Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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Protest AIPAC in DC on March 20th! Join this rally spearheaded by Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

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President Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline

 

 

 

This morning, President Obama announced that he is officially rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Click here to share the victory image below with your friends on Facebook to celebrate the good news:

This is an historic moment. I’m actually in shock. Hundreds of thousands of us have been fighting against this pipeline for years. We’ve argued with family members, signed letters to our representatives, joined protests, and been arrested. And it worked.

Victory doesn’t happen every time we raise our voices. But more often than not, it only happens if we do. When the Keystone pipeline was introduced seven years ago, many people thought it was inevitable that the pipeline would be approved even though experts revealed it would be an environmental disaster and create only about 35 permanent jobs.

We could have kept quiet, shaking our heads and saying “Well, what can you do?”

But we didn’t. We refused to let this go. We were tenacious, we worked together, we flooded the streets. We collected more than 606,000 signatures on Care2 petitions against the pipeline. The Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House was the largest civil disobedience action in the United States since 1977.

And we aren’t done. There are still huge fights ahead. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, to take bold action at the Paris climate talks next month, and above all we need accountability from our decision-makers.

But we can do it. We are a massive movement of people across the country and around the world, and we will defend our environment. We will not be ignored.

President Obama just confirmed it. Let’s celebrate it.

Click here to share the victory image on Facebook. People are inspired by the stories their friends tell, so don’t be shy: consider adding a personal note to your post about how you contributed to the fight against Keystone, what you’re hoping for next, or what your reaction is to this huge moment.

Thank you for everything you’ve done and will do to keep this movement strong,

 

Jen

The Care2 Petitions Team

Hadith of the Day: Do Not Cause or Suffer Injustice

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left a house, he would say: “In the name of God, I put my trust in God. O God, I seek refuge in Thee lest I stray or be led astray or cause injustice or suffer injustice or do wrong or have wrong done to me.” Fiqh-us-Sunnah

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE AND SENIOR OFFICIAL FOR APEC MATT MATTHEWS

TOPIC:  PREVIEW OF APEC 2015

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2015, 10:30 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MR ZIMMER:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  My name is Mark Zimmer.  I’m one of the Media Relations Officers here.  We’re very pleased to welcome you this morning to a pre-brief of the APEC 2015 meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews. 

Before we start, I’d like to take a moment to mention International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  That’s today, November 2nd.  I don’t have to tell this group about the importance of a free press as part of every vibrant democracy regardless of location or culture.  This commemoration, which the UN General Assembly initiated in 2013, reminds all of us of our responsibility to prevent violence against members of the media and to ensure accountability for those who do commit violence.  The United States Government commends all of you for your role in promoting free speech, and we recognize the importance of journalists being able to do their work without fear.

With that, let me please welcome Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews.  He will have some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions.  I will moderate that session.  We’ll welcome colleagues in New York as appropriate.  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Good morning.  I’m very happy to be here with you all to just preview a few items in the lead-up to our APEC senior officials meeting, the APEC ministerial, and of course, the APEC leaders meeting, which will conclude our APEC year. 

I think as all of you know, APEC is a critical piece of our economic architecture in the Asia Pacific region, and we see it as the premier organization for advancing free and open trade and investment.  It’s also used to foster cooperation in promoting sustainable and equitable growth.  One of the most important parts of our Rebalance agenda is for shared prosperity in the region, and APEC contributes directly to that agenda.  There are a number of things that go into it, but APEC basically is structured to help regional integration, stability, and to support rules conducive to U.S. economic competitiveness both for us and the region as a whole.

There are a couple of reasons why APEC really does work and works effectively.  Number one, it’s the institution in the region that we use where we can cooperate on freer and more open trade and investment.  It’s the right environment for holding those discussions.  We have the right experts together both from government and from business to create substantial and workable, practical measures that help move us forward in that area. 

It’s also a good institution for capacity building.  The United States participates in that, but so do other economies in APEC.  And the purpose of that capacity building is to make sure our participatory economies in APEC or developing countries have the capabilities that enable them to take advantage of the trade liberalization that we move forward on in APEC.

And, lastly, I’d say that it’s key to ensuring economic growth that is sustainable and that benefits everyone.  That’s a key element in the themes that you’ll hear time and again during the Philippines’ year, is inclusive growth.  It’s really something that APEC has been working on for some time, but it is being highlighted during the Philippine host year. 

So, we see APEC being able to move forward on all these fronts because it’s an incubator for new ideas, for innovative approaches, and for tackling challenges in the region that other folks haven’t thought of or tried before.  That’s facilitated, as I said, by the level of frank and open discussion that we can have in APEC.  And we can have that kind of frank and open discussion because it’s an organization that’s based on consensus, and the outcomes that we reach are non-binding except inasmuch as each and every member economy commits to doing the things that we all have agreed make sense to do, that we all agree will expand trade, will create greater prosperity, and create benefits across our economies.

So what you’ll see over time is each and every economy coming to a conclusion, coming to a consensus within APEC, and then going home and doing the things they need to do to make those proposals fact, to make them real, to actually open their economies in ways that actually have spurred growth in the region.

I believe that APEC not only has but will continue to play essential role in enabling agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and those of the WTO by helping economies envision and prepare for high-standard rules-based economic systems throughout the region.  I think one perfect example of how APEC has done that is in the area of environmental goods and services. 

So I just thought I’d highlight it for you because this year is the year in which all economies have committed to implementing commitments to either reduce tariffs on 54 items in the environmental goods and services list to below 5 percent or zeroing them out completely.  That’s an amazing step forward, and it’s a step that inspired the WTO to try to pick up a similar process.  And it’s moving forward now on a global framework.

So, again, incubator of ideas, effective means of communication within APEC where we have open discussions and plenty of time to examine the consequences of what a policy move might mean, then consensus and moving forward on it to implementation and providing that idea for others in the global economic community as a point of reference and, perhaps, adoption as in the case of environmental goods and services.

So that environmental goods and services list and the implementation of it is one of the real key highlights for deliverables this year.  But there is much more on the APEC agenda, and first and foremost I would say is work on digital economy.  This is something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years and we’re continuing to prepare it to ensure that the internet and the dissemination of new technologies that have led to rapid change is, in fact, possible within the APEC environment. 

What does this really mean for us?  It means that the internet needs to be open for markets and for free flow of information.  The free flow of information is critical to firms making rapid and accurate decisions.  So anything that prevents the free flow of information on the internet really is an impediment to growth.  It’s an impediment to prosperity. 

So we’re supporting a discussion in APEC that looks to identify those barriers and, as we move forward not only just this year but in the years to come, to thinking about ways we can move forward of dealing with the digital economy as a major trade issue for APEC, one that will allow us to address barriers in an effective way across the board.

The goal here, of course, is to make sure that we have a 21st economy in the Asia Pacific that continues to drive growth for the globe, and we’ll do that by making sure that we’re on that cutting edge, that we’re taking advantage of all the tools and all the benefits that the internet has that we can apply to our economic systems.

Another thing, of course, moving forward is work on the free trade area of the Pacific.  There is a study going on now and … working chapters are being developed by various economies.  That is something that will be progressing year by year as we look at ways of even broadening out the degree of integration within APEC.

There’s also, as I said, a key agenda on prosper – maintaining prosperity through sustainable, healthy, and resilient communities.  So what are we talking about there?  In APEC, we’ve come up with practical applications for dealing with marine debris.  There are better programs going out now where cities are undertaking very pragmatic programs that will take debris, waste material, and turn it into energy – just a creative and effective and economically viable approach.  Again, we’re doing it as an example, not only to the Asia Pacific region, but for the globe as well.

Fossil fuel subsidy reviews – we’re taking a look in APEC at those fossil fuel subsidies and asking each economy to take a clear look and ask themselves whether it’s delivering economic benefit or is it perhaps counterproductive.  And in those cases where they identify a counterproductive subsidy – that means a subsidy that doesn’t work to that – the goal that we have in mind or that – or there are other policy options that might be more efficient.  Folks are then encouraged to pursue those other options. 

On the environment, we’ve got a number of initiatives but, of course, first and foremost was the environmental goods and services agreement.  And I’d just highlight for you, in terms of environment, that the reason why that’s important is we are encouraging businesses and encouraging economies to adopt the best available technologies that allow us to grow, but to grow greener by reducing our carbon footprint.  One key way to do that is by zeroing out the tariff, cutting the tax on those items so that businesses are more likely to adopt those technologies sooner and on a broader scale.  That means that we can grow and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.  But in addition to that, we’re also doing work on electric vehicles and, as I said, we’re doing this fossil fuel subsidy study.  So there’s that element on environment.

Again, there’s an element covering health.  And in health, we’ve done work on both reducing the barriers – or not reducing but at last identifying barriers to trade in health care products.  Again, looking forward, what we’ve got in mind here is this:  What we’re trying to do is improve the health outcomes in each and every economy, and one of the best ways of doing that is to take a look and see where are the tariff rates inconsistent with that goal?  Where are they so high that they’re actually preventing good health care products from getting to consumers who need them?  And, ultimately, what we’ll try to do is work together with our other APEC economies and come up with approaches of how we can reduce those barriers.

But another thing that we’re doing is working in public-private partnerships on infection prevention and the control that is working in conjunction with the global health security agenda.  

And a third area of work in APEC, which is very important and which requires private sector assistance – and one reason why APEC is so effective is it brings the private sector together with government – is to take a look at innovative medical products and take a look at the kind of global standards we’re adopting in applying them.

I’ll give you a following-up area for work that we’re doing, is in women’s economic empowerment.  Here, the most basic thing we’re trying to achieve is ensuring that each and every economy in APEC grows at its optimum level, but the only way you can really do that is by ensuring that women have a full right to participate in the workforce and to contribute to our economic growth. 

So in a broad range of measures, both on – by identifying policy frameworks that can facilitate and encourage full participation of women in the economy through a digital dashboard, and through a number of other specific measures, including this year we had one on transportation – women and transportation, which took a very clear look at this key node, making sure that women have safe transportation systems to get them to and from work, to make sure that that doesn’t become a barrier to their participation in the workforce.  And as a kind of ripple effect, allow economies to say, okay, that’s the way it worked in transportation; are there other areas in our economy that are, unbeknownst to us or without us having really thought through them, creating barriers that we didn’t intend but are in fact there?  As we take a look at the policy settings, we can say here are things, practical things, we can do to make sure that there’s nothing that stands between a woman and her desire to participate in that economy and generate income for her family and help that economy grow.

So one last thing I would mention to you is our work on disaster preparedness.  This is something that was particularly poignant, I think, for the Philippines here because the Philippines, of course, is subject to as many if not more disasters than any other economy in APEC, whether it’s volcanoes, whether it’s earthquakes, whether it’s typhoons.  But all economies in APEC to some degree or other have to handle these kinds of challenges.  And what we want to do, particularly in APEC, is make sure that we’re coordinating in ways that, number one, ensure that we can get humanitarian goods to and from any disaster zone as efficiently and effectively as possible.  This means over time dealing with the customs regulations and restrictions that might slow down that process.  Our goal here is to make sure we alleviate suffering as much as we possibly can, as soon as we possibly can.  And a second element of the APEC’s work on disaster preparedness is, again, I think unique to APEC because it takes a look at what happens after you’ve dealt with the immediate humanitarian crisis:  What about getting our supply chains back in business?  What about getting our businesses back up and running?  What about making sure we have resilient energy systems that can be either sustained through a disaster scenario or be returned to service as quickly as possible?  We’re looking at all those kinds of elements within the framework of discussions in APEC.  So I think you can see we have a really broad agenda, but it’s focused on delivering economic improvement and greater prosperity and greater equity throughout the system.

So I think with those opening remarks, I’ll just open it up.

MR ZIMMER:  Thank you.  Please identify yourself and your outlet.  If any guests in New York come to the microphone, we’ll recognize them.

Please, in the middle here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  I have a question about India.  India has applied for membership of APEC and Philippines said it’s considering it.  What’s U.S. position on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t believe that there’s any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership at the current time.  From time to time, countries and economies will register interest and – at present, though, there’s been no significant discussion along those lines.  But at a future date, those things may be reviewed and we will see where they go.

One thing I would suggest is for any economy that’s interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into – identify sub-fora or working groups that work on particular areas across our APEC agenda that are of particular interest to them and apply as a guest to send experts in to participate, both to help understand how APEC works and to get a better understanding of how we process and turn out good outcomes that help APEC be that organization that pushes for leading-edge and innovative ways of expanding a more open and free trade and investment environment.

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle here, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Alexander Panetta from the Canadian Press.  So there will be a new member of APEC this year – Canada has a new prime minister in two days.  So I’m just wondering whether there are any plans for either a bilateral or a pull-aside with Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau and any issues that might be priorities for the United States in dealing with a new government.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, Canada has a new prime minister and we welcome the prime minister into the APEC family, but Canada is not a new member.  And Canada is a very significant and important member of APEC, one which we work with very closely.  We anticipate having a tremendous amount of continuity in the APEC agenda and that Canada, if it does have new priorities that it would like to raise or address, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the prime minister and his team when we go into the ministerial and leaders agenda period during these discussions coming up.  But nothing’s been raised as of yet that I’m aware of.

MR ZIMMER:  Thanks very much.  Let’s go to the side here, please.

QUESTION:  My name is Varughese George.  I have a follow-up question on India.  I’m from India, The Hindu newspaper.  India has already been an observer since 2011 and President Obama, when he visited India last year, did say that the U.S. would support India’s membership in APEC.  So are you suggesting that there is no forward movement at all on that – India’s request for membership?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think it’s just important to be very careful and accurate about describing the President’s comments.  The President has welcomed India’s interest in APEC, and I think that speaks for itself.  We are welcoming your interest.  We welcome India’s examination of what APEC’s all about, but we have not entered into a discussion and I don’t believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC.  And remember, keep this in mind, APEC is an organization that’s consensus-based.  So each and every member of APEC has to agree to an expansion of APEC membership, and no discussions in APEC this year have focused on that topic – just so you’re focused on that, okay?  You’re welcome.

MR ZIMMER:  We’ll do the front and then we’ll go to the back, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Rita Cheng from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  Every year the U.S. delegation will meet with the Taiwan’s counterpart during the APEC.  I wondered is there any meeting confirmed during this year?  And any other topic that you will be discuss with Taiwan’s counterpart? 

And also, not every country in – of APEC has been included in TPP.  I wonder the America – how America and in what way will put the – cooperate the TPP (inaudible) with the – like the region’s economic framework?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, I’m not sure if I got all of that.  But first and foremost, Taipei is a full member in APEC – Chinese Taipei is a full member in APEC, and it works across the whole APEC agenda with every other economy in APEC and we work with Chinese Taipei in those various sub-fora and working groups, in senior official meetings that I participate in with, and of course during ministerials and even the leaders meeting.  So I think you can anticipate that, just as in prior years, Chinese Taipei will be an active participant in all those elements and we look forward to that.

MR ZIMMER:  In the back, please.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  My name is Adam Xu from Voice of America, Mandarin service.  I have two questions.  You mentioned the U.S. will support the discussion on the free flow of information on the internet.  I’m wondering:  Do you have a list of participants in the (inaudible) or is this discussion going to be carried out?  And can you elaborate on the focus of such discussion, and what are your expectations?

And my second question is about the South China Sea.  Given the recent tensions in South China Sea, is it going to be on the agenda in the APEC discussions?

MR. MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  So, on digital economy, right now we’re at an early stage in the APEC process on discussing the digital economy and digital trade issues, so I would say that this is essentially a working-level process.  But both at ministerial and, I believe hopefully, at the leaders level there will be acknowledgement that this is an important issue that has to be discussed and engaged in, but it primarily has to be engaged at this working level to make sure we kind of start to flesh out all the different specifics that we think are critical to ensuring that we have a free and open internet that supports future economic growth.  So I guess that’s where I’d say we’re on that one.

And I have nothing for you on the South China Sea, except I would just reiterate that APEC is an organization that focuses on economic issues. 

MR ZIMMER:  How about on the side for this one.

QUESTION:  Hi, 21st Century Business Herald.  About TPP, some trade experts told me that among the TPP members in the ASEAN countries, Malaysia will be the one, the country that will face a lot of challenge during the TPP ratification process in terms of the prime minister’s challenge from his own party and from parliament.  So is this the case, or do you optimistic about the ratification process of TPP in Malaysia as there will be a trade minister session in the APEC?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I am optimistic about ratification of the TPP agreement by all the participating economies.  It doesn’t mean that it won’t take a lot of work.  Even in our own country we anticipate it’s going to be a major effort to make sure we do a good job of explaining the actual outcomes of TPP and what the benefits are.  But we remain optimistic and I think we remain optimistic across all the participating economies. 

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle, please, then we’ll go to the back.

QUESTION:  Hi, Maria Garcia, Notimex, the Mexican news agency.  As – Mexico as a member of APEC has started ambitious economic reforms.  Do you think that the Mexican model could be – to what extent the Mexican model could be regarded as a model for other members of the APEC?

MR MATTHEWS:  Other members of APEC?  Well, I would say this, that we have a very broad agenda of issues in APEC, and I would say it’s probably fair to say that almost every economy participating in APEC has at some point introduced innovative ideas or good policy suggestions that get discussed by APEC and ultimately adopted by APEC.  And Mexico, of course, is one of them.  But it’s part and parcel of the way in which we operate, so particularly in every host year whenever an economy decides to host, they have a chairmanship role which allows them to help highlight issues that they think are of critical importance, and they naturally do this in consultation with other economies.  But it does give them a chance to provide some additional input. 

But even in non-host years every economy has the ability to introduce at working levels at the senior official level new ideas that they think will help all the economies at APEC to grow more effectively.  And Mexico has participated in that and they are an active and helpful player in helping us move towards a more liberal and open system.  So I can only say thank you to Mexico.

MR ZIMMER:  All the way in the back, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Marion with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.  I have two questions about two major economic developments in the region this year, first of all the TPP and then also economic uncertainty coming out of China and the resulting financial market volatility.  And I’m wondering if those two things would specifically be on the agenda for the leaders’ summit.  TPP, I assume, would definitely be a focus in the trade minister summit, but I’m wondering if there would be a sort of separate TPP meeting at the leaders’ level as well. 

QUESTION:  Well, there’s been no decision, I think at this point, on whether or not there will be a TPP sidebar meeting at the ministerial or at the leaders’ meeting, but I refer to USTR on that.  As we get closer to the date they may have something more for you on that. 

In terms of China, China is pursuing a broad-based economic reform agenda.  It’s a challenging process of shifting the growth model – one dependent on investment and exports to domestic demand – and it’s a natural process you would anticipate that when you go through a major economic policy transition like this that issues will arise.  They seem committed to the process.  I think though the IMF and other economies understand their commitment and are supportive of their commitment to that reform process. 

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have more in the back?  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Tatsuya Mizumoto from Jiji Press.  About digital economy: so, are you discussing about cyber security?  And then about TPP, I know you have no TPP agreements, so what kind of the impact you will have to (inaudible) by this?

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, cyber security does get raised in certain fora within APEC, and – but it’s – we have a pretty strong economic focus for the discussions.  So what you want to do is make sure that you have systems in place that preserve trade secrets, that preserve the integrity of business information, et cetera.  You want to make sure that economies are protected against potential economic downside of cyber hacking, et cetera. 

But I’ll get back to you with more detail that would probably help you, because I don’t have the specifics in front of me but I’d be happy to give you more information on that in a follow-up.

And then your second question was?  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  So APEC’s agenda is separate – TPP is a separate negotiating group of economies.  They’re all APEC members, but it’s done separately.  So we’re not driving the APEC agenda based on what happens in the TPP negotiations.  The APEC agenda keeps moving forward on trade liberalization processes regardless.  So – but obviously, we all welcome the successful conclusion of the TPP, but it won’t directly affect the APEC discussion process.

MR ZIMMER:  Do you have a short follow-up?

QUESTION:  Yes, I want to follow that, so on the TPP.  But I think as – to your final (inaudible) that you are going to write a TPP standard to – in the APEC area, right?  So —

MR MATTHEWS:  Right.  So there are two things.  There’s a free trade agreement of the Pacific discussion group, which basically is starting to flesh out what chapters in an APEC-wide agreement might look like.  That discussion process will go forward, and is going forward, and chapters are being worked on by individual economies who have raised their hands and volunteered to help contribute.  And I guess that’s what I can tell you.  That’s an ongoing discussion process and ongoing drafting process.  That continues. 

MR ZIMMER:  Any final questions?  Okay.

QUESTION:  I am Grigory Dubovitskiy, Russian news agency RIA Novosti.  Are you aware of any plans, maybe possible, to discuss any questions with Russian delegation on the sidelines while SOM meet, maybe you aware of what level it could be?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t know about – and I can say to you that I meet with the Russian delegation for the senior officials level on a regular basis and at every SOM basically – and my predecessors did.  So those discussions continue because we have points of discussion that need close communication on a regular basis.  And my team that does APEC issues is, of course, working with our counterparts in the Russian delegation to APEC.  As for more senior-level meeting schedules, I don’t have the specifics for you on that.

MR ZIMMER:  One here, and then a final couple in the back.

QUESTION:  Two quick follow-up questions.  Alexander Panetta, again, from the Canadian Press.  Can you give an example or two of some of the environmental goods and services you’re talking about, and what a change in tariffs might mean or an elimination of tariffs might mean in terms of their proliferation?  That’s the first follow-up.

And the second thing I wanted to ask was, if I understand correctly, that you don’t know yet whether there might be a meeting with the new Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I’d refer you to the White House on their scheduling of bilateral meetings for the President during the period of the leaders’ meeting. 

As for your other question on environmental goods and services, well some obvious ones that come to mind that are covered are wind turbines and solar panels – things that you’d say just – inherently you’d say anybody who wants to operate more greenly and wants to generate green power will want to make sure we can get those products to every market in APEC with the lowest tariff possible, if not zero tariff, so that a greater number of firms and a greater number of households can actually adopt the use of those technologies to reduce their energy intake and their carbon footprint.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay.  Maybe one more after this one.

QUESTION:  All right, thank you.  Rob Gentry with TV Asahi.  I had a follow-up on your question about – on your point about reducing tariffs for health care products.  Is it tariffs or is it also non-tariff barriers that you’re interested in on that? 

And then as a general question for the leaders’ meeting, what does the U.S. hope to have in terms of discussion on currency in the region, in terms of its effect on trade?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  So for healthcare products let me just be clear, we’re in very early stages of discussions on health care products.  Really what we’re doing at this current stage in APEC is agreeing to kind of identify barriers.  But one other thing that I’d like mention to you that we’re doing with regard to healthcare products in APEC is having private sector and governmental cooperation on helping to identify substandard health care products that can enter the market or even fraudulent ones, and then making sure each economy has effective means of taking those substandard products out of the pharmaceutical system to make sure we’re not delivering products which don’t help improve the health outcomes for our citizens.  But so we’re really at an early stage on that healthcare initiative, and we’re not to the point of, I think, identifying tariffs or talking about tariff reductions but just basically doing a study of the overall picture on barriers.

And I’m sorry, what was your other question?

QUESTION:  Currency.

MR MATTHEWS:  Currency.  I can’t give you anything on that.  I don’t know that there’s – yeah, I just don’t have an answer for you on that one.

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have a final question?  Over here, one more.  Last question, please.

QUESTION:  Sorry, it’s still a follow-up to the TPP.  I just wondered, is that like the similar, that during the APEC the discussion group will have a meeting and any country who would like to join the TPP, that they will have the chance to talking about that?  It’s something like that?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, well, thanks for that question.  I don’t believe it’s envisioned right now.  Remember, every economy that’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership at present is focused on one thing.  It’s getting from the conclusion of the negotiation to ratification within their own system, and that’s precisely where the United States is.  So our focus is completely dedicated to preparing everything we need to do to get ratification by the U.S. Congress.  And until we get that done, we’re not really going to be focusing on other economies.

We welcome the interest of other economies in APEC who are interested in TPP, but we just have to tell folks, please understand our focus right now is getting to ratification.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay, we appreciate Mr. Matthews joining us this morning out of his busy schedule.  We appreciate your joining us.  We’ll see you next time.  Thank you.

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Professor Allan Lichtman, “State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election”

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND FREQUENT POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND ELECTORAL FORECASTER

TOPIC:  STATE OF THE RACE 2016: AN OVERVIEW OF THE 2016 ELECTIONS FOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THEIR FIRST U.S. ELECTION

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015, 11:00 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR:  Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  Today I would like to welcome Professor Allan Lichtman, American University professor of history and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, back to the Washington Foreign Press Center for another in his series of elections and political briefings.  This briefing is titled “The State of the Race, 2016:  An Overview of the 2016 Elections for Foreign Correspondents Covering Their First U.S. Election.”  Professor Lichtman’s views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State. 

Without further ado, here is Professor Lichtman.

MR LICHTMAN:  In fact, my views don’t represent anyone except me, so don’t attribute it to American University, the federal government, the United States, or anyone else except Allan Lichtman. 

How many of you were here for my 2014 briefing?  A few of you.  Remember I said three things mattered in midterm elections, right?  Turnout, turnout, and turnout, and I predicted if the turnout was low, the Republicans were going to win the 2014 midterms, and that’s exactly what happened. Turnout was low and it was a very good year for Republicans.  However, things change in presidential election years.  The turnout is something along the lines of 50 percent higher than it is in midterm elections and doesn’t tend to vary quite as much from election to election. 

And obviously, unlike midterm elections where turnout can be highly dependent on what’s going on in an individual state – do you have a real tight race in that state – in a presidential year, of course, turnout is determined by the top of the ticket, the presidential contest.  But the basic dynamic is still very much the same:  High turnout tends to benefit Democrats and low turnout tends to benefit Republicans, whether in a presidential year or a midterm year.  And particularly high turnout of minority voters tends to favor Democrats; higher turnout of white voters tends to favor Republicans.

We have a very racially and ethnically polarized electorate in the United States, and it is virtually uniform.  There are variations in numbers, but the pattern is almost uniform across all the states with white voters giving majorities to Republicans and African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians giving majorities to Democrats.  There’s a slight exception to that in Florida where there’s a very strong Cuban American population that has been traditionally Republican, but that has been changing.  The older anti-Castro Cold War generation is dying out and the new generation is much less Republican, and Florida is also experiencing strong immigration from other parts of Latin America.  So today, the Hispanic vote in Florida is about 50/50; everywhere else, it tends Democratic.  And of course, the African American vote is 90 percent or more Democratic.  So turnout matters and turnout of whites versus minorities matter a great deal in this election.

I’ll turn first to the presidential contest and what’s going on in each primary.  The Democrats ought to be building a monument to Vice President Joe Biden because of what he didn’t do – that is, he didn’t get into the presidential race.  Why is that important?  Because it means there is much less likely to be a contest within the Democratic Party for the nomination.  Bernie Sanders fires up about a quarter to a third of the Democratic primary electorate.  There are a lot of people who will walk through brick walls for Senator Bernie Sanders, but he has a great deal of trouble expanding beyond that 25 to 30 percent.  He does really well in Iowa and New Hampshire – small, primarily white states – but he is being swamped in the polls by Hillary Clinton in all of the big states where there’s very strong minority voting in Democratic primaries, where money organization and name recognition matters.  You’re not going to go door to door in California, New York, and Florida. 

So it looks like, unless something really bizarre happens – and that does happen in politics – that Hillary Clinton is cruising to become the consensus Democratic nominee.  And she was helped not only by Joe Biden getting out of the race, but greatly helped by her Republican opposition.  The more things change, the more they remain the same in politics.

Some of you may even remember back to the crisis facing her husband, President Bill Clinton, the only president since Andrew Johnson in 1868 to be impeached by the U.S. House while the Republicans pressed too far.  And it made it look like – even though Bill Clinton had done some pretty dastardly things – that the Republican campaign against him was political, it was political revenge and was being sought for political advantage, not for the good of the republic.

Guess what?  The Republicans have made exactly the same mistake in going after Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi tragedy and the emails.  Yes, Hillary and the State Department made some pretty serious errors, but it has been pursued so relentlessly for so long with so little new information coming up that now, the American people overwhelmingly believe – 75 percent – that this – these investigations of Hillary Clinton are being motivated by partisanship.  And a couple of Republicans have even come out and greatly helped Hillary Clinton by saying, yeah, these hearings were designed to drive her poll numbers down or hurt her electability. 

So the Republicans have done something that Hillary Clinton could never have done by herself – make this ice lady look sympathetic and appealing and beleaguered and persecuted.  And that had greatly helped her campaign along with an absolutely superb performance in the Democratic debate and just showing she was a marathon runner in coming out of 11 hours of grilling in the Benghazi hearings absolutely unscathed.

Why does it matter that Hillary Clinton is going to be the consensus Democratic nominee?  The reason is history.  History teaches that the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House, which of course is the Democratic Party even though Barack Obama is not eligible to run again – the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House is an internal, bitter party fight.

The last time the party holding the White House survived a major internal fight for the nomination was, guess what, 1880 when James Garfield won the presidency by about one-tenth of 1 percent in the popular vote.  Since then, major internal party fights have been the kiss of death for the party holding the White House.  I need only remind you of 2008; the Republicans had a big fight, or 1980 when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, or 1976 when you had the bitter battle between Ronald Reagan and the sitting president, Gerald Ford.

So the reason avoiding a party fight is so critical in this election is not necessarily because Hillary Clinton is the most electable candidate.  In fact, going for the most electable candidate is about the worst strategy any party could ever adopt because you don’t know who is electable.

I remind you of 2004 when the Democrats opted for John Kerry, Senator Kerry, not because they loved him but because they thought he was electable and, of course, he lost to a very weak president who was really faltering, George W. Bush, in 2004.

So very good news for the Democrats with Joe Biden’s withdrawal and the recent resurgence of Hillary Clinton.  If form holds and Hillary Clinton becomes the consensus nominee, that’s very positive for the Democrats going into the general election.

Now, what is also interesting historically is it’s entirely different for the challenging party, for the party that does not hold the White House.  They can fight all they want and historically it makes absolutely no difference.  I point you to 2008, right, when the Democrats were the out party.  The Republicans were holding the White House and there was a long, protracted – one of the longest and most tract – protracted nomination struggles in modern history between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and that did not stop the challenging candidate, Barack Obama, from handily winning the White House.

So the pundits have it all wrong.  It doesn’t matter that there’s this big squabble among Republicans.  It doesn’t matter that there is no clear consensus nominee and this could be a long struggle.  The pundits have no sense of history.  They have no theory of how a presidential election works.  They’re operating from the seat of their pants and they are absolutely wrong.

That said, the real action and the real interest is on the Republican side, and what is astonishing about the Republican struggle – it’s still early, but not too soon to be astonished – is that the only candidates in double digits, and they’re both over 20 points in the polls; the next highest are 8 or 9 – so the two candidates who are absolutely sweeping the Republican field now – doesn’t mean they’re going to be nominated, but it’s not that early; it’s getting close to 2016 – are two candidates who not only have never been elected to anything, who have never held public office, and that is Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who together, according to the polls, hold the support of more than 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

Now, you may think, oh, it’s the Republican Party.  They are the party that challenges Washington.  This is not surprising for the Republican Party.  Nonsense.  When was the last time the Republican Party nominated someone who had never held any kind of public position?  The answer is never.  The answer is never.  You have Dwight Eisenhower, who was never elected, but of course he was General of the Army.  You have Herbert Hoover, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of Commerce.  You have William Howard Taft, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of War and Governor General of the Philippines.  Never has the Republican Party reached out to someone who not only has never stood for election but never held public office. 

In fact, if you look at the more recent history of the Republican Party, they have always nominated a mainstream figure with lots of experience and standing within the party.  Look at their nominees: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts; John McCain, senator from Arizona; George W. Bush, governor of Texas, son of a President; George H. W. Bush, vice president; Bob Dole, leader of the Senate; Ronald Reagan, governor of California; Richard Nixon, former senator and vice president; even Barry Goldwater, the maverick far conservative who was nominated in 1964, was still a U.S. senator from Arizona.

So you are looking at two candidates who might not seem surprising, but who are actually incredibly surprising because they completely break the mold both of the long history of the Republican Party, and even more pointedly, the recent history of the Republican Party.  They have not nominated anyone with the profile, or non-profile, of a Ben Carson or a Donald Trump.  Got to editorialize a little bit here.  Remember, these are my own opinions only. 

Donald Trump doesn’t surprise me.  I predicted Donald Trump many, many months ago, when all the pundits were scoffing at him.  Why did I predict the rise of Donald Trump?  A number of reasons.  One, he is a great showman.  He really knows how, positively and negatively, to get attention and to attract people to pay attention to him and to listen to him.  And in a crowded field, you need a shtick.  You know what a shtick is?  It’s a Jewish term, it’s used in Hollywood a lot – something that makes you different, something that stands out, something really special.  You remember the impersonation of Sarah Palin that made Saturday Night Live really stick out.  Tina Fey just had her to a T.  It was a great shtick.  And Donald Trump has a shtick.  Now, whether that shtick will last through the primaries, who knows.  But all the pundits again were wrong who said he was a meteor who would just burn out in the atmosphere.  That hasn’t happened.  He’s been atop or, until recently, very close to the top of the polls now for a very long time.

The other thing about Donald Trump is he says things that a lot of other Republican candidates believe but are too afraid, too timid to say – such as his denigrating of immigrants.  It’s inflammatory stuff, probably a majority of Americans don’t agree with it, but there is a segment within the Republican Party that likes to hear that kind of thing and believes that Donald Trump is a non-scripted kind of candidate; he’s not a controlled, Washington-establishment type of candidate.  And if there is anything that marks the Republican Party today, it’s complete disgust with Washington. 

And it’s not just because Barack Obama, a Democrat, is president; it’s because Republicans are deeply and bitterly unhappy about their own Republican Congress.  They don’t believe that their own Republican Congress had done nearly enough either to challenge Barack Obama or to imprint Republican values and Republican policies.  There’s a big segment of the Republican Party that’s quite willing to blow everything up and start all over again.

So I get Donald Trump.  I’ll tell you who I don’t get, and that’s Ben Carson.  I cannot understand what the appeal of Ben Carson is.  Watch the debate – the man had nothing to say.  He couldn’t distinguish between the debt and the deficit.  He tried to explain medical policy – his own medical policy.  He’s a doctor and he couldn’t explain his own medical policy.  But what baffles me most about Ben Carson – have people listened to what the man actually has said? 

He embodies two things that I think are the most dangerous elements that any politician could have:  a lack of a moral compass, and a lack of a sense of history.  The man has compared the Obama Administration to Nazi Germany.  This cheapens the Holocaust.  It cheapens the deaths of tens of millions of people in World War II.  Whatever you may think of Barack Obama – love him or hate him – he didn’t kill 6 million Jews.  He didn’t start a war that killed 67 million people.  What kind of moralist are you?  What kind of sense of history do you have when you make those kinds of comparisons?

I’m a Jew, and I – and I’ve studied the Holocaust.  And I am profoundly offended by his cheapening of the Holocaust by saying if the Jews only had a few guns, they could’ve stopped the Nazi war machine.  How could you be so profoundly ignorant of history?  First of all, only a tiny fraction of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust were German Jews.  Most of the Jews were from territories occupied or influenced by the Nazis – Poland, Romania, Hungary, not Germany.  And guess what?  The Jews tried to fight the Nazis with a few guns. 

Mr. Carson never seems to have heard of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  You know how many Jews were killed?  Thirteen thousand to 20 Nazis.  Nearly 60,000 were deported to the death camps.  How you can cheapen the Holocaust, perhaps the greatest human tragedy in history, by saying it could’ve prevented – it could’ve been prevented if the German Jews had a few more guns.  I don’t get Ben Carson. 

I don’t understand how he has risen to the top of the polls, unless people just aren’t listening.  And that may be true.  Maybe he hasn’t gotten the scrutiny that a Donald Trump or a Jeb Bush has gotten, and people just think he’s this profoundly moral outsider who’s going to bring a new era to Washington.  That may well be his appeal, but I don’t get it.  I get everyone else in the Republican and Democratic field.

And the other candidate I get is Jeb Bush.  That’s the other big story, is the absolute collapse of the candidate who was considered to be the establishment favorite.  Why has the Jeb Bush campaign fallen apart to the point where some of the commentators are indicating he may even drop out of the race?  He’s already cut back on staff.  He’s already reorganized his campaign.  He already looks like a loser.  How could that possibly have happened?  Well, part of it isn’t his fault, and part of it is his fault.  What isn’t his fault is, as we’ve seen so far, this isn’t a good year for the Republican establishment.  The Republican establishment doesn’t seem to be offering anything that’s appealing to the Republican electorate.  In fact, if you put together three candidates who have never held public office and never run for anything – add Carly Fiorina to Ben Carson and Donald Trump – and you’ve got about 60 percent of the potential Republican primary electorate, with eight candidates sharing the other 40 percent.  So that is not anything that has to do with Jeb Bush personally.

But Jeb Bush has run one of the worst campaigns in modern history.  He not only commits gaffes, he doesn’t seem committed to the campaign.  He’s not crisp, he’s not sharp, he’s not appealing, he has no shtick whatsoever.  And my own pure speculation – I have no inside information on this – is the – I won’t say collapse, because remember, Lazarus rose from the dead.  John McCain rose from the dead in 2008.  Things – strange things can happen, so I won’t say collapse yet.  I’ll say terrible faltering of the Bush campaign – is he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly.  He doesn’t seem to want this with great passion.  He seems to be pursuing it – and again, this is my speculation – because it’s his turn.  His dad was President, his brother was President; governor of Florida, hugely important swing state.  It seemed his time.  And when confronted with this extraordinary tsunami of anti-establishment sentiment within the Republican Party and the rise of these absolutely unexpected candidates, Bush has had no answer to this point.

But I wouldn’t count him out entirely yet because there is going to be an establishment candidate.  It’s not in the end, I don’t believe, going to be only Carson and Trump.  I believe one or the other will survive and thrive as we go into the primaries, but I think there is going to be an alternative.  And the smart money of course has always been on Jeb Bush, but it’s now shifted.  Smart money’s now on Marco Rubio, another Florida candidate, and that’s kind of understandable.  He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s got – he’s articulate, he’s charismatic.  But the problem for Rubio:  Where does he break through?  Where does he make his mark and how does he make his mark?

So I think it’s entirely up in the air who is going to be the alternative to the anti-establishment candidates, and Bush – his heart is still beating, but it’s beating very, very faintly.  But there is at least some small possibility that the heart of Jeb Bush is going to be revived, but somehow the passion has got to come internally within Jeb Bush himself.

But regardless of which Republican emerges, you’re going to see real contrasts between the two parties.  Two parties agree on almost nothing today.  People talk about polarization although it was a matter of Republicans and Democrats sitting down and having a beer or having a coffee – nonsense.  You know why there’s polarization in Washington?  Because two parties don’t agree on anything.  They don’t agree on health care, they don’t agree on taxes, they don’t agree on immigration.

And the huge sleeper issue that I think may well emerge by next year – it hasn’t been much so far – is climate change, arguably the biggest challenge that humanity is facing.  California is running out of water, which not only affects tens of millions of people in California, but because of their agricultural production, they – confronts the whole country.  A study came out yesterday saying if the world doesn’t deal with climate change, there’s going to be a huge hit to the world economy and an enormous rise in poverty.  A study came out showing the states of the Persian Gulf – get this – may be facing something that has never before been seen in the history of humanity: that is, temperatures too hot for human survival.  There’s this huge meeting in Paris.  I don’t know what will come of it, but I do think climate change could become a huge sleeper issue as we get into 2016.  And once again, the parties are absolutely at odds over whether we should do anything whatsoever about this problem of climate change.

And of course, America has crumbling infrastructure – our electric grid, our roads, our bridges are badly needing repair.  Another big issue, another huge issue: the gap between not the rich and the poor anymore; it’s now the gap between the rich and everybody else – how the party is going to address that. So look forward to an election, no matter who gets nominated, where there are going to be huge ideological differences and policy differences between the parties.

Finally, I want to say a word about the other election where the action is, and that is the United States Senate.  The United States Senate is going to be of critical importance after 2016 because the next president may well have three, four, two Supreme Court nominations to make, and remember, Supreme Court justices serve for life.  President John Adams, the second President of the United States after George Washington, served one term.  He was elected in 1796.  His party, the Federalist Party, disappeared, but he appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.  John Marshall held that position for more than 30 years.  Today he is regarded as one of the two most influential chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and he put into play principles of the long-gone, long-defunct Federalist Party.  So you cannot underestimate the importance of Supreme Court appointments, and of course, the Senate ratifies all appointments including Supreme Court appointments.  So control of the Senate is absolutely critical.

One way in which the Democrats got Republicans to stop blocking not Supreme Court appointments but a lot of other court appointments that are very important was to ban the filibuster on circuit court and district court appointments, and that opened the floodgates to a lot of Obama appointees in the courts.  You cannot underestimate the courts because the courts are often where the action is because of the gridlock in the Congress and the gridlock between the Congress and the President.  As we saw in decisions like Citizens United on allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions, some of the most important policies are set by the Supreme Court. 

So you cannot underestimate the importance of control of the Senate, which has flip-flopped quite a bit in recent years.  The Democrats took the Senate in 2006, the Republicans took the Senate back in 2014, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to take the Senate back again in 2016 for two reasons.  One, it’s a presidential year – higher turnout, much higher turnout than at midterms.  And as I’ve explained to you several times, higher turnout favors Democrats. Secondly, Democrats are only defending a couple of western vulnerable seats – in Colorado and in Nevada, where, of course, the Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is retiring, so that’s an open seat.

And Republicans are facing at least seven vulnerable seats.  I’m not going to go over all of them, but they’re in states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio – mostly states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  I think the Republicans have vulnerable seats in six states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  Democrats need – they have 46 seats now, counting the Democratic-leaning independents.  They need five to take absolute control.  They need four to have a 50/50 Senate, which would mean whoever wins the presidency controls the Senate because the vice president casts the deciding vote.

So keep your eye on these vulnerable states.  They are going to decide the fate of the Senate, and right now it’s about 50/50.  The Democrats have about a 50 percent chance to win back the Senate assuming they hold one of the two vulnerable Democratic seats, which I think is reasonable, then if they can pick up five or six of the seven or so vulnerable Republican seats, they can win back the United States Senate.  And so it’s the presidency and the Senate where the action is.

There’s an old proverb I like to talk about.  I believe it’s Chinese but I’m not certain – maybe some of you can correct me – and that is, “May you live in interesting times.”  And I don’t see how politically the times could be any more interesting than they are right now.

Thank you very much.  I’ll take any of your questions.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Please wait for the microphone and state your name and publication for the transcript.  We’ll go right there.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  As I understand —

MODERATOR:  You’re fine.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  As I understand what you tell us, you are reducing the possibilities in the Republican side.  They have two options: a populist candidate, and populist mean – I’m talking about Trump or Carson.

MR LICHTMAN:  Populist Republican.

QUESTION:  Yeah, or Jeb Bush.  I mean, could you tell us something, anything else about Rubio and the possibilities (inaudible) possibilities of Rubio?

MR LICHTMAN:  It’s very, very difficult to handicap primaries for a bunch of reasons, and those who think they know are wrong.  Reason number one is there’s so many candidates – very difficult.  The mathematics of it become asymptotically complex when dealing with multiple candidates.  Secondly, it’s not linear.  That is, one primary affects the next primary, so who – if Ben Carson, who is now well ahead in Iowa, wins Iowa, that’s going to scramble things, that’s going to change things.  If Jeb Bush comes in fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, he may be done.  So one primary affects another, and that makes it very difficult to handicap.

And finally, the polls are not real meaningful.  If you think back to 2012, there were all kinds of Republicans who popped up in the polls – Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum – and none of them, none of them were nominated.  Republicans went back to the middle establishment figure.  So I don’t think it’s possible at this point to give any informed answer on who is going to be the nominee and whether it’s going to be an outsider or an insider.  I’m not in a position to make that prediction.

But I would say don’t count out the insider just because the outsiders are crushing in the polls now.  I still think – and I don’t know who it’s going to be, it could be Jeb – there will be a viable insider establishment candidate who can still win this nomination just based on long-term and recent history of the Republican Party.  They tend to love these mavericks but they never nominate them.

MODERATOR:  Okay, I’ll come right there.

QUESTION:  Stefan Grobe with Euronews, [France].  Good to see you.

MR LICHTMAN:  Good to see you again.

QUESTION:  You said you can’t explain Ben Carson. 

MR LICHTMAN:  I can’t.  Maybe you can.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, my question is:  How do you explain the fact that he is the darling of a very conservative white constituency, being African American —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — and has zero support – almost zero support among African Americans?  Is that bad luck, good luck, or chance or whatever? 

MR LICHTMAN:  Well, we saw that with Herman Cain, another African American, back in 2012.  In earlier elections there was a very conservative Republican, Alan Keyes, whose support was also largely white.

I would say a couple of things.  One, nobody knows anything about Ben Carson if you look at the polls.  He seems to be this really nice guy, this really moral individual, until you really look at what he’s said and his history.  I know him really well because he’s from Maryland, my state, and I followed his actions in the Maryland struggle over abortion in the 1990s.  And he now claims to be so morally guided that he won’t even allow abortions in the case of rape or incest.  But back in the 1990s when he was actually involved in the moral struggle over abortion, he was the only player who played both sides.  He gave an anti-choice commercial and then walked back from his own commercial, said, “I really didn’t understand what I was doing,” tried to be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time.  So it’s very hard to understand.

But in these polls, within the Republican Party, people are not voting race.  They’re voting issues and more are voting kind of these vague perceptions.  But again, don’t be deceived by the early polls.  People don’t know what Ben Carson yet stands for.  Maybe when the Republicans see what they stand for, they’ll love him.  Who knows?  But I think it’s going to be a much – if he gets the nomination, a much more difficult go for him in the general election.

MODERATOR:  We’ll come down here.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Mounzer Sleiman, al-Mayadeen TV, [Lebanon].  Can you give us just your sense of how much this campaign will be financed, compared to other campaign in the past – the presidential campaign?  And I want to ask you about Florida, because this is probably tied up to your establishment prediction.  Since two prominent person, individuals —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, Rubio and Jeb Bush.

QUESTION:  — do you think that Florida would be a factor, since Florida has been a factor in the election —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — that could be a factor —

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  — in the calculation of Republican to select the one in the final analysis?

MR LICHTMAN:  Very, very, very excellent questions.  First of all, on finance, the sky is the limit.  As we saw approaching a billion dollar campaign by Barack Obama last time, you can expect billion dollar campaigns on the side of both candidates.  But there’s a dirty little secret about spending in general presidential elections, not primary:  Spending doesn’t matter.  That is, there’s no particular correlation historically between who spends the most money and who wins.

And the reason is pretty simple.  In other elections, voters don’t know much, and who can get out their message by spending really matters.  But people know the presidential candidates.  You got debates, you got lots of free media.  So spending is less important.

I absolutely agree with you; Florida is critical.  And right now, both Rubio and Bush seem to be trailing in Florida.  That could knock both of them out.  One of them has got to win Florida, and then he could become the establishment candidate.  But if they both lose Florida, that could knock both of them out entirely, and that’s an early primary.  So we’re going to get some early indication. 

And by the way, when you get into the later Republican primaries after middle March, they’re winner-take-all.  So you can win those primaries with 35 percent and get every single delegate.  So things are going to change if there’s still a big contest after the middle of March.

QUESTION:  Can I have a follow-up very quickly? 

QUESTION:  That’s fine.

QUESTION:  I forgot to ask you, because I think it’s very important, to give us the difference between the caucus and the primary, please.

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Very simply put, a primary is just like any other election – you show up at the polls and you vote.  Caucus, you have to go to meetings.  And the meetings can last all day and you have a series of votes at the meetings, ultimately leading to a tally of a statewide vote.  So the big difference is you’ve got to put in a lot more time, energy, and effort to go to a caucus.  So it involves much more committed voters.  The reason, by the way, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 is not what anyone thinks; it’s because Obama organized the caucus states.  And it was the victory in the caucus states for Barack Obama that put him over the top.  So organization really matters in the caucus states, which is why you got to take these generalized polls with a grain of salt, because the candidates might have very different operations on the ground.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Bingru Wang with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.  This time we have seen China being brought up during the debates.  So how much does China matter during the election this time, and how China card will be played out?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  I always get these questions, and they’re really good questions, from people from particular countries.  And, of course, China is going to matter a lot more than most places, because it is – there are three great powers vying, competing in the world – China, Russia, and the United States.  So policy towards China is very important. 

But the details of policy won’t matter, because – I hate to say this – but the American people never follow the details of foreign policy.  They pay attention only when there is a big crisis or a big victory.  So they’ll pay attention to the Iran nuclear treaty law.  I promise you they can’t tell you the details of it.  And what they might be paying attention to is the potential tensions and conflicts.  There’s this big issue over these islands, and the United States is not recognizing those islands as legitimate Chinese territory.  If that flares up into something more, that can become a big issue in the campaign.  But beyond that, the details of policy are going to shoot over most people’s heads.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in back, in the glasses?  No, no; back, back; glasses.

QUESTION:  Oh.  (Laughter.)

MR LICHTMAN:  Got to get the back row.

MODERATOR:  Got to be fair to the back.  Sorry, guys.

QUESTION:  Hi, hi.  This is Ryan Hermelijn from NOS News TV, [The Netherlands].  I was wondering about the general election.  Specifically you outlined a couple of themes, but I didn’t hear the culture wars.  We have had the advancement of several liberal ideas such as the advancement of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, assisted suicide is popping up.  There’s a backlash with Hobby Lobby and Kim Davis and such.  So how do you think that will play out in the 2016 elections?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Before I answer that, let me – it’s related to your question.  There’s a debate tonight and do you know where it is?

QUESTION:  Boulder.

MR LICHTMAN:  Colorado.  And what is one of the biggest rising industries in the state of Colorado?  The pot industry.  Last I saw, it was a $700 million industry employing lots of folks.  Are the Republicans going to talk about the pot industry in Colorado?  And Republicans have an interesting dilemma on some of these things like pot.  Because on the one hand, the Republican Party is the party of what – free enterprise, right?  Business – they should be encouraging the pot industry, right, as a classic example of entrepreneurship and the American way.  But on the other hand, as you say, they also harbor a lot of social conservatives who obviously look askance at the use of pot and other recreational drugs. 

So it’ll be interesting to see if they say anything about this at all.  If I were the moderator, I would certainly ask them about it, because it does pit two Republican values – the problems with the social issues is people’s positions are pretty well set.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about abortion.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about gay marriage.  And these issues, while they play to the Republican primary electorate, don’t play to the general electorate.  The most amazing social trend in America in the past decade has been the extraordinary acceptance of gay and lesbian rights.  If you had told anyone 10 years ago that a majority of Americans would favor gay marriage, they would’ve told you you’re living in never-never land.  Just huge shifts on these social issues, so I don’t suspect the Republicans are going to pound them.

Interestingly, the Democrats might.  Democrats might try to play the abortion issue against the Republicans, particularly if you have a candidate who is coming out like Ben Carson and saying not even in cases of rape or incest are we going to allow abortions.  That’s like a 20 percent position within the electorate.

MODERATOR:  Okay, come down here.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado Sao Paolo.  Going to the historical perspective, one thing that is often told is that the last time the Democrats won the White House after being in the White House for two terms in a row was 19th century, with the exception of FDR.  Like, how important it is to see this historical theme play there?

And another question:  Like, who would be the best and who would be the worst candidate on the Republican Party from the Democrat perspective?

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer – yeah, I got you.  Let me answer the – the second question first, and that is the one word that I would throw out of the dictionary is electability.  You have no idea who is electable in advance of an election.  As I said, parties have gone to the candidates they thought were the most electable and they’ve crashed and burned and lost.  Presidential elections – and you’ve got to read my book, The Keys to the White House; the sixth edition will be coming out in early 2016 – a system for explaining and predicting presidential elections that has not been wrong ever.  I’ve been predicting since 1984, since I was nine.  I’ve hit every election – (laughter) – correctly.

I got to tell you a little story about cultural divide.  A few years ago I was in India and Korea, giving lectures on The Keys to the White House.  And India’s this really loose, kind of chaotic, exciting place, and Korea is much more controlled and stable and sober.  And the Indians would get my jokes, but somehow some of the Koreans wouldn’t get my jokes.  And I swear, one guy, after I gave my lecture made this point and raised his hand and said, “Professor Lichtman, can you please explain to me how you were able to predict elections when you were nine?”  (Laughter.)  So real cultural divides in the world.

So according to my theory, presidential elections are referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House.  That’s why things like foreign policy successes and failures, the fate of the Iran treaty, the state of the economy, policy change, social unrest matter, and the identity of the candidate doesn’t matter.  But the pundits – who are always wrong, but I’ll have to give you the pundits’ view – they think Marco Rubio is probably the most electable Republican.  But they have no basis, really, for saying that.

In terms of winning a third consecutive term, that’s hard.  It’s not an absolute bar, but it’s hard, because one of my keys to the White House is whether or not the sitting president is running for re-election.  And after two consecutive terms, under the amendment to the Constitution, you can’t run for a third term.  So it is harder to win three consecutive terms than it is to win two consecutive terms, but it’s obviously one factor and one factor only.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Rita Chen from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  You just say the (inaudible) matter.  I wondered how possibly the issue of gender could play a role once the – it’s closing to the voting day, and —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, very interesting.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Taiwan, and —

QUESTION:  And – sorry, I have a second question:  And how important the Vice President for both party if they choose the – anyone —

MR LICHTMAN:  Gotcha.  All right.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  First, gender.  Very difficult to say.  In 2008, I predicted an Obama victory.  In fact, I became notorious because I used my keys to the White House in 2005, three years before the election, to say things are going so badly for the Republicans that the Democrats could pick a name out of the phone book and elect that person.  They kind of did.  Whoever heard of Barack Obama at that point?  But a lot of people said to me, “Your keys are going to be wrong because they don’t take into account race” – obviously not, since we’ve never had an African American candidate – and it turned out the keys were spot on.  They got the election exactly right and race made no difference.

Will gender make a difference?  Probably not, but it’s very, very hard to say.  My wife, who’s a leading women’s rights advocate, tells me gender creates more prejudice than even race, but it’s hidden.  People are not going to come out and say, “I’m not going to vote for a woman president.” 

So my overall answer is I don’t think it’s going to override other factors, but you never know because these things are impossible to measure.

QUESTION:  Hi, Zhang Yue for China Daily, [China].  I was late so I didn’t know you were talking about this earlier.  And do you agree that – the saying that the dynasty, the Bush and the Clinton, and also the unlimited campaign finance, as signs of erosion of American democracy?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  No, I don’t think dynasties erode American democracy, as our people still pick the president; there’s no dictator or dictatorial cabal picking the president.  And the truth is Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, whatever you may think of their policies or their characters, by background and by history, are eminently qualified to run for president of the United States.  I do think money is a much bigger problem though.  I do think you’ve put your finger on something very important.  I do think unlimited money and the expense of campaigns has eroded American democracy, not so much the presidential level – as I said, money matters least – but at every other level, money matters a whole lot.  Even to win a puny seat on a county commission or city council, you have to spend upwards of $100,000.  That is a lot of money for an ordinary American.  To win a congressional seat, you probably have to spend millions of dollars in a contested – that’s just one of 435 congressional seats. 

Ninety-nine percent of Americans are priced out of the political market.  To run for office today, you either have to be reasonably affluent or tied into affluent special interests.  So we have vastly constricted the political choice and political opportunities open to Americans because of the overriding importance of money at every level below the presidency, and that is a huge problem, and it’s not going to be solved because the Supreme Court has interpreted money as speech.  As long as that decision stands and the Citizens United decision on unlimited corporate spending stands, it’s not going to be solved.

By the way, I didn’t answer the lady’s question about the vice presidential nominee.  How much does it matter?  Zero.  The worst vice presidential nomination in modern history was not Sarah Palin, it was Dan Quayle, the nominee of George H. W. Bush, who had the most embarrassing moment in the history of presidential debates when he compared himself – because he was young and inexperienced, he compared himself to John Kennedy, and Lloyd Bentsen, the experienced Democratic vice presidential nominee turned and said, “Sir, I knew John Kennedy.  John Kennedy was a friend of mine.  And with all due respect, sir, you are no John Kennedy.”  It was just a complete, utterly deflating moment.  Did it make any difference whatsoever in the presidential election?  No.  There’s no evidence that the vice president matters.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in the white shirt in the middle.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, professor.  My name is [Koya] Ozeki; I work for Japan’s Yomiuri.  I have two questions.  My understanding is that until a few decades ago, primaries and caucuses were much more restricted to party elites.  It was a much more restricted process.  And back in those days, I guess candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson had much less chance of coming up like today.  But do you hear any arguments pointing that fact out?  And do you hear any arguments calling for change of the system?

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  Changing it back to the primary system.  And actually there’s another question.  Millennials.

MR LICHTMAN:  That was a pretty long one.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I know.  Sorry about that. 

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, we’re running out of time, so —

QUESTION:  Millennials.  Just – and the second question is very short.  I’m interested in the Millennials.  Do they – how do they impact 2016?  Thank you very much.

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer your first question.  Yes, there has been a revolution in how the parties select their presidential nominees, and the revolution dates back to the Democratic nomination in 1968 when the country was so deeply divided over the Vietnam War.  You may recall the sitting President was Lyndon Johnson, who dropped out.  He was eligible to run again, but he dropped out of the election because of the divisions over the war.  And it looked Bobby Kennedy – anti-war candidate – particularly after he won the California primary would be nominated, but on the very eve of winning that primary Kennedy was assassinated.  And the result was someone who had entered no primaries, Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was nominated and the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party was outraged. 

And as a concession to those folks, the Democratic Party set up a commission on delegate selection headed by a very famous liberal who would be the next party nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, and they completely changed the rules for nomination.  Now the only way you could get a delegate was in open primaries and open caucuses.  It used to be there were a lot of states were the party bosses, behind closed doors, would pick the nominee, as you pointed out.  And the Democratic Party adopted this open system and the Republicans followed suit.  And since then, conventions haven’t mattered a wit.  Nominees get selected in the primaries and caucuses and by the voters.  And there has been tons of complaints about it.  Let’s go back to the old system of having these gray, wise, old men sit in a smoke-filled room and pick the nominee; it’s not going to happen.  This system is firmly in place.  No one is going to disenfranchise the voters.

As far as the millennials, I resist all that kind of breaking down the electorate in these ways.  The electorate moves in one piece generally.   Yes, there are huge differences within the electorate, but the electorate is going to make one decision and one decision only:  Have the Democrats governed well enough to get four more years in the White House, or have they governed poorly enough so that voters want a change?  That is the theory behind the keys to the White House.  And to get the scoop, as I said, my book will be out in about four months, sixth edition.

MODERATOR:  We have time for one or two more.

QUESTION:  Hello.  Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper, Die Presse.  Could you briefly talk about the House and particularly in light of how the Republican Party there has – sorry, disintegrated?  Does it actually make a matter if there’s a formally Republican majority there if they can’t really decide on the things that it really wants?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, I haven’t talked about the House.  Let me talk a little bit about the house.  The House, of course, is entirely different than the Senate where you’re elected in districts within the states.  And there’s one word to describe the House, and that word is gerrymander.  Do you all know what a gerrymander is?  It’s where you concoct the districts to favor one party.  And the truth is today, 85 to 90 percent of House districts aren’t competitive in the general election.  The voters don’t decide the election; the line drawers fix the districts so they’re clearly going to win for one party or the other.  And both parties do it.  Republicans have been better because they won the 2010 midterms and the last redistricting was right after that, so – strange places like Pennsylvania that’s a Democratic state that has an overwhelming Republican majority in the House.

But that also means something else.  Where’s the action, then, if it’s not in the general elections in the primary?  And this has led to the election of a lot of very conservative Republican members of the House, the so-called Tea Party Coalition.  And that’s the conflict you’re seeing within the House, between the Tea Party Coalition and the more mainstream Republicans who are more willing to possibly work with the Democrats to some extent and accommodate them.  And by the way, that same division is present within the Republican electorate itself.  There’s a small majority of Republicans, when they’re polled, who say don’t compromise; stick to principles.  But 30 to 45 to 40 percent of Republicans say we should compromise.

So you’re absolutely right, there is a real division within the Republican Party.  And while having a consensus speaker like Paul Ryan’s going to paper it over temporarily, the conflicts within the House are not going to end.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  We’ve got time for one more question.  We’ll go to (off-mike).

QUESTION:  Thank you. Jane with China’s Sina News.  My question is about social media.  How do you think the social media changed the dynamic of the presidential campaign?  And secondly – quick question – how important is the endorsement from the celebrity, congressmen, politician to the presidential candidate?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  I’ll answer your last question first.  Endorsements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  And that’s been true for a long time historically.  The classic example historically is Edmund Muskie, who had run for vice president on the Democratic ticket in ’68.  Had every single endorsement of everyone, had all the money, and his candidacy completely collapsed to the insurgent campaign of George McGovern.  Certainly Ben Carson and Donald Trump are not leading the field because of endorsements.  Jeb Bush would be ahead if you went solely with endorsements.  So I don’t think endorsements really matter one bit.

And what was your other question? 

Social media.  They’ve changed campaigns very little to this point.  Everyone says, “Oh, social media’s going to take over the campaign.”  Nonsense.  The overwhelming bulk of money by candidates – at every level, really – if you can afford it, is still spent on traditional media, particularly television.  And the vast bulk of campaign contributions do not come in through social media; they come in through traditional fundraising methods.

That said, however, social media is becoming increasingly important.  It hasn’t taken over yet, but I think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before because of one very simple fact:  Today, more people get their news from social media than they do from any other source.  And so people do go to social – they go to scores of different places, but social media is displacing everything else as a source of news.  So I do think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before.

Thank you all very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you all for coming.  This event is now concluded. 

# # #

 

Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State


WHAT:          Washington Foreign Press Center On-The-Record Briefing

 

TOPIC:          State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election

 

BRIEFER:      Professor Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster

 

WHEN:          Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.

 

WHERE:        National Press Building, 529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

 

RSVP:            Interested media should respond to FPCOwner@state.gov. 

 

BACKGROUND:  Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, will provide an overview of the ‘state of the race’ for the 2016 presidential, Congressional, and state elections on the morning of the upcoming October 28 Republican Party debate in Boulder, CO.  Professor Lichtman will discuss the state of the race for the current slate of Democratic, Republican, and third party candidates. He will also address which House and Senate races are competitive this election cycle, and whether the Democratic Party will win back the House or the Senate.  In addition, Lichtman will forecast which battleground states are competitive this election cycle and whether they are leaning red or blue.  Lastly, Lichtman will lay out a series of issues to watch, from the perspective of foreign media who are covering their first U.S. election and want to quickly get up to speed on the ways in which U.S. politics are different from other parliamentary systems around the world. 

NOTE:  All briefings are subject to change.  Please call (202) 504-6300 or visit the FPC website at http://fpc.state.gov for the latest information on this and other FPC programs.

 

BROADCASTERS:  Download a digital copy of the video at www.dvidshub.net/USDOS. 

Washington Foreign Press Center
National Press Building
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

Washington, DC  20045 Phone: (202) 504-6300 || Fax: (202) 504-6334

FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces New Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 26, 2015

 

FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces New Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

 

Agricultural producers and their communities across the country are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Increasingly severe floods, drought, wildfire and other factors pose an immediate threat to the lives and livelihoods of our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and land managers. President Obama is committed to working across all sectors to take strong action on climate and ensure food security both domestically and abroad. As we look to Paris, today’s actions demonstrate America’s continued leadership in land management strategies that mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change.

 

Today, the Administration is announcing new efforts to promote climate-smart agricultural practices across the country and is recognizing leaders who are taking action to make our agricultural supply chain more sustainable. The White House will honor 12 Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture that are implementing practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve environmental conditions and grow local economies. Such actions include promoting soil health, improving nutrient and manure management, protecting sensitive lands, and encouraging renewable energy. In recognition of the importance of sustainable practice, the White House is announcing that it will plant cover crops in the White House Kitchen Garden this week to improve soil quality, reduce erosion and increase soil carbon.

 

These announcements made today underscore the crucial role that farmers and ranchers play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. The Obama Administration recognizes the track record of leadership and stewardship the agricultural sector has already demonstrated through innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon storage, and generate clean renewable energy. The Administration remains committed to encouraging new voluntary actions to foster resilient economies and food systems alike. 

 

Federal Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

 

·         USDA Provides Funding for More Than 1,100 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for more than 1,100 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations nationwide. USDA is providing more than $102 million in loan guarantees and $71 million in grants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Among the projects, nearly $6 million is being awarded for 17 anaerobic digesters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. In total, the projects are expected to generate enough energy to power more than 83,000 homes for a year and reduce emissions equivalent of eliminating a year’s worth of pollution for more than 131,500 cars.

 

·         Regional Climate Vulnerability Assessments. USDA formally announced the availability of eight regional climate vulnerability assessments, providing regionally specific information on the effects of climate change for America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The assessments provide land managers and agency partners with an introduction to the regional sensitivities and climate adaptation strategies, include a greenhouse gas emissions profile with mitigation opportunities, and offer an overview of how partner USDA agencies are being affected by a changing climate.

 

Leading By Example

 

·         White House Champions of Change. The White House will recognize 12 individuals from across the country today as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. These individuals were recognized by the White House for their exemplary leadership in supporting change in their communities through innovation in agricultural production and education. The Champions being honored include: Anita Adalja – Washington, D.C.; William “Buddy” Allen – Tunica, Mississippi; Keith Berns – Bladen, Nebraska; Larry Cundall – Glendo, Wyoming; Herman “Trey” Hill – Rock Hall, Maryland; Loretta Jaus – Gibbon, Minnesota; Martin Kleinschmit – Hartington, Nebraska; Jennifer “Jiff” Martin – Storrs, Connecticut; Jesus Sanchez – Fresno, California; Erin Fitzgerald Sexson – Rosemont, Illinois; Timothy Smith – Eagle Grove, Iowa; and Donald Tyler – Beech Bluff, Tennessee.

 

·         Planting Cover Crops in the White House Kitchen Garden. First Lady Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn in 2009 to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of our nation—a conversation that evolved into her Let’s Move! initiative. Each year, a variety of fruits and vegetables are planted in the garden, and the White House kitchen uses the produce in meals for the First Family and guests at the White House. In addition, winter cover crops have been planted every year, and they will soon be planted for this year. Cultivating cover crops leads to healthy soil and healthy crops through protecting the soil, improving soil quality, reducing erosion and runoff, and building up soil carbon. Field studies indicate that increased biomass inputs to the soil can increase soil carbon up to 11% over 20 years.

 

·         National Farmers Union. In a statement signed by the National Farmers Union Board of Directors, NFU made an independent commitment to promote efforts to address the threat of climate change and encouraged the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future, saying: “climate change jeopardizes food security domestically and abroad, as well as the economic viability of family producers and rural communities…International cooperation is essential to navigating climate change-related threats to food security and rural communities.” In the statement, NFU also lays out its support for practices that avoid greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon by managing land for enhanced soil health, applying fertilizer for maximum utilization and minimal sublimation or runoff, reducing and utilizing methane emissions from livestock operations, exercising additional precaution with sensitive lands, employing climate-smart grazing and pasture practices, retaining woodlands, and utilizing renewable energy on farms and ranches.

 

 

###

 

—–

STRATEGY MEMO: (Take time to read this now:)

END HEADER START BODY

How strong is our grassroots campaign to end Citizens United?

End Citizens United PAC launched 6 months ago — a brand new organization funded by grassroots donors. Your outpouring of support in that time has been stunning:

  • 5,101,981 petition signatures standing strongly against Big Money Republicans. 
  •  
  • 94,154 Founding Members have chipped in much needed support for our grassroots cause.
  •  
  • $14.07: That’s the average donation from our supporters across the country. Half as much as any of the presidential candidates.

Hebatullah, that’s an incredible response…but it’s not enough. We have a hard internal goal of 1OO,OOO Original Founding Members raised by our October 24th budget deadline — and less than 72 hours to get there.

Chip in $5 or more to become one of the 1OO,OOO Original Founding Members of End Citizens United >>

$5 >>

$35 >>

$50 >>

$100 >>

$250 >>

Other >>

How is End Citizens United going to make change happen?

End Citizens United is a Political Action Committee dedicated to overturning Citizens United. Our goal is to elect as many pro-reform Democrats to the House and Senate as we can.

We’re also going to make campaign finance reform THE issue in next year’s elections. To do that, we’re building the staff and infrastructure we’ll need to shine an enormous light on the dark money that is corrupting our electoral system.

We’ve endorsed 35 candidates running for the House and Senate in 2016. Here’s what some of them have to say about End Citizens United:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator in Colorado: “End Citizens United PAC’s work is critical to building a broad coalition pressuring lawmakers to pass the Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United — and to finally take action on campaign finance reform.”
  •  
  • Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Running for Senate in Illinois: “Proud to have the support of End Citizens United. All Americans should have an equal say in who represents them.”
  •  
  • Rep. Patrick Murphy, Running for Senate in Florida: “I was recently honored to receive the endorsement of End Citizens United, the grassroots movement to overturn the court’s decision.”
  •  
  • Rep. Rick Nolan, Running for Congress in Minnesota: “I look forward to working with End Citizens United to keep [campaign finance reform] as a central part of the conversation in 2016, and I appreciate their support for this campaign.”

We’re financially supporting Democrats who have pledged to fight for reform in Congress. So far, we’ve contributed nearly $25O,OOO directly to our endorsed candidates — and we’ve helped raise an additional $5O,OOO for these candidates from small dollar donors (giving less than $10 on average).

Next year, we’ll invest strategically in races where the Koch Brothers and related dark money groups are attacking our endorsed candidates.

Our work is getting noticed:

Media outlets including MSNBC, National Journal, and Roll Call recently profiled End Citizens United PAC to discuss the work we’re doing to reform our broken system. Here’s what they’ve had to say:

  • MSNBC: “Groups like End Citizens United do serve a purpose in ‘continuing with the public awareness of the Supreme Court’s decision and it keeps political pressure on both the Supreme Court and other political actors to not make things worse.'”
  •  
  • Roll Call: “The group — which seeks to elect legislators who will fight for a repeal of the Citizens United court decision — found in their polling that candidates who want to repeal the 2010 court decision would fare better with voters in 2016.”
  •  
  • National Journal: “A new cam­paign-fin­ance-re­form PAC with am­bi­tious spend­ing goals is adding six battle­ground House dis­tricts to its tar­get list… The or­gan­iz­a­tion’s aim is to elect Demo­crats who fa­vor over­turn­ing Cit­izens United and oth­er Su­preme Court de­cisions that have fueled more money in polit­ics.”

Why is 2015 the year for change to start?

The public backlash against the Citizens United ruling has continued to grow over the years — despite efforts by some Republicans to glorify the case as a free-speech triumph (because they of course argue that corporations are people).

Last month, End Citizens United conducted scientific polls in three MAJOR Senate Battleground states. Here’s what voters had to say:

We need to seize this opportunity. It’s time for a loud, national debate on curbing the influence of money in our elections.

Can we really take on the Koch Brothers’ millions?

Yes. (otherwise we wouldn’t send these emails!) But it certainly won’t be easy.

It’ll take a powerful grassroots organization to reform our campaign finance system. And while we’re off to a great start, we still have a long way to go.

We want to show the press, the public, the politicians, and the Kochs themselves that we’re for real, and we’re demanding real change. To do that, we need your help to reach our 1OO,OOO Founding Member goal by Friday:

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EST. MARCH 2015

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Chip in $5 or more to become a Founding Member of End Citizens United:

$5 >>

$35 >>

$50 >>

$100 >>

$250 >>

Other >>

→ http://act.endcitizensunited.org/Founding-Member

We hope you’re with us.

Thank you,

-The entire End Citizens United team

 

FACT SHEET: White House Announces Commitments to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY

October 19, 2015

 

FACT SHEET: White House Announces Commitments to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge

 

Today, the White House will announce new commitments from companies from across the American economy who are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. With this announcement, 81 companies will have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to demonstrate their support for action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.  These 81 companies have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.

 

By signing the American Business Act on Climate pledge, these companies are:

 

·         Voicing support for a strong Paris outcome. The pledge recognizes those countries that have already put forward climate targets, and voices support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations.

 

·         Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to climate action. As part of this initiative, each company is announcing significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.

 

These pledges include ambitious, company-specific goals such as:

 

o   Reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent,

o   Reducing water usage by as much as 80 percent,

o   Achieving zero waste-to-landfill,

o   Purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, and

o   Pursuing zero net deforestation in supply chains.

 

·         Setting an example for their peers. Today’s announcements builds on the launch of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge in July. This fall, the Obama Administration will release a third round of pledges, with a goal of mobilizing many more companies to join the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

 

The impacts of climate change are already being felt worldwide. Nineteen of the 20 hottest years on record occurred in the past two decades. Countries and communities around the world are already being affected by deeper, more persistent droughts, pounded by more severe weather, inundated by bigger storm surges, and imperiled by more frequent and dangerous wildfires. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries, all of which imperil public health, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. No corner of the planet and no sector of the global economy will remain unaffected by climate change in the years ahead.

 

Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response, and President Obama is committed to leading the fight. The President’s Climate Action Plan, when fully implemented, will cut nearly 6 billion tons of carbon pollution through 2030, an amount equivalent to taking all the cars in the United States off the road for more than 4 years. The Clean Power Plan, the most significant domestic step any President has ever taken to combat climate change, will reduce emissions from the energy sector by 32% by 2030. And while the United States is leading on the international stage and the federal government is doing its part to combat climate change, hundreds of private companies, local governments, and foundations have stepped up to increase energy efficiency, boost low-carbon investing, and make solar energy more accessible to low-income Americans.

 

The measures taken by the public and private sectors enabled President Obama to set an ambitious but achievable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28% by 2025 last November. And in the eleven months since, we’ve seen unprecedented global momentum in the fight against climate change.

 

To date, 150 countries representing more than 85% of global carbon emissions have reported post-2020 climate policies to the United Nations. This includes the major economies like the U.S., China, the European Union and India and it includes a large number of smaller economies, developing nations, island states and tropical countries – some of whom are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

 

But these submissions are only the beginning of achieving a successful outcome in Paris this December that puts in place a transparent global framework for increasing ambition over time and continuing to drive down emissions over the course of this century. As the world looks toward Paris, President Obama is committed to building on this momentum, with American leadership at all levels – the federal government, state and local governments and the private sector.

 

Clean Energy Investment

 

Additionally, leading up to the White House Clean Energy Investment Summit on June 16, 2015, an independent consortium of long-term investors (“LTIs”), including sovereign development funds, pension funds, endowments, family offices, and foundations, committed to building a new investment intermediary that will identify, screen, and assess high-potential companies and projects for commercial investment that could also produce impactful and profitable solutions to climate change.

 

Today, this consortium will announce its founding CEO, interim board of directors, sponsors, and confirms the intention of the LTIs to deploy at least $1.2 billion of investment capital through an ‘aligned intermediary’, which they anticipate will be formally launched and branded in mid-2016.

 

The initial group of LTIs announcing financial commitments to work with the ‘aligned intermediary’ includes:

 

       $500 million from University of California’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer;

       $350 million from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund;

       $200 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund;

       $100 million from TIAA-CREF; and

       $10 million from Tamarisc.

 

The effort launches with research support from the Hewlett Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, and Planet Heritage Foundation, and a commitment of further operational support, pending final approval, from the MacArthur Foundation.

 

As President Obama said at the U.N. Climate Summit last September, “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” The American Business Act on Climate Pledge shows that the U.S. private sector, with its history of innovation and ingenuity, is committed to stepping up and doing its part in taking on this global challenge.  

 

*           *           *

 

THE AMERICAN BUSINESS ACT ON CLIMATE PLEDGE

 

We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

 

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment. 

 

The following companies have joined the pledge and their detailed commitments can be viewed at:  www.whitehouse.gov/ClimatePledge

 

ABENGOA BIOENERGY US

AEMETIS

ALCOA

AMERICAN EXPRESS

APPLE

AT&T

AUTODESK

BANK OF AMERICA

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY ENERGY

BEST BUY

BIOGEN

BLOOMBERG

CARGILL

CA TECHNOLOGIES

CALPINE

CAMPOS BROTHERS FARMS

COCA-COLA

COX ENTERPRISES

DELL

DSM NORTH AMERICA

EMC

ENERGY OPTIMIZERS

ENER-G RUDOX

FACEBOOK

FULCRUM BIOENERGY

GE

GENERAL MILLS

GENERAL MOTORS

GOLDMAN SACHS

GOOGLE

HERSHEY’S

HEWLETT PACKARD (HP)

IBERDROLA USA

IBM

IKEA USA

INGERSOLL RAND

INTERNATIONAL PAPER

INTEL

INTREN

INTEX SOLUTIONS, INC.

INVENERGY

JOHNSON AND JOHNSON

JOHNSON CONTROLS

KELLOGG’S

KEYSTONE ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURING

KINGSPAN INSULATED PANELS, INC.

LAKESHORE LEARNING MATERIALS

LAM RESEARCH

LEVI STRAUSS & CO.

L’OREAL USA

MARS

McDONALD’S CORPORATION

MICROSOFT

MONSANTO

NATONAL LABEL COMPANY

NIKE

NESTLÈ

NOVOZYMES

ONE3LED

PACIFIC ETHANOL

PEPSI-CO

PG&E

POET

PORTLAND GENERAL ELECTRIC

PwC US

PROCTER & GAMBLE

QUALCOMM

RICOH USA

SALESFORCE

SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC

SIEMENS CORPORATION

SONY CORPORATION OF AMERICA

STARBUCKS

SYNGENTA/QCCP

TARGET

TRI-GLOBAL ENERGY

UNILEVER

UPS

WALMART

THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

XEROX CORPORATION

 

###

—–

Statement by the President on Afghanistan

THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Office of the Press Secretary

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                                                                    October 15, 2015

 

 

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

ON AFGHANISTAN

 

Roosevelt Room

 

 

 

11:04 A.M. EDT

 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Last December — more than 13 years after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on 9/11 — America’s combat mission in Afghanistan came to a responsible end.  That milestone was achieved thanks to the courage and the skill of our military, our intelligence, and civilian personnel.  They served there with extraordinary skill and valor, and it’s worth remembering especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

 

I visited our troops in Afghanistan last year to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation.  I told them they could take great pride in the progress that they helped achieve.  They struck devastating blows against the al Qaeda leadership in the tribal regions, delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, prevented terrorist attacks, and saved American lives.  They pushed the Taliban back so the Afghan people could reclaim their communities, send their daughters to school, and improve their lives.  Our troops trained Afghan forces so they could take the lead for their own security and protect Afghans as they voted in historic elections, leading to the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history. 

 

Today, American forces no longer patrol Afghan villages or valleys.  Our troops are not engaged in major ground combat against the Taliban.  Those missions now belong to Afghans, who are fully responsible for securing their country. 

 

But as I’ve said before, while America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.  Our forces therefore remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.  Of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in Afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain, in support of these very focused missions.

 

I meet regularly with my national security team, including commanders in Afghanistan, to continually assess, honestly, the situation on the ground — to determine where our strategy is working and where we may need greater flexibility.  I have insisted, consistently, that our strategy focus on the development of a sustainable Afghan capacity and self-sufficiency.  And when we’ve needed additional forces to advance that goal, or we’ve needed to make adjustments in terms of our timetables, then we’ve made those adjustments.  Today, I want to update the American people on our efforts.

 

Since taking the lead for security earlier this year, Afghan forces have continued to step up.  This has been the first fighting season where Afghans have largely been on their own.  And they are fighting for their country bravely and tenaciously.  Afghan forces continue to hold most urban areas.  And when the Taliban has made gains, as in Kunduz, Afghan forces backed by coalition support have been able to push them back.  This has come at a very heavy price.  This year alone, thousands of Afghan troops and police have lost their lives, as have many Afghan civilians.

 

At the same time, Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.  They’re developing critical capabilities — intelligence, logistics, aviation, command and control.  And meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains, particularly in rural areas, and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul.  Much of this was predictable.  We understood that as we transitioned, that the Taliban would try to exploit some of our movements out of particular areas, and that it would take time for Afghan security forces to strengthen.  Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al Qaeda coming into Afghanistan, and we’ve seen the emergence of an ISIL presence.  The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration. 

 

Fortunately, in President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah there is a national unity government that supports a strong partnership with the United States.  During their visit earlier this year, President Ghani and I agreed to continue our counterterrorism cooperation, and he has asked for continued support as Afghan forces grow stronger. 

 

Following consultations with my entire national security team, as well as our international partners and members of Congress, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, I’m therefore announcing the following steps, which I am convinced offer the best possibility for lasting progress in Afghanistan.

 

First, I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 2016.  Their mission will not change.  Our troops will continue to pursue those two narrow tasks that I outlined earlier — training Afghan forces and going after al Qaeda.  But maintaining our current posture through most of next year, rather than a more rapid drawdown, will allow us to sustain our efforts to train and assist Afghan forces as they grow stronger — not only during this fighting season, but into the next one.

 

Second, I have decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases, including at Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south. 

 

Again, the mission will not change.  Our troops will focus on training Afghans and counterterrorism operations.  But these bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission.  In this sense, Afghanistan is a key piece of the network of counterterrorism partnerships that we need, from South Asia to Africa, to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland.

 

Third, we will work with allies and partners to align the steps I am announcing today with their own presence in Afghanistan after 2016.  In Afghanistan, we are part of a 42-nation coalition, and our NATO allies and partners can continue to play an indispensable role in helping Afghanistan strengthen its security forces, including respect for human rights.                 

 

And finally, because governance and development remain the foundation for stability and progress in Afghanistan, we will continue to support President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms.  New provincial governors have been appointed, and President Ghani is working to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, and uphold rule of law.  As I told President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah yesterday, efforts that deliver progress and justice for the Afghan people will continue to have the strong support of the United States.  And we cannot separate the importance of governance with the issues of security.  The more effective these reforms happen, the better off the security situation is going to be.

 

We also discussed American support of an Afghan-led reconciliation process.  By now it should be clear to the Taliban and all who oppose Afghanistan’s progress the only real way to achieve the full drawdown of U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement with the Afghan government.  Likewise, sanctuaries for the Taliban and other terrorists must end.  Next week, I’ll host Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, and I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve.      

 

In closing, I want to speak directly to those whose lives are most directly affected most by the decisions I’m announcing today.  To the Afghan people, who have suffered so much — Americans’ commitment to you and to a secure, stable and unified Afghanistan, that remains firm.  Our two nations have forged a strategic partnership for the long term.  And as you defend and build your country, today is a reminder that the United States keeps our commitments.   

 

And to our men and women in uniform — I know this means that some of you will rotate back into Afghanistan.  With the end of our combat mission, this is not like 2010, when nearly 500 Americans were killed and many more were injured.  But still, Afghanistan remains dangerous; 25 brave Americans have given their lives there this year. 

 

I do not send you into harm’s way lightly.  It’s the most solemn decision I make.  I know the wages of war in the wounded warriors I visit in the hospital and in the grief of Gold Star families.  But as your Commander-in-Chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation.

 

And to the American people — I know that many of you have grown weary of this conflict.  As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests. 

 

Yet given what’s at stake in Afghanistan, and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats, and the fact that we have an international coalition, I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort.  In the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help.  And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals.  We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation.  And every single day, Afghan forces are out there fighting and dying to protect their country.  They’re not looking for us to do it for them.

 

I’m speaking of the Afghan army cadet who grew up seeing bombings and attacks on innocent civilians who said, “because of this, I took the decision to join the army, to try and save innocent people’s lives.”  Or the police officer training to defuse explosives.  “I know it’s dangerous work,” he says, but “I have always had a dream of wearing the uniform of Afghanistan, serving my people and defending my country.”

 

Or the Afghan commando, a hardened veteran of many missions, who said, “If I start telling you the stories of my life, I might start crying.”  He serves, he said, because, “the faster we bring peace, the faster we can bring education, and the stronger our unity will grow.  Only if these things happen will Afghanistan be able to stand up for itself.”

 

My fellow Americans, after so many years of war, Afghanistan will not be a perfect place.  It’s a poor country that will have to work hard on its development.  There will continue to be contested areas.  But Afghans like these are standing up for their country.  If they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all.  And we’ve made an enormous investment in a stable Afghanistan.  Afghans are making difficult but genuine progress.  This modest but meaningful extension of our presence — while sticking to our current, narrow missions — can make a real difference.  It’s the right thing to do. 

 

May God bless our troops and all who keep us safe.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

Q    Mr. President, can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you?  Is this — can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you?

 

THE PRESIDENT:  This decision is not disappointing.  Continually, my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for Afghanistan to succeed while we’re still making sure that we’re meeting our core missions. 

 

And as I’ve continually said, my approach is to assess the situation on the ground, figure out what’s working, figure out what’s not working, make adjustments where necessary.  This isn’t the first time those adjustments have been made; this won’t probably be the last.

 

What I’m encouraged by is the fact that we have a government that is serious about trying to deliver security and the prospects of a better life for the Afghan people.  We have a clear majority of the Afghans who want to partner with us and the international community to achieve those goals.  We have a bilateral security arrangement that ensures that our troops can operate in ways that protect them while still achieving their mission.  And we’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any reemergence of active al Qaeda networks, or other networks that might do us harm.

 

So this is consistent with the overall vision that we’ve had.  And, frankly, we anticipated, as we were drawing down troops, that there would be times where we might need to slow things down or fill gaps in Afghan capacity.  And this is a reflection of that.  And it’s a dangerous area. 

 

So part of what we’re constantly trying to balance is making sure that Afghans are out there, they’re doing what they need to do, but that we are giving them a chance to succeed and that we’re making sure that our force posture in the area for conducting those narrow missions that we need to conduct, we can do so relatively safely.  There are still risks involved, but force protection, the ability of our embassies to operate effectively — those things all factor in.

 

And so we’ve got to constantly review these approaches.  The important thing I want to emphasize, though, is, is that the nature of the mission has not changed.  And the cessation of our combat role has not changed. 

 

Now, the 25 military and civilians who were killed last year, that always weighs on my mind.  And 25 deaths are 25 too many, particularly for the families of the fallen.  But understand, relative to what was involved when we were in an active combat role and actively engaged in war in Afghanistan was a very different scenario.

 

So here, you have a situation where we have clarity about what our mission is.  We’ve got a partner who wants to work with us.  We’re going to continually make adjustments to ensure that we give the best possibilities for success.  And I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next President.  And as conditions improve, we’ll be in a position to make further adjustments.

 

But I’m absolutely confident this is the right thing to do.  And I’m not disappointed because my view has always been how do we achieve our goals while minimizing the strain and exposure on our men and women in uniform, and make sure that we are constantly encouraging and sending a message to the Afghan people, this is their country and they’ve got to defend it, but we’re going to be a steady partner for them.

 

Thank you, everybody. 

 

                                           END                                        11:22 A.M. EDT  

—–

The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW · Washington DC 20500 · 202-456-1111

REMARKS: Secretary of State John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg At Our Cities, Our Climate: A Bloomberg Philanthropies-U.S. Department of State Partnership

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

Secretary of State John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry

And UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg

At Our Cities, Our Climate: A Bloomberg Philanthropies-U.S. Department of State Partnership Working Luncheon 

Washington, D.C.

October 8, 2015

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN:  Thank you.  It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the State Department today in honor of Our Cities, Our Climate – an initiative between the State Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

We are here to recognize and honor global city leadership on a topic of great importance – climate change.  At the State Department, this is at the top of our agenda, and we are thrilled to partner with Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies, who share these goals and have consistently been on the vanguard of this issue.

At the center of the State Department’s public diplomacy is the mission to connect the United States with the world to foster creative and powerful networks of citizens around the world to build common understanding.  As we look to climate change and the significant steps needed to address this challenge, the opportunity to bring a global cohort to the United States to discuss these issues was invaluable. 

It is an honor to have mayors from the United States and around the world with us here today.  Will all the mayors in the room please stand to be recognized?  (Applause.)  You are all champions of climate action.  Thank you for your critical work.  We are also pleased to have 19 sustainability directors from 18 countries that have just traveled on an exchange program to San Francisco, Boston, and now Washington, D.C.  The sustainability directors had the opportunity to see some of the best innovation in the United States and discuss how U.S. cities are overcoming hurdles to address significant problems that contribute to environmental damage.

Bringing mayors and city leaders together, our goal is to showcase the ways in which national governments, corporations, and cities around the world can and are working together to make an impact. 

Thank you all for joining us.  It is my honor to introduce our two keynote speakers, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Michael Bloomberg.  As UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg has been a leading voice on the value of cities in executing cutting-edge changes that improve everyday lives and our environment.  His immense expertise, vision, and passion have put city leadership at the forefront of innovation.  We are grateful for his partnership on this initiative.

At the State Department, we are proud to have Secretary Kerry as our champion on climate change issues.  Secretary Kerry has elevated this critical issue.  He has made climate change a critical part of U.S. foreign policy and a key component of our bilateral relationships around the world.  His level of engagement on this issue is unprecedented at the State Department.  And it’s not a new issue for him.  He brings with him an almost 30-year commitment to fighting climate change.  He has been focused on this issue since it first became a public issue and was involved in convening some of the first hearings on climate change in the Senate.

He was present at the first UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Rio in 1992, and has been at nearly every major gathering on climate change that has taken place since.  He’s on the frontlines and his leadership in this battle is the inspiration for this program, Our Cities, Our Climate[1].  We are so honored to have him here with us today.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Secretary of State John Kerry.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Evan, thank you very, very much.  Welcome, everybody, to the Ben Franklin Room.  Welcome to the State Department.  Distinguished colleagues and members of the diplomatic corps, partners in the U.S. Congress, mayors especially, we are really thrilled to have you here today.  International U.S. mayors, we’re really grateful for your leadership.  All the sustainability directors, thank you for being here, and other officials who are working hard to fight the effects of climate change around the world and also to address the challenge of climate change.

I particularly want to thank the fellow standing behind me to my right – your left.  He is passionate about this issue.  He has been for a long period of time.  And when he had the privilege of being the mayor of New York City, one of the great cities of the world, obviously, he took steps – creative and imaginative, important steps – to address this issue, and is continuing on now as the UN Special Envoy for Climate Change and Cities.  And I want you all to join me not only in saying thank you but welcoming Mike Bloomberg here to the State Department.  (Applause.) 

When he was mayor, he implemented policies that helped to cut New York’s emissions by 20 percent.  And he understands that climate change is a policy challenge, really in many ways unlike many or any that we have faced before as either individual cities or as a community of nations.  And he has long approached the global challenge with the sense of urgency for the responsibility that it demands from all of us.  And I am very grateful to him for his partnership in this endeavor. 

Decades ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously referred to our states as “laboratories of democracy.”  Today, more and more of our cities are becoming “laboratories of leadership.”  Most city governments are smaller; they’re more nimble than their federal counterparts.  So city leaders are, frankly, uniquely positioned to experiment with bold new ideas in all kinds of policy areas.

And at the State Department, we understand the very valuable role that cities can play in addressing a wide range of challenges.  And that is why we’re working directly with cities like Detroit, which is opening up its first-ever Mayor’s Office of International Affairs.  And it’s why this week we are launching a long-term Cities@State initiative to enhance our coordination with cities in the space where foreign policy and urbanization meet on issues ranging from economic opportunity to security.

But cities have a particularly critical role to play when it comes to climate change.  And I have said many times as Secretary, beginning with the day of my nomination and into my confirmation hearings, that foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy.  And in today’s world, climate change is economic policy – energy policy above all.  And it presents us with the most extraordinary market we have ever known on the face of this planet to be able to grow jobs, modernize our societies and our opportunities, and just embrace this challenge in a way that actually solves the problem while being – doing good at the same time. 

And the reason for that is simple:  Cities are obviously on the front line of the storm that is coming at us.  Consider that already – for the first time in history – more people are living in urban areas than are living in rural areas.  By 2050, a full two-thirds of the world’s population is going to live in cities, and that is a steadily growing population. 

Now, consider that nine in ten major cities are situated along inland or coastal waterways, making them particularly vulnerable to climate-driven sea level rise and violent storm surges.

And just last week, I saw a study projecting that by the end of this century what we used to consider the kind of flood that would hit New York City once every 500 years could now be expected every 25 years.  And for New Yorkers like Mike, who remember well what Hurricane Sandy did to that city, that prospect is obviously devastating. 

Just a small factoid but not an unimportant one:  If you’re 29 years old in America today, you have never lived with a month that was cooler than the average of all the months of the century preceding.  That’s what’s happening.  Every year we hear that that year was hotter than the year preceding, and we see the effects.  And the bad news is that cities will be particularly hit if we don’t take meaningful action to fight climate change.  The good news is – and there is good news – that the steps that cities themselves take in the coming years can actually tip the scale toward a successful global response to this challenge.

And here is why.  The answer to climate change is not a mystery.  It’s not some pie-in-the-sky policy that we haven’t discovered yet.  It is staring us in the face, folks.  It’s called clean energy.  It is that simple.  And we’re simply not going to get where we need to be unless we move rapidly towards a global, low-carbon, clean energy economy. 

And today, the world’s cities account for more than two-thirds of all global energy use.  That’s one of the reasons why cities are important.  Cities are responsible for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  And if we change the way we power our cities, then we will change the way we power our world and, in the process, we may well save it. 

The United States and China – two of the world’s largest emitters, number one and number two – we used to be number one; now we’re number two.  China has surpassed us.  And we fully understand this, which is why, in the early days of my stewardship here at the Department, I went to China and we began the process of changing our relationship, and President Obama ultimately was able to negotiate an agreement with China geared specifically to bring the less developed world to the table.  And that’s what we’re doing, so that we hopefully head into Paris in December able to achieve a global agreement that can help to send a signal to the marketplace that the world is serious.

That’s also why we came together for the inaugural U.S.-China Climate Leaders’ Summit in Los Angeles last month.  More than two dozen cities, states, provinces, and counties from our two nations signed the U.S-China Climate Leaders Declaration.  And the signatories committed themselves to establish ambitious targets to cut emissions, and also to establish climate action plans so that we could report regularly on the progress that we’re making.

And that event showed how influential change that originates at the local level can be.  Consider that the emissions coming from the Chinese cities and provinces represented in Los Angeles are roughly equal to those coming from the entire nation of Brazil. 

But it’s not only U.S. and Chinese cities that are taking important steps to reduce their carbon footprints.  Cities in every corner of the globe – including many represented here in this room – are doing the same. 

In fact, more than 100[2] cities globally – more than 50 here in the United States – have signed the Compact of Mayors, which Mike helped launch in an effort to galvanize clear commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

Now folks, I’ve served in elected office for a little more than 28 years – actually more than 30 years if I include the lieutenant governor period.  And I saw a lot of choices – and I know Mike feels the same way about this – that we have to make in public life.  You’re lucky if you get a one-for-one, make a hard choice and you get a really good payback for that one hard choice. 

Climate change, the math is so simple.  On one side, you’ve got the cost of the initial investments, which is relatively small.  And on the other, you have the cost of not doing anything, not acting to reduce carbon, costs which include agricultural and environmental degradation, remediation, which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars; damage to public health, people who die and go to the hospital, kids – largest cause of children hospitalized in the summer in the United States of America, environmentally induced asthma, costs us billions, tens of billions – damage to communities from record storms and flooding; and ultimately an enormous drop in the value of coastal real estate and businesses.  That’s just one part of the ledger.  That doesn’t even start to account for the cost of the disease, the cost of jobs, all the other things.

So compare those downsides to the upsides that come with this decision – living up to your environmental responsibility; creating, literally over the period of time, with $17 trillion currently geared to go into investment in energy, millions of jobs, tens of millions of jobs.  Huge wealth can be created, even as you make people healthier, reduce the sickness that comes from particulates in the air and the cancer that comes with it.  Run the list, folks.  This is a pretty easy balance sheet to come out on.

More and more city leaders are coming to that conclusion.  And that’s why Jakarta just launched the first Bus Rapid Transit system in Southern and Southeastern Asia.  It’s already helping to reduce congestion on the roads and pollution in the air.  It’s why Berlin created a campaign to plant 10,000 new trees along the streets by 2017.  It’s why Buenos Aires launched Argentina’s first bike-sharing program.  And it’s why Vancouver set a goal of obtaining 100 percent – 100 percent – of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

The fact is that some of the most promising, innovative, effective climate solutions are coming directly from mayors around the world and around the United States.

Now, obviously, no two cities are alike.  But many have the same goals and they face the same challenges when it comes to de-carbonizing their local economies, and that’s why the State Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies created the Our Cities, Our Climate Exchange for city officials across the globe: because we want to create a platform for urban leaders to share their individual successes and to exchange ideas about those future projects that can make a difference. 

Sustainability directors from 19 different cities have spent the past 10 days discussing ways to transport people using less fuel, keep people warm using less oil, recycle materials with less waste, and much more.  And if you ask any of the participants, I expect that they will tell you they did not come here to talk about theoretical solutions.  They came here to be practical and to find practical actions that they can take.  And all of this matters because the actions that leaders are taking at the local level will send a timely message at the global level. 

Now, I am not here to tell you that a global climate agreement is going to be the silver bullet that eliminates the threat that is currently posed by climate change.  What we accomplish in Paris is not going to get the total job done, it is going to set the stage and be a major jump-off point for which the marketplace can begin and the private sector can begin to take a cue from all of these governments setting their targets. 

The kind of agreement that we’re working toward will prove that world leaders finally understand and accept responsibility for the scope of this problem. 

It will give confidence to business leaders who are uncertain about our collective commitment and hesitant to invest in low-carbon alternatives that we need because of that perceived hesitancy by governments. 

It will help leaders at every level of government on the globe to know that they’re part of a worldwide commitment to build sustainable communities.

So please tell everyone – the business community, the public, your partners in government – tell them all how critical it is that the world come together in Paris and have an agreement.  Failure is not an option. 

This is a time of extraordinary urgency, incredible possibility, and together we have the rarest of opportunities to change – to change not only our cities and our countries, but the entire world, all of which bears responsibility.

I think the Holy Father in his visit here could not have made it more clear to us in poignant and meaningful ways that perhaps no politician has the ability to begin to touch why this is so important and how we all bear personal responsibility to help deal with it.  So I look forward to working with all of you to help get the job done, and there could not be a stronger, better, more committed partner – a more courageous person who’s willing to act on what he believes no matter what brickbats come his way – please welcome with me, if you will, the former mayor of New York and the current special envoy, Mike Bloomberg.  (Applause.)

MR BLOOMBERG:  The height doesn’t quite work for me, John.  Sorry about that.  (Laughter.)  Tall people, I’ve pointed out to John before, have a real —

SECRETARY KERRY:  Doesn’t always work for me, either.

MR BLOOMBERG:  No, no, no.  They have a distinct advantage.  They know when it rains – starts and stops raining quicker than the rest of us, but short of that – anyway, Secretary Kerry, John, I just wanted to thank you for that kind introduction and thank you for hosting us today, and seriously, thank you and the President for your strong leadership on climate change.  Everybody expects you to come up with a solution overnight that will be painless and cost-free.  You haven’t done that, but you certainly have moved the goalposts, and we appreciate everything you’ve done.  And it’s up to the rest of us to continue the battle – a battle that we absolutely have to win.

America is best when she leads from the front, and I think you and the President deserve enormous credit for bringing the full forces of American diplomacy – American diplomatic might to bear on the challenge.  And I also want to thank you for recognizing a fundamental truth that was overlooked for too long:  We cannot address climate change effectively without putting cities at the center of the agenda.  Now, the fact is cities account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gases.  People are always talking about getting to the root of the problems, and in this case, it’s not complicated.  Cities are the root of this problem.

But cities are also the source of the solution.  And now, thanks to Secretary Kerry and other leaders, the voices of cities are being heard. 

When the United Nations Climate Summit convenes in Paris in two months, there’s going to be a different dynamic than there was at past conferences in previous decades.  Those conferences failed to produce a truly global agreement.  But since then, cities have stepped onto the stage and, without a lot of fanfare, they’ve become – begun forming their own global alliances.  They’ve acted because the stakes are very high, higher than they are for national leaders, and the incentives are also stronger.

And let me briefly explain what I mean by that.  When a hurricane fueled by warmer oceans and rising sea levels and destroys homes and businesses, people turn to their local leaders for help and answers.  When air pollution sends children to the hospital, as John pointed out, with asthma attacks, parents don’t turn to the members of Congress; they demand that the mayors do something about it. 

Around the world, national legislators tend to see climate change as an abstraction and a long-term policy issue.  Mayors see it as an immediate economic and health issue.  People’s lives and people’s livelihoods are at stake.  This is a public health and environmental issue.  If you want to worry about 2050, I think you should, but if you really want to go home and look your family in the eye and say I did something today so that you, my kids, my spouse, my companion are going to have a longer, healthier life, that’s where you really have to focus – doing things that improve the climate right now.

Keep in mind, when a city has cleaner air more people want to live there and more companies want to do business there.  And that’s why, surprisingly, Beijing is shutting its four biggest coal-burning power plants.  And they’ve also put a smoking ban in Beijing and, I might point out, the Chinese Government owns the cigarette companies and yet they’ve done this.  Why?  Because the people of Beijing and the people of China, just like the people of Washington, D.C. and all the cities in America, want to be able to live longer, healthier lives.

Now, climate – carbon pollution carries a heavy economic cost that cities bear the brunt of, so attacking climate change and promoting economic growth really do go hand-in-hand.  Mayors understand that and they have the political incentives to act.  Global challenges used to be the exclusive domain of heads of state, but this challenge is different.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that climate change may now be the first global problem where success will depend on how local services are delivered, such as energy, transportation, and waste disposal.

Just by acting on their own, cities can singlehandedly reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by four gigatons over the next 15 years.  That’s like eliminating a quarter of all of the coal pollution that exists in the whole world today.  And the good news is mayors are eager to take this challenge on.  They’re not dragging their feet or debating the science; they’re rolling up their sleeves and they’re working together to spread the most effective solutions.  Why?  Because when the mayors talk to their constituents, the constituents, unlike what you read in the paper from members of Congress or anybody else – the constituents of all of the mayors in this city know that something is happening, they’re scared, and they want a fix.

I would suggest if you go to North or South Carolina right now, you probably won’t find very many people who say climate change isn’t real.  Now, all of a sudden, the debate has changed – well, it’s not manmade.  I don’t know if it’s manmade or not; science can only speculate.  But the bottom line is no rational person should sit there with a risk that’s so serious that it literally is life-threatening and not try to do something to ameliorate that risk and prevent problems down the road.

And that’s why we’re here today.  It’s great to have so many mayors and city officials joining us.  I know that many of you have spent the last week crisscrossing the country as guests of the International Visitor Leadership Program.  And I’ve seen firsthand what works when one city usually holds valuable lessons for many others.  Each city has its own unique culture and its own unique needs.  But the principal nuts and bolts of mass transit, parks, sanitation, and the power grid tend to be pretty similar.  So the more we help mayors and city officials innovate and collaborate, the more progress we can all make. 

And I might point out that pollution that comes from one place hurts everybody.  It doesn’t matter where you make the efficiencies, where you make the improvements – we all benefit.  And the contrary is also true – if anybody else pollutes, we all suffer. 

And that’s the purpose of the new partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the State Department.  It will build on the work that our foundation has been supporting for years.  Some of that work has been through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which now has more than 80 members, and some of it has been through the Compact of Mayors, which commits cities to publicly detail their goals and using a common yardstick for measuring their performance, which allows the public to hold them accountable.  Mayors are always held accountable by the press and by the voters.  What mayors do you can measure, whether they do it or they didn’t do it.  And the voters, when they get to the polls, reward or punish those that don’t do the right thing.

Two hundred cities have now signed onto the compact, and we’re happy that the White House is pushing for a hundred more U.S. cities to join by the end of this year.  This new partnership with the State Department will complement the work and help spread it around the world.  Our Cities, Our Climate Initiative will connect mayors and policyholders all around the world.  It will recruit international sustainability experts and NGOs to help cities share best practices, coordinate their efforts, and implement the most effective climate actions.

Cities are anxious to lead, and more – the more they learn from one another and they borrow from one another, the more progress the world can make on climate change.  So as you have explored Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, I hope you’ve been taking good notes and keeping an eye out for ideas you can borrow and improve on.  And having the State Department enlisted in that work is going to make a very big difference, and we’re grateful to Secretary Kerry for making this partnership possible and for making this issue such an important priority.

One of the benefits of this work is that it also helps to embolden national leaders to make more ambitious commitments by providing them – by proving to them just how much progress is possible.  In Kyoto back in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009, national governments didn’t have a good sense of that, and they certainly didn’t have any data on it.  Now they do.  Now they know just how quickly cities are moving.  And when they sit down this year in Paris this December, they will have something else that they didn’t have before:  They will have a model for action.  The cooperative networks that cities have created and the commitments that they have made and the reporting systems that they have agreed to provide a template for an international agreement.  Cities are proving that this model can work, and that’s why all of us have good reason to be more hopeful about this summit than the previous one.

Now, of course, cities can’t do it alone.  National leadership remains essential, and I applaud the Obama Administration for its clean power plan and also for its new rules on methane.  Cities will never fully displace nations in the global fight against climate change any more than they can singlehandedly reduce global poverty or expand global trade or improve global security.  But cities can be full and equal partners in all of this work, and I think Secretary Kerry will attest heads of state will be happy for the help – and they’re going to need it.

So let me once again thank Secretary Kerry.  You have been right, John, declaring that addressing climate change is only possible with a strategy that, as you said, transcends borders, sectors, and the levels of government.  Today’s gathering proves this effort is already well underway, and I want to thank each of you in this room for that important role that you’re playing. 

And as part of this work, I also want to invite you to join us in Paris in December.  We’re not going to have a unified solution to all the world’s problems, and certainly not to climate change.  But it is a report card, it is a step, and it’s an impetus to national and local governments to understand that the public wants to lead longer, healthier lives and that we are the ones responsible for doing that.  We’ll be co-hosting a cities summit with the mayor of Paris on December 4th, and the more cities that attend, the more our voices will be heard.  So I hope to see many of you again in Paris. 

We all have to keep up the good work.  This is the future of our families, this is the future of our countries, this is the future of the planet.  Nobody knows how much and how fast things are happening, but just let me point out 2014 was the warmest year in the history of the world.  The first half of 2015 was the warmest six months in the history of the world.  The month of July 2015 was the warmest month in the history of the world that we can measure.  If you take a look in the oceans, half of all the fish species have had their populations decline by 50 percent in the last – since 20 – since 1970.  Something is going on out there, and sitting around and arguing about who’s responsible and whether it’s this or whether it’s that is just an outrage.  We should do everything we can, and let’s hope that it’s just a short-term phenomenon, but none of us should run the risk that it’s not. 

Thank you very much, and John, thank you.  (Applause.)

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[1] Misspoken program name corrected here.

[2] More than 200 cities have signed the Compact of Mayors.