Republicans’ Plan for America’s Job Creators.  Learn more by visiting Jobs.GOP.gov

While our workers are being held back by Washington, there’s nothing in place to stop the federal government from bankrolling further big government spending ... the kind that leads to government expansion into private-sector jobs, burdensome mandates on job creators and skyrocketing national debt.

For hard-working families, making tough decisions to live within your means is a necessity. For 49 out of 50 states, it’s the Virginia Republican Representative Bob Goodlattelaw.  So you’re right to expect no less from Washington.

This fall, both the House and the Senate will vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that would force Congress to spend only what the government takes in. 

This would ensure spending cuts made today don’t easily disappear tomorrow. That doesn’t just mean a fiscal house in order: it also means more certainty for the private sector and a better environment for job creation.

That’s why, in his upcoming jobs speech, President Obama should call on both parties to come together this fall and send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states for ratification.

This amendment isn’t my idea; it’s not a new idea. Thomas Jefferson expressed strong support for it in 1798. On March 2nd, 1995, the U.S. Senate failed – by one vote – to send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. 

More than $9 trillion has been added to our national debt since. That’s a 180 percent increase.   Imagine how different things would be if the amendment had passed. We cannot afford to make the same mistake.

This won’t be easy.

As you know, a constitutional amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress before it goes to the states. We need bipartisan support to get the Balanced Budget Amendment across the finish line.

So to help spread the word, we’ve set up a website where you can learn more and share information about the importance of a Balanced Budget Amendment. The address is gop.gov/balancethebudget.  We’ll also be talking about this on Twitter using the hashtag ‘BBA4jobs.’

This Labor Day, America’s workers are right to ask where the jobs are. You deserve better answers.  The policies coming out of Washington aren’t getting it done.

By focusing on removing barriers to job creation – and creating barriers to debt creation – we can get our economy back on track.  Together, we can restore the promise that for all of us is America. Thank you for listening, and enjoy your Labor Day weekend.     ####

(UPDATE: As of publication time, the president's weekly remarks had not been received. They will be added if they do arrive.)

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Photos: Alex Wong / Getty Images; Rep. Goodlatte's office.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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