The Scientific Activist

It has just been announced that unpopular Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “stepping down”. This is no doubt a positive step for the Bush Administration, the nation, and the world as a whole, but it comes as too little too late, as the disastrous Iraq war has already cost the lives of almost 3,000 troops and hundreds of thousands of others.

What’s interesting about this story, to me at least, is who President Bush has nominated to replace Rumsfield: former CIA Director (under George Bush, Sr.) and current Texas A&M University president Dr. Robert Gates. Gates has already turned down one Bush nomination, after Bush offered to make him to be the nation’s first Director of National Intelligence in 2005. Gates declined, and the nomination subsequently went to John Negroponte. At the time, Gates cited his desire to stay on at Texas A&M in a position that he was truly enjoying. Apparently, though, the current offer was too good to pass up.

This will be an unfortunate development for A&M, as it will lose a president who has been a tremendously positive force since his tenure began in 2002. Gates has led several measures to help A&M improve its national standing and he has been an outspoken supporter of the university’s racial diversity initiatives, despite opposition from an overwhelmingly conservative student body.

Although I have some reservations about Gates being the former head of the CIA–an organization that has historically been involved in sabotaging popular Democratic movements across the developing world–I have been more than impressed with his work at Texas A&M University. I believe that he would make a fine Secretary of Defense, and that he is much more reasonable than anyone else we could have expected to be nominated by the Bush Administration.

Hopefully, if he is confirmed, he will bring some reason and moderation to the current administration and be able to maintain his independence despite working for a dangerously hawkish president.

Update: Here is Dr. Gate’s announcement of his nomination.


  1. #1 J-Dog
    November 8, 2006

    From a thread at PZ’s blog – Rummy as a sacrifical lamb? Yes!

    He could (A)go to Iraq, get himself kidnapped, then blow his kidnappers and himself up as a suicide bomber, or (B) go to Iraq or Afghanistan , offer himself up to some Al Quida operative, and as a peace offering, get his head chopped off on live TV!

    Either way, we win. Of course things would be not so good for Rummy, but hey, he’s old, not got a lot of years left in him anyway, and either way he gets to go out in a blaze of glory and actually accomplish something positive!

    Personally, I am leaning toward Rummy as the Suicide Bomber, as it seems to fit his personality type best.

    Please discuss amongst yourselves. I will hang up and listen to your anaswer.

  2. #2 bigTom
    November 8, 2006

    Apparently Gates has some issues in his past, Iran Contra, and politicization of intelligence sort of stuff. See
    So it may be another of Karl Roves tricks, Dems will be seen to be meansiprited partisan and unpatriotic to not let his appointment scale through. But the past indiscretions are large enough that they may have to oppose it.

  3. #3 Nick Anthis
    November 8, 2006

    I definitely have reservations about his past, but having seen Gates in action at A&M, I think he’d be a good man for the job. Although the new Democratic Senate will be (and should be) emboldened by its recent victory, I would be surprised if Gates becomes a major target.

  4. #4 Meredith
    November 8, 2006

    I think one of the most interesting part of Gates’ resume that may come under scrutiny during confirmation will be his membership on the Baker-Hamilton Commission. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a full disclosure of that report before he goes before the Senate for confirmation.
    It’s an interesting choice to leave A&M at the height of a crisis to go join the quagmire in Iraq, but who knows. I’m sorry to see him leave A&M.
    I’ll also be sorry if the Democrats waste their newly-found political capital on blocking something like this… because I think it would be a waste.

  5. #5 Mouth of the Yellow River
    November 9, 2006

    Ni Hao! Kannichi Wa!

    Gates is much better suited for the Dept. of Defense than as President of A&M at this juncture of history of both institutions. He?s a bureaucratic statistic, bean counting agency manager rather a visionary leader needed for the flagship of a large university system as A&M (A = Agriculture; M = Mechanical meaning Engineering) struggling to come into its own in the 21st century as both a research and teaching institution.

    His major contributions that he is hiding behind that has actually been funded by two over 20 and 10 percent tuition hikes are a multi-hundred faculty increase stat and increase in diversity.

    The faculty increases are largely in teaching lines with no startup funds for research or increase in research infrastructure under his administration. The diversity increases have been largely targeted to the Corp (ROTC, Reserve Officers Training Corp) of which A&M probably has the largest current day contingent in a land grant university, granted they do carry over to general admissions stats. He can claim having held steady on keeping A&M sports in the forefront with expensive and glamorous coach hires.

    In the meantime, the potential for research and training reputation in the biosciences particularly biomedical sciences is further fragmented than ever.

    Enrollment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the ?A? in A&M is dropping constantly to the extent that the Dean is calling for ideas on how to overcome the image of outdated relevance embodied in the traditional term “Agriculture.”

    Any university that hopes to achieve excellence must have an excellent partnership between a medical school or health sciences segment and the basics of the university both in teaching and research. With Gates? narrow vision and emphasis on the flagship university in College Station at the expense of other units statewide, the Corp, teaching faculty with no research infrastructure, and sports, the unification of university and medicine even represented by ag medicine, e.g. vet medicine, is hopelessly fragmented with no vision in site to turn it around.

    A&M needs a next president with some vision as well as fundraising and managerial skills to launch it into the top 10 of research universities, particularly in the sciences which means those applicable translatable to human health which the state competitors as University of Texas units have achieved.


  6. #6 Nick Anthis
    November 10, 2006

    Gates was clearly the most visionary President that A&M has had in a while, and having been there for most of his tenure, I could see the effects that his administration was having on the day-to-day aspects of the campus. Although I can’t speak to everything you write, I don’t think it necessarily demonstrates a familiarity with the realities on the ground at A&M. The veterinary school is well-integrated with the main university, and, while the medical school is not, that is because it is not (and has not been for a long time) actually part of the A&M University system. As the flagship university, College Station should be emphasized, and I’m surprised that you disagree, since that it is there that you’ll find A&M’s significant research labs (not to mention well over 40,000 students). Gates did not do anything out of the ordinary to favor the Corps of Cadets, an organization that is slowly diminishing in size and importance at A&M. The diversity programs at A&M have been global, targeted just as much (if not more so) to the Honors Program as to the Corps of Cadets and elsewhere. I’m basing my support on Gates for Secretary of Defense largely on what he accomplished at A&M, which was a lot, and often in the face of serious conservative backlash. I was certainly impressed, and it’s a shame that he won’t be able to stick around to continue doing what he was doing.

  7. #7 Mouth of the Yellow River
    November 10, 2006

    Ni Hao! Kannichi Wa!

    No argument that Gates made easy to do cosmetic improvements in sociopolitical image of day to day life at A&M. But issues of political correctness and image are not the substantial change that makes a great university.

    The Wikipedia entry on A&M is a fairly accurate summary of what happened in recent years:

    Former university president Ray Bowen (1994-2002) led Texas A&M University through a process of strategic evaluation and planning renewal, resulting in the “Vision 2020” strategic plan. Vision 2020’s overall goal is to make Texas A&M one of the top 10 public universities in the United States by the year 2020, by leveraging resources and new investments across all areas of the institution from faculty investments, new research infrastructure, and leading edge information technology. Under the current leadership of president Dr. Robert M. Gates (2002-present), former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the university has narrowed its focus to four key parts of the “Vision 2020” plan, namely 1) improving student diversity, 2) increasing the size of the faculty, 3) building new academic facilities, and 4) enriching the undergraduate and graduate education experience.

    Gates inherited a Texas A&M and its research agencies bringing in nearly $400 million in new awards, an increase of more than $125 million over a 10-year period. Has that been maintained, increased or declined? With all these touted increases in faculty, it sure should, but yet these are unlikely to be income-generating faculty!

    A&M remains tied for 60th in overall university quality rankings by US News & World Report, 35th among research universities (Pre-law Handbook), 25th in scholarly quality (whatever that is), and 44th in total R&D expenditures in the biological and life sciences (NSF).

    The original Vision 2020 document emphasized in diverse ways the need and essentiality of strengthening and integrating the life sciences if there is any hope for moving into the top 10 in any of the seven areas of biology and life sciences identified by the National Research Council.

    Gates generally ignored building the life sciences in A&M, a glaring defect in the system that touts being a Land, Space and Sea Grant system.

    His narrow focus on the above issues of Vision 2020, the easy and sociopolitical ones that one can hide behind in terms of political and newsworthy statistics isolated and allowed individual units which should be integrated to fend for themselves, further languish or at best tread water and in some cases decline.

    He further distanced the university from a health science center (A&M or others in the state) and weakened A&M’s own elements of one by isolating it. He ignored and made no overtures to link and integrate the diverse pockets of life sciences within the university that would increase its diversity, and therefore strengthen it and the system as a whole in respect to life sciences and human health.

    2020 is but 13 years away. If the progress in integration and development of life sciences in A&M moves no quicker than in the last 13 years, than the dream of top 10 in any one area related to life sciences in one of the richest states in the country is again a will of the wisp.

    If Gates continues with this narrowly focused modis operandi in respect to the Dept. of Defense, e.g. to get its stats up and look politically correct as a single agency at the expense of integration across agencies to achieve the serious overall goals of the country in respect to the volatile world situation, then the new appointment does not bode well.


  8. #8 Nick Anthis
    November 10, 2006

    I think he focused in on the important areas, and did pretty well. One thing that you don’t mention was the broad and comprehensive move he made in 2004-2005 to improve the general undergraduate experience, setting up committees to study key issues (from a broad spectrum) and then implementing those recommendations.

    I can’t speak to the distancing from the health science center, although in the life sciences in general, there has been progress, and a new life science center is currently underway.

  9. #9 clk
    November 17, 2006

    Gates should have been indicted for lying to Congress, covering up North’s treason (Bush’s treason, Reagan’s treason, etc.) If the Dems are going to pretend to support honesty & integrity, they should reject Gates (and impeach Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the war criminals. Of course, they won’t do that because the Dem leadership is guilty of war crimes as well…)

  10. Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 02:23:37 +0000 (GMT)
    From: “samuel ajanaku” Add to Address Book
    From: “President George W. Bush” Add to Address Book
    Subject: Time is Short
    Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 07:00:07 -0400 (EDT)

    Dear Samuel. ,

    In 2004, you were part of a historic nationwide organization that propelled my campaign to victory. Together we delivered a clear message to the American people about the need to keep our Nation safe and secure, the need to keep our taxes low to continue creating jobs.
    That message proved successful because you delivered it to your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. This year, I am asking for your help once more. An important decision will be made this Fall – whether our agenda of hope and optimism continues, or whether the Democrats take control of the House and Senate.
    The help you gave my campaign in 2004 was invaluable, and I am asking you to go to work again this Fall for your Republican congressional candidates. Time is short–Election Day is under one month away, and in many places people are about to vote early or via absentee. We must do the important work of grassroots campaigning if we are to maintain a Republican majority in 2006.
    For nearly six years, I have worked with the Republicans in Congress to protect Americans by strengthening our homeland security and pursuing terrorists where they live. Together, with a Republican majority, we passed tax relief that spurred unprecedented growth and now need to make that relief permanent. And, working with Republican leaders in the Senate, we confirmed two extremely qualified Supreme Court Justices who faithfully interpret the Constitution instead of legislating from the bench.
    I plan to continue this agenda for two more years, but I need a Republican majority in Congress to continue the progress we have made. Without it, you can bet that our political opponents will do all they can to roll back important tools like the PATRIOT Act, to raise your taxes, and stop me from appointing conservative judges to the Federal bench.
    Thank you for what you did to return me to the White House in 2004. I hope you will put your talents to work for Republican congressional candidates in Iowa this year. The consequences of not succeeding this fall are dire for our agenda for America.

    George W. Bush


    To Forward This Email To Your Friends And Family,
    Please Click Here

    Republican National Committee | 310 First Street, SE | Washington, D.C. 20003
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    November 8, 2006
    Fact Sheet: Dr. Robert M. Gates: The Right Choice for Secretary of Defense

    President Bush Nominates Dr. Robert M. Gates to be Secretary of Defense
    In Focus: Defense

    “Don Rumsfeld has been a superb leader during a time of change. Yet he also appreciates the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war. Don Rumsfeld is a patriot who served our country with honor and distinction. � If confirmed by the Senate, Bob [Gates] will bring more than 25 years of national security experience and a stellar reputation as an effective leader with sound judgment. � He’s a steady, solid leader who can help make the necessary adjustments in our approach to meet our current challenges.”
    – President George W. Bush, 11/8/06
    Today, President Bush Announced His Intention To Nominate Dr. Robert M. Gates To Serve As Secretary Of Defense. The President and Secretary Rumsfeld have agreed that at this time in the conflict the Pentagon would benefit from a fresh perspective. After thoughtful consideration, the President has asked Dr. Bob Gates to succeed Secretary Rumsfeld as the new Secretary of Defense.
    Dr. Gates Understands The Threats We Currently Face And The Nature Of Our Enemies In Iraq And Around The World. He has served as an intelligence advisor to six presidents representing both parties during his 27-year career at the CIA and National Security Council. He is a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, and is known for his integrity, candor, and a track record of taking a bipartisan approach to solving national security problems.
    Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor For President Carter, On Gates: “He’s � Bright, Very Serious And Very Intelligent. He Has A Lot Of Savvy. He’s A Good Decision-Maker But Also A Good People Person.” (Chuck Lindell, “Ex-CIA Chief Is Good Fit At A&M, “Austin American Statesman, 7/28/02)
    Dr. Gates Will Work Effectively With The Commanders In Iraq To Make Adjustments As Needed In Our Approach
    Dr. Gates Understands The Challenges Facing Our Nation In Iraq. While in the private sector, he has continued to serve his country as a member of the Iraq Study Group � a distinguished independent panel of Republicans and Democrats led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. As a member of the Iraq Study Group, Dr. Gates has traveled to Iraq, where he’s met with Iraq’s leaders and our military commanders on the ground.
    Dr. Gates Spent Nine Years At The National Security Council, Including Serving As The Deputy National Security Advisor For President George H. W. Bush During Operation Desert Storm.
    Dr. Gates Helped Lead America’s Efforts To Support Afghanistan’s Freedom Fighters As They Fought Against The Soviets Who Were Occupying Their Country. His efforts helped drive the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, which weakened the Soviet regime and laid the foundation for freedom’s victory in the Cold War.
    Dr. Gates Has Experience In Leading Large, Complex Public Institutions And Transforming Them To Meet New Challenges
    As The Director Of Central Intelligence In The Early 1990s, Dr. Gates Led All Of The Foreign Intelligence Agencies Of The United States � Approximately A Dozen Organizations With More Than 100,000 Employees And A Budget Of $30 Billion. He headed our Nation’s intelligence community at a time of change, when the familiar threats of the Cold War suddenly disappeared, and new and unfamiliar threats were just beginning to emerge.
    Dr. Gates Has Served As President Of Texas A&M, The Nation’s Sixth-Largest University. His service on corporate boards also provides him with an understanding of best business practices.
    Dr. Gates’ Experience Has Prepared Him Well To Serve As Defense Secretary
    Dr. Gates Is One Of Our Nation’s Most Accomplished And Honored Public Servants. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 1967 and served in the Strategic Air Command. He served as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986-89 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from Jan. 20, 1989 until Nov. 6, 1991 for President George H.W. Bush. He began his career at the CIA as an entry-level employee and eventually rose through the ranks to become Director of Central Intelligence. He served as the DCI from 1991-93.
    Dr. Gates Is A Highly Decorated Public Servant. He was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal and the National Security Medal. He twice earned the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and three times earned the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
    Send instant

  11. #11 Nick Anthis
    November 19, 2006

    It sounds like a desperate plea from an administration that’s worried about not even getting a moderate nominee confirmed.

  12. #12 engr.dr.samuel.adeniyi.ajanaku
    February 13, 2007


    Bush plan seeks billions more for Iraq
    By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer 25 minutes ago
    WASHINGTON – President Bush is sending Congress a $2.9 trillion budget that would provide billions of dollars for the war in Iraq, make his first-term tax cuts permanent and achieve a budget surplus three years after he leaves office.

    The massive four-volume set of budget books, featuring two-tone green covers, was headed to Congress Monday, where the plan will receive a decidedly mixed reaction from Democrats. They have made clear that they plan to push their own budget priorities after regaining control of the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years.
    In his new spending blueprint, for the 2008 budget year that begins Oct. 1, Bush is pledging to balance the budget by 2012, make health care and higher education more affordable and promote energy security.
    Iraq is likely to dominate the debate with war opponents who are pushing nonbinding resolutions expressing disapproval of Bush’s 21,500-troop buildup there.
    Faced with the competing goals of funding the war effort, preserving his first-term tax cuts and still achieving a balanced budget, the president stuck mostly with modest new initiatives.
    Democrats, however, contended that Bush was able to balance the budget only on paper by leaving out significant costs such as the money needed to make sure that the alternative minimum tax, initially targeted at the wealthy, does not ensnare more middle-income taxpayers. He includes a fix for 2008 but not for later years.
    Democrats argued that Bush’s insistence on preserving his first-term tax cuts will cost more than $2 trillion in lost revenue in the seven years after 2010, when the tax cuts are due to expire.
    “The president wants to make the tax cuts permanent even though all the forecasts show that will explode the debt right at the time the baby boomers retire,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., said in an interview Sunday. “This budget is plunging us toward a cliff that will take us right into a chasm of debt.”
    Bush’s budget projects that the deficit, which hit an all-time high of $413 billion in 2004, will gradually decline until it becomes a surplus in 2012.
    To accomplish that goal, Bush would allow only modest growth in the government programs outside of defense and homeland security. He is proposing eliminations or sharp reductions in 141 government programs, for a savings over five years of $12 billion, although Congress has rejected many of the same proposals over the past two years.
    Bush also will seek to trim spending on farm subsidies by $18 billion over five years, mainly by reducing payments to wealthier farmers, an effort certain to spark resistance among farm state lawmakers.
    Bush would achieve nearly $100 billion in savings over five years by trimming increases in Medicare, the health insurance program for 43 million retirees and the disabled, and Medicaid, which provides health care to the poor. That effort is also likely to trigger heavy opposition in Congress, which rejected smaller Bush cuts last year.
    Most of the Medicare savings would come in slowing the growth of payments to hospitals and other health care providers, but $11.5 billion in savings would come from boosting insurance premiums paid by the wealthiest Medicare recipients.
    The president, appealing for Democratic support during an appearance at a House Democrats retreat Saturday, said the government must do something to restrain the soaring costs of entitlement spending on health care and Social Security before the looming retirement of 78 million baby boomers.
    Bush once listed overhauling Social Security as the No. 1 domestic priority of his second term. But his effort two years ago to accomplish the overhaul by diverting some Social Security taxes into private investment accounts went nowhere in Congress.
    The administration is asking for an additional $100 billion for Iraq and the global war on terrorism this year, on top of $70 billion already requested. That spending would drop to $145 billion in 2008 and fall to $50 billion in 2009, although administration officials conceded that future requests could go higher depending on the progress of the war.
    “It’s tough to know what the military commanders are going to need on the ground,” White House budget director Rob Portman said Sunday on CNN.
    The Pentagon is scheduled to get a hefty 11 percent increase in spending authority, pushing its 2008 budget to $481.4 billion.
    Bush’s budget also includes an initiative to expand health care coverage to the uninsured through a complex proposal that would give every family a $15,000 tax deduction for purchasing health coverage but would make current employee-supplied health coverage taxable.
    Bush is also proposing to increase the maximum Pell grant, which goes to low-income students, from the current $4,050 to $4,600. Democrats are pushing for even larger increases.
    Bush’s energy proposals would expand use of ethanol and other renewable fuels with a goal of cutting gasoline use by 20 percent over the next decade.

    President Bush Attends House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference

    President’s Remarks

    10:22 A.M. EST
    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. It’s nice to be here. Thank you very much. The last time I looked at some of your faces, I was at the State of the Union, and I saw kind of a strange expression when I referred to something as the Democrat Party. Now, look, my diction isn’t all that good. (Laughter.) I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. (Laughter.) And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party. (Laughter and applause.)
    Thanks for having me, Madam Speaker. I’m proud to be here. I’m proud to have met your grandchild. I know the mother well. (Laughter.) If the child has as much spunk as the mother, she’s going to have a fantastic life. And so thank you for having me.
    I want to thank the members for allowing me to come. I’m looking forward to visiting with you. I particularly want to thank your families. I know how hard it is on a family to support a loved one in public life. (Applause.) It takes a lot of sacrifice to encourage your spouse to serve the country. Politics can be ugly. Sometimes they say not nice things about you in the local newspaper. You’re traveling a lot. Campaigns are rough on a family. And so I really want to thank — I thank the members for serving, but I know full well that you couldn’t serve without the love and support of your family members. So I really appreciate your contribution to the country.
    Madam Speaker, thank you very much for your leadership. I was genuinely touched when I thought about how your dad would be reacting to seeing you sitting up there in the House chamber. It was an historic moment, and I know you’re proud of the accomplishments, and I appreciate you all supporting this fine woman into a really important leadership role. (Applause.)
    On the way in we spent a little time talking about Florida, and I talked to the Governor yesterday. The Speaker was concerned, as am I, to make sure that the folks get the help they need down there. And, Madam Speaker, you and I, and every member here, shares concerns for those whose lives were turned upside down by that storm. And as I told you earlier, and told the Governor, whatever federal response is needed, we will make it quick and sure. And so thank you for your concerns. (Applause.)
    I’m glad to be here with Steny Hoyer. Good to see you. Thank you, Steny. He is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy. I’m looking forward to working with you. (Applause.) James Clyburn and Rahm Emanuel and John Larson and all the leadership, I’m looking forward to working with you. I know you’ve probably heard that, and you doubt whether it’s true — it’s true. We can do some big things together. In order to do big things, we’re going to have to do it together.
    So I’d like to share some of the thoughts about the big things I’d like to see us try to accomplish. First, balancing the budget. That’s a big thing. (Applause.) Rob Portman is going to submit a budget tomorrow. Some of it you’ll like, some of it you won’t like, but it achieves the goal that we have said, which is to balance the budget. And we will show you how to do so in five years. You will have your own ideas, and we can work together, hopefully, to achieve that big goal.
    Inherent in the budget issue is whether or not — is unfunded liabilities as a part of entitlement programs. This is a difficult issue for members of both parties. I fully understand it’s hard to come to the table to address Social Security or Medicare; the unfunded liabilities inherent in those programs. I’ve asked members of my party to come to the table with ideas. I will bring ideas. I ask members of the Democratic Party to come to the table, as well. I believe we have an obligation to work to solve the problem. (Applause.) Is it going to be hard work? You bet it’s hard work. A lot of times people say, well, why don’t we just wait for the crisis to come upon us? Well, I think the crisis is here. That’s why I’ve included reforms of entitlement in every State of the Union address. And I’m going to keep talking — well, I’ve got one more left; I’ll keep talking about it for the next time, as well. Hopefully I won’t have to, if we’re able to sit and come together. But I’m under no illusions of how hard it’s going to be. The only thing I want to share with you is, is my desire to see if we can’t work together to get it done.
    Secondly, there’s a great goal, and to make sure every child has got the foundation necessary to be able to enjoy the great opportunities our country affords. As you know, I am a big believer in the No Child Left Behind Act. I think it has worked. I fully recognize that some have got concerns about it, and I’m willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to address those concerns. My only admonition is, let us don’t water down the accountability inherent in this good law that enables us to detect problems early so we can solve the problems before it’s too late.
    Secondly, I know we can work together on passing the American Competitiveness Initiative, aimed at making sure that math and science is more prevalent amongst our youngsters, and doubling the amount of basic research at the federal level which will enable our country to remain the most innovative country in the world. (Applause.)
    Thirdly, we’ve got to make sure people have got health insurance. I mentioned this in the State of the Union. I believe the role of the federal government is to help the poor, the disabled, and the elderly, and we will work with you to make sure that’s happened. But I also think it’s very important to figure out why health insurance is less affordable and less available for more of our citizens.
    I believe part of the reason is because the tax code discourages private individuals from being able to purchase health care. I ask you to carefully consider the idea that we have put out. I’ve already heard from some members who thought it was a lousy idea, I understand that. But please look at it in depth as a way to address an issue that concerns us all, and that is, not enough people having health insurance.
    Secondly, I strongly believe the states are the proper laboratories for change. And I think it makes sense to encourage innovation at the state level, in terms of helping people on Medicaid get health insurance; helping the poor get health insurance; making sure that we develop risk pools to enable those who cannot afford insurance because of health reasons have coverage. Anyway, it’s a comprehensive approach that addresses a common goal of ours.
    Thirdly, I set a goal to reduce our gasoline use by 20 percent over the next 10 years. (Applause.) And I thank you very much for receiving the idea that the country has advanced enough technologically to be able to have a mandatory fuels standard that encourages the use of renewables and alternatives, up to 37 billion gallons by 2017. We have spent a lot of money on developing new technologies. I look forward to working with you to continue to do so.
    There’s some concern, I know, amongst some of the farm state congressmen that when you use a lot of corn for ethanol it’s going to rise — it’s going to cause the feed for hogs and cattle to rise. I’ve heard loud and clear those complaints. And to a certain extent, they’re right. As a matter of fact, that is why we need to spend money on cellulosic ethanol, to make sure that we have got substitutes — (applause) — substitute raw material — in other words, we are able to replace corn as the main raw material for the ethanol in order to achieve a great goal. And I’m looking forward to working with you on it.
    It’s an area where we can show the American people that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party has got the capability of enabling us to be able to say to the people, by being less dependent on oil, we’ve enhanced our national security, we’ve helped our economic security, and we’ve done something positive on the environment.
    I believe a great goal is a comprehensive energy — immigration bill. (Applause.) This, too, is a difficult issue. And in order to get it done, it’s going to require members in the House and the Senate, Republican members, Democratic members, finding common ground. And the White House wants to help. I believe strongly in this issue. I know that in order to enforce our border, which all of us wants to — all of us here want to do, that we must have a comprehensive plan to be able to do so.
    I believe it is in the nation’s interests to have a temporary worker program. It’s in the interests of small business owners and farmers to be able to have folks that are willing to do work Americans are not doing on a temporary basis. I know that in order to enforce this border, we better have a plan that doesn’t cause people to sneak in. We want our Border Patrol agents guarding the border from criminals and drug dealers and terrorists, not from folks that are coming to do jobs that Americans aren’t doing.
    And so this is an important issue. And I repeat to you, I want to work with you on it. I went to the Oval Office to address it, because I believe strongly that we can achieve an objective. I’m under no illusions as to how hard it’s going to be, but it will be a lot easier when Republicans and Democrats work together to achieve this important objective. (Applause.)
    We share a common goal, and that is to keep America safe. You know, I welcome debate in a time of war, and I hope you know that. Nor do I consider anybody’s — nor do I consider a belief that if you don’t happen to agree with me you don’t share the same sense of patriotism I do. You can get that thought out of your mind, if that’s what some believe. (Applause.)
    These are tough times, and yet there’s no doubt in my mind that you want to secure this homeland just as much as I do. You remember the lessons of September the 11th just like I do. And you understand a fundamental obligation of government is to do everything in our power to protect people here. And I’m looking forward to working with you on that, to make sure our intelligence agencies have what they need to be able to detect problems before they come, to continue to secure the homeland. I believe we can work together in Afghanistan, to make sure that former safe haven is able to grow as a democracy. (Applause.)
    I put out a plan that has caused a lot of debate on Iraq. I took a lot of time thinking about how best to achieve an objective of a country governing and sustaining and defending itself, a country that will be an ally in this war on terror. I listened to many members here. I listened to members of my own party. I listened to the military, and came up with a plan that I genuinely believe has the best chance of succeeding.
    I do know we agree on some things, and that is that the Maliki government is going to have to show strong leadership. (Applause.) I appreciate the fact that the Speaker and many of — the distinguished chairman came and briefed me on their trip. She said loud and clear, Mr. President, you’ve got to make it clear to the Iraqi people that their government has got to perform. And I understand that. I agree, Madam Speaker.
    There’s got to be success not only on the military front — in other words, the Iraqis have got to be taking the lead in Baghdad to secure its capital, but there’s also got to be success on the political front. They’ve got to pass an oil law. They’ve got to amend their constitution so that all segments of that society feel that the government is for them. (Applause.) We’ve got to spend our money on reconstruction projects that help unite the country. They’ve got to have local elections so people feel involved in the provincial governments. In other words, there’s benchmarks that they have got to achieve. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi government, just like I made it clear to the American people, our commitment is not open ended. (Applause.)
    We’ve got other equities in foreign policy that I know we can work together on. I cannot thank you enough for supporting the HIV/AIDS initiative on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) It’s a pleasure to be able to stand up in front of the American people and say, your tax dollars have made a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And this plan would not have been funded without the able leadership and support of many people here in this building. And I appreciate that.
    We’ve set another great goal, and that’s to reduce malaria in countries on the continent of Africa. And I’m convinced we can work together with a — (applause) — strategy that will work. I promised people in my State of the Union that we will continue to pursue freedom in places like Cuba or Belarus or Burma, and that we’ll continue to rally the world to stay focused on Darfur. (Applause.)
    And so this is a bold agenda for all of us. And I agree, Madam Speaker, there’s a chance to show people that we can get beyond the politics of Washington, D.C.; that we’re able to treat each other with civility, and at the same time, accomplish big goals. And so I’ve come, at your kind invitation, to assure the members that I look forward to working with you in doing the best we possibly can do for the good of all American citizens.
    Thank you for having me. (Applause.)
    END 10:39 A.M. EST

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