PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA WITH JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART
September 12, 2012
Jose Diaz Balart – MR. President, Gracias.
Pres. Obama: Gracias.
Jose Diaz Balart – For the first time since 1979, a sitting ambassador, Christopher Stevens, plus three other Americans were killed in the line of duty. We send more than a billion dollars a year to Egypt, tens of millions to Libya after its liberation. Is it time to reconsider foreign aid to countries where many of the people don’t want us around?
Pres. Obama: Well, look, the Unites States doesn’t have an option of withdrawing from the world. And we’re the one indispensable nation. Countries all around the world look to us for leadership, even countries where sometimes you experience protests. And so it’s important for us to stay engaged. But obviously what happened last night was heartbreaking. And Libya in particular is a government that is very friendly towards us. The vast majority of Libyans welcomed the United States involvement. They understand that it’s because of us that they got rid of a dictator who would crush their spirits for 40 years. Many Libyans came to the defense of our team in Benghazi when they were attacked. But, you know what we have to do now is to do a full investigation. Find out the facts. Find out who perpetrated these terrible acts and bring them to justice.
Jose Diaz Balart – What does that mean, bring them to justice? What are your options?
Pres. Obama: Well you know, I hope it’s to be able to capture them, and, But we’re going to have to obviously cooperate with the Libyan government and I have confidence that we will stay on this relentlessly because Chris Stevens, he’s somebody who actually advised me and Secretary Clinton during the original Libyan uprising. He was somebody who Libyans recognized as being on the side of the people. And we’re going to get help. We’re going to get cooperation on this. You know, the broader issue of what’s happened in both in the Middle East and North Africa is one where we know that these are new democracies. I mean Egypt, this is the first democracy in maybe 7,000 years. A true democracy where people have a voice. They don’t have traditions of a civil society. And some of the aspects of our democracy that are so important. And they’re going to develop those and during that time, there are going to be some rocky times. And we have to understand that but the message we’ve communicated to the Egyptians, to the Libyans and everybody else is that there are certain values we insist on, That we believe in, And certainly the security of our people and protecting diplomats in these countries is something that we expect and so we’re going to continue to look at all aspects of how our embassies are operating in those regions.
Jose Diaz Balart – Would you consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States?
Pres. Obama: I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They’re a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident. How they respond to, for example, maintaining the peace treaty in isr..with Israel. So far, at least, what we’ve seen is that in some cases they’ve said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they’ve responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests. And, So I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected, and if they take actions that indicate they’re not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.
Jose Diaz Balart – Mr. President, Governor Romney today said your foreign policy lacks clarity. Representative Ryan implied that you’re not speaking to the world with force. You said this shouldn’t be politicized. But then you kind of reacted to what the governor had said. Some say, were you not in turn politicizing this whole issue as well?
Pres. Obama: Well, no, I don’t think so. My statements have been very clear. I was asked directly by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes what I thought of these comments and what I said was, “this wasn’t the time for politics.” I have observed that there’s a tendency to shoot before you aim, as I pointed out, and that as President, my obligation is to focus on security for our people, making sure that we gather all the facts, making sure that we’re advancing American interests and not having ideological arguments on a day when we’re mourning the loss of outstanding folks who have served our country very well. I think at this point, probably the best thing to do would be to refer the questions about Mr. Romney’s comments to the Romney campaign. Yeah.
Jose Diaz Balart – Let’s talk about some other issue that’s been brought up politically. The issue of Israel. Have you drawn a red line on Iran and its nuclear power future? And do you feel that there is any kind of disagreement with the government of Israel?
Pres. Obama: The government of Israel and the United States government are entirely united in believing that it would be a grave threat for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. That’s why I’ve helped to organize an international coalition that’s unprecedented, to put incredible pressure and sanctions on the Iranian regime. They are seeing a huge amount of economic turmoil as a consequence of those sanctions. What we’ve said is that we are willing to offer them a path to resolve this diplomatically, but we reserve all options on the table.
Jose Diaz Balart – So there is a red line?
Pres. Obama: Well, I’ve stated repeatedly, publicly that red line, and that is we’re not going to accept Iran having a nuclear weapon, not only because it threatens Israel, not only because it could potentially threaten the United State, it could also fall into the hands of terrorists and it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the region that could be incredibly dangerous so, I’ve been very clear about my position. The Israelis, I think, understandably, are nervous, given the terrible things that the Iranian regime has said about Israel and the actions they’ve taken through proxies like Hezbollah in attacking Israel. So we are going to continue to consult with them very closely in moving this issue to the kind of resolution that ensures greater peace and stability in the region and in the world.
Jose Diaz Balart- Bringing the Latino community in focus, I know that’s what you’re doing here in Nevada and you’ve been doing around the country, but since you took office, unemployment for the Latino community has never been below the 10.3% that it is today; 56 weeks of uninterrupted over 10% unemployment.
Pres. Obama: Right.
Jose Diaz Balart- What would you tell Latino families that are looking at you, asking for reelection and saying, what about us? What are the plans for us?
Pres. Obama: Well, what I’d tell them is that we’ve gone through a terrible economic crisis that the month I was sworn in we lost 800,000 jobs. Just in that month. We had lost 9 million jobs before my policies even had a chance to take effect. And we’ve now created 4 and half million new jobs. Half a million in manufacturing. Latinos have benefitted from that progress but we are nowhere near where we need to be, so the question now for every voter, both Latino and non-Latino, is who’s got a better path moving forward? What I’ve said is the way we’re going to make progress is to bring back businesses here in the United States and give them tax breaks instead of companies that are shipping jobs overseas. That we need to focus on education and making sure that college access is there and actually, we’ve seen a great expansion of college attendance by Latinos in part because we expanded all the student loan programs and grant programs that are so important. I’ve said that we have to make sure that we’re rebuilding America. Take the money that we’ve been spending on war, use half of it to pay down our deficit, use the other half to put people back to work rebuilding roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, broadband lines; all the things that have been in disrepair for too long, that would disproportionately impact the Latino community because so many of the folks who lost work were in construction when the housing bubble burst. So if we can put them back to work, that will make a difference. In fact, last point I’ll make on this is that the jobs plan I put before Congress, independent economists say it would create an additional million jobs right now and we haven’t gotten any help from Republican allies of Governor Romney. Governor Romney’s plan of giving a 5 trillion tax break to wealthy individuals, millionaires and billionaires, and the notion that somehow that trickles down on everybody else and helps them, that’s not a recipe for success. We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.
Jose Diaz Balart- Last question on immigration. A lot of the questions that I asked people to submit on Twitter and Facebook were about immigration reform and a record number of deportations under your administration. Some are asking, if you were not able to get comprehensive immigration reform in the first two years of your administration when you had the House and the Senate, how could you promise or how could you do that in the second term if you have a divided House? A divided Congress?
Pres. Obama: Well, I think a lot of this is going to depend on the response of Republicans to this election and what they see in terms of Latino turnout. You know, it’s very interesting. George Bush, he and I disagreed on a lot, but he and I agreed on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Partly because he had seen the importance of the Latino vote and the contribution of Latinos in his home state of Texas. John McCain, I disagreed with him on a lot of issues, but he agreed on comprehensive immigration reform. There is a tradition within the Republican Party to do the right thing on this issue. And it’s only been since I was elected and we saw the Senate Republicans and now the House Republicans, suddenly resist. Well, I think that the Latino community recognizes that. When you look at the steps we’ve taken to not only open up to Dreamers the possibility of deferred action, and the good news is we’ve not only seen not only a great response of people applying, but we’re processing those applications as promised in a timely fashion. And that’s making a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. But when you also look at the shift that we’ve taken in terms of enforcement, saying let’s focus on those who are engaging in criminal activity, not people who are just doing their work and raising families and our a part of our communities, we’ve done what we can do administratively. I predict that after the election, there are going to be Republicans who once again recognize, “You know what? We took the wrong path here. We need to move in a smarter direction.” If nothing else, for their own political self-interest. I hope they do it because they recognize that this is a nation of law and a nation of immigrants, and if that we give people an opportunity to get right with the law, pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English, be good law-abiding citizens, that giving them the opportunity to be legal in this country and pursue their dreams, that that’s ultimately going to be good for America.
Jose Diaz Balart -Señor Presidente, muchas gracias.
Pres. Obama: Muchas gracias.