WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Marks Fourth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; Will Visit New Orleans Later This Year
WASHINGTON – In this week’s address, President Barack Obama remembered the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, described what his administration has done to boost the Gulf Coast recovery effort, and said that he will visit New Orleans before the end of the year. As the Gulf Coast recovers, we must learn the lessons of Katrina, so that our nation will be more protected and resilient in the face of disaster – whether it’s from a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, pandemic, or terrorist attack.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, August 29, 2009
This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast. As we remember all that was lost, we must take stock of the work being done on recovery, while preparing for future disasters. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.
None of us can forget how we felt when those winds battered the shore, the floodwaters began to rise, and Americans were stranded on rooftops and in stadiums. Over a thousand people would lose their lives. Over a million people were displaced. Whole neighborhoods of a great American city were left in ruins. Communities across the Gulf Coast were forever changed. And many Americans questioned whether government could fulfill its responsibility to respond in a crisis, or contribute to a recovery that covered parts of four states.
Since taking office in January, my Administration has focused on helping citizens finish the work of rebuilding their lives and communities, while taking steps to prevent similar catastrophes going forward. Our approach is simple: government must keep its responsibility to the people, so that Americans have the opportunity to take responsibility for their future.
That is the work that we are doing. To date, eleven members of my Cabinet have visited the Gulf Coast, and I’m looking forward to going to New Orleans later this year. To complete a complex recovery that addresses nearly every sector of society, we have prioritized coordination among different federal agencies, and with state and local governments. No more turf wars – all of us need to move forward together, because there is much more work to be done.
I have also made it clear that we will not tolerate red tape that stands in the way of progress, or the waste that can drive up the bill. Government must be a partner – not an opponent – in getting things done. That is why we have put in place innovative review and dispute resolution programs to expedite recovery efforts, and have freed up hundreds of millions of dollars of federal assistance that had not been distributed. This is allowing us to move forward with stalled projects across the Gulf Coast – building and improving schools; investing in public health and safety; and repairing broken roads, bridges and homes. And this effort has been dramatically amplified by the Recovery Act, which has put thousands of Gulf Coast residents to work.
As we complete this effort, we see countless stories of citizens holding up their end of the bargain. In New Orleans, hundreds of kids just started the school year at Langston Hughes elementary, the first school built from scratch since Katrina. The St. Bernard Project has drawn together volunteers to rebuild hundreds of homes, where people can live with dignity and security. To cite just one hopeful indicator, New Orleans is the fastest growing city in America, as many who had been displaced are now coming home.
As we rebuild and recover, we must also learn the lessons of Katrina, so that our nation is more protected and resilient in the face of disaster. That means continuing to rebuild hundreds of miles of levees and floodwalls around New Orleans, and working to strengthen the wetlands and barrier islands that are the Gulf Coast’s first line of defense. In Washington, that means a focus on competence and accountability – and I’m proud that my FEMA Administrator has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida, a state that has known its share of hurricanes. And across the country, that means improving coordination among different agencies, modernizing our emergency communications, and helping families plan for a crisis.
On this anniversary, we are focused on the threat from hurricanes. But we must also be prepared for a broad range of dangers – from wildfires and earthquakes, to terrorist attacks and pandemic disease. In particular, my Administration is working aggressively with state and local governments – and with partners around the world – to prepare for the risk posed by the H1N1 virus. To learn more about the simple steps that you can take to keep you and your family safe from all of these dangers, please visit www.ready.gov.
So on this day, we commemorate a tragedy that befell our people. But we also remember that with every tragedy comes the chance of renewal. It is a quintessentially American notion – that adversity can give birth to hope, and that the lessons of the past hold the key to a better future. From the streets of New Orleans to the Mississippi Coast, folks are beginning the next chapter in their American stories. And together, we can ensure that the legacy of a terrible storm is a country that is safer and more prepared for the challenges that may come. Thank you.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
EULOGY FOR SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica
12:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Your Eminence, Vicki, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the United States Senate — a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself.
But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Grandfather. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, “The Grand Fromage,” or “The Big Cheese.” I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, as a friend.
Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, “It’ll be the same in Washington.”
That spirit of resilience and good humor would see Teddy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of 16. He saw two more taken violently from a country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.
It’s a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Ted to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.
But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, “…[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in — and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves.” Indeed, Ted was the “Happy Warrior” that the poet Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and the suffering of others — the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed — the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act — all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.
We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, as has been noted, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that’s not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw Ted Kennedy. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and platform and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect — a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.
And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, yes, but also by seeking compromise and common cause — not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch for support of the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his chief of staff serenade the senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas committee chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the chairman. (Laughter.) When they weren’t, he’d pull it back. (Laughter.) Before long, the deal was done. (Laughter.)
It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support of a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave my pledge, but I expressed skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes that it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how had he done it. He just patted me on the back and said, “Luck of the Irish.” (Laughter.)
Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success; he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, “What did Webster do?” (Laughter.)
But though it is Teddy’s historic body of achievements that we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and the colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “I hope you feel better,” or “What can I do to help?” It was the boss so adored by his staff that over 500, spanning five decades, showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank-you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. senator of such stature would take the time to think about somebody like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study off the Oval Office — a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who had just arrived in Washington and happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office. That, by the way, is my second gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories — the ones that often start with “You wouldn’t believe who called me today.”
Ted Kennedy was the father who looked not only after his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, “On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to been spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love.”
Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love — he made it because of theirs, especially because the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted to risk his heart again. And that he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.
We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know what God’s plan is for us.
What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and with love, and with joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of others.
This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said, as has already been mentioned, of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death because what he was in life — and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy — not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country that he loved.
In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:
“As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved ones would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us.”
We carry on.
Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those that he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good that he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image — the image of a man on a boat, white mane tousled, smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for whatever storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace. (Applause.)
BY DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY BILL BURTON
Oak Bluffs School Filing Center
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts
1:37 P.M. EDT
MR. BURTON: Good afternoon. So just to update you on the President and the plans going forward here, today I think you all saw what he was up to. The change in schedule is that tomorrow — late tomorrow evening, the President and the First Lady are going to go to Boston. On Saturday, they will attend the funeral Mass for Senator Kennedy, where the President will deliver the eulogy. And then, as weather permits, they’ll return to Martha’s Vineyard.
On Sunday, he’ll head back home to Washington. And then Sunday and Monday there are no public events. Tuesday there will be some events in Washington. We’ll announce those later. And then Wednesday through Sunday the plan is to go to Camp David.
So with that — Phil.
Q Thanks, Mr. Burton. On health care, can you tell us a little bit about what the President is doing on this — in the wake of Senator Kennedy’s death? Is he still making calls? And what’s his reaction to liberal groups who are trying to do a “win one for the Gipper”-type push on health care?
MR. BURTON: Well, I don’t have any update on any calls that the President has made as it relates to Senator Kennedy. Our country lost a beloved leader and the politics and implications of that are the last thing on the President’s mind right now.
Q Real quick, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins made a comment to her constituents in Topeka that the GOP is looking for their “great white hope.” Any White House reaction to that and any reading — any racial implications in that?
MR. BURTON: I saw that report. I also saw that her spokesperson backpedaled and said that that was a poor choice of words. We obviously give Congresswoman Jenkins the benefit of the doubt.
Q Also, wasn’t he supposed to be on vacation this week? (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: I think that when I said that the President wanted you guys to take long walks on the beach and relax and just enjoy yourselves and that there would be no news maybe was a little bit of wishful thinking. The President, when he ran for this office, knew that there would be no days where he was completely down. And he’s responded accordingly, but I do think that he’s had a chance to spend some time with his family, play some tennis, play some basketball, dig in on his books a little bit, and actually do a little relaxing.
Q Two questions. Senator Kennedy’s death has left Senator Dodd juggling both the banking and health committees. How concerned is the White House that he now has too much on his plate, that he’s not going to be able to push through financial regulatory reform? That’s the first question.
The second question is, Israel says it’s nearing a compromise with the United States on the President’s call for a complete settlement freeze. Is the President prepared to compromise on this issue if it helps to jumpstart the peace talks?
MR. BURTON: Well, for starters, Senator Dodd is obviously one of the most able and competent senators in the United States Senate. He’s been a great partner on important issues that the President has worked on, from health care to financial regulation to a whole host of other things. But in terms of whether or not he can handle the load, I don’t think anybody doubts it. But those decisions are up to the particular committees in the United States Senate to make, not for the President.
I’m not familiar with the report that you’re referencing, but I’ll get back to you on the settlement freeze.
Q Is the President — what is he doing to prepare for this? I mean, is he writing the speech? Do you know anything about what he’s going to try to hit on in the eulogy?
MR. BURTON: I don’t have any preview of what the President is going to have to say on Saturday, but it is something that he obviously takes very seriously. He’s been working on it. He’s got a — he’s obviously got a great team of speechwriters who he works with, but this is going to be a very personal statement that he makes on Saturday.
Q And you say he’s going Friday night — he and his — just he and the First Lady, not the girls?
MR. BURTON: That’s right.
Q And are they — they’re going Friday night — are they going to the JFK Library where the senator’s body will be lying in repose?
MR. BURTON: I don’t know that there’s a plan for that. But they won’t get in until very late on Friday evening, so I don’t know if they’re going to do anything else besides just go to the hotel and go to bed.
Q Are they doing it because of the weather Friday night?
MR. BURTON: Yes, it’s weather-related.
Q Bill, does the President and does the White House think that whole — going back to Phil’s question — that whole “win one for Teddy” push — is that appropriate?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President’s view is that, you know, we’ve all experienced a pretty big loss and Americans are going to have different reactions and find different ways to memorialize his life. He’s not going to make a comment on what every single person does to memorialize or remember or talk about Senator Kennedy and his passing. There will be a time when it’s appropriate to have discussions on different ramifications, but I don’t think anybody thinks that now is it.
Q There is — I mean, there is a feeling that the death is being used in a political way. I mean, does the White House agree with that? These are Democrats that are doing it.
MR. BURTON: I’ve seen some of these quotes. I’ve obviously read the reports. But, you know, the President isn’t in a view — isn’t in a place where he’s looking to referee what everybody is saying about the passing.
Q (Inaudible) talk about briefly on Monday, this new interagency group the President has formed for high-value interrogations. It’s an interagency process, but what I’m trying to figure out is, if there’s a disagreement about tactics, who will make the final decision? Will it be the National Security Council? Will it be the FBI? Will it be the President? Would the President be actually intimately involved in development of questions, methods, timing — any of the things like that? Can you help me understand that?
MR. BURTON: Sure. The President accepted the recommendation of the interagency task force on interrogations and detainees to create this new group that you mentioned, the high-value detainee interrogation group, because he thought it was the best way to take down some of the barriers to sharing some of the most important information as it relates to interrogations and detainees in order to use the best scientifically proven methods in order to get the information necessary to keep the American people safe.
When it comes to operational decisions, those will be made by the group. Obviously there’s a director of the HIG and he’ll make operational decisions. But just like other interagency processes, if there are disagreements the different agencies are able to come together and make a decision; but the operational decisions will be made by the director of that group.
Q You think it’s going to be Mr. Brennan? Or the —
MR. BURTON: No, no, no. The director of the HIG, that’s housed inside the FBI.
MR. BURTON: Not that I know of.
Q The President hasn’t named the person yet (inaudible).
MR. BURTON: That’s right.
Q How deeply will the President be involved in this overall process personally, as you guys put this group together and imagine it working going forward?
MR. BURTON: Well, obviously, there are a group of intelligence professionals inside the U.S. government who know best how to handle high-value detainees and all sorts of detainees. And the President has faith that they will make the right decisions based on what they think is the best available science and proven methods.
Obviously the President is responsible for any decision that gets made inside his administration, but there will be folks in the intelligence community who are making decisions about intelligence gathering.
Q He will not be intimately involved in the day-by-day operations? If there’s a high-value target brought in and the interrogation process begins, he’s not going to be someone that he’ll be checking with or involving himself day to day?
MR. BURTON: Well, in the same way that the President has a lot of different issues that he deals with on a day-to-day basis that are important. These sort of issues obviously have a lot to do with protecting the American people, keeping the homeland safe. And he’ll obviously be kept up to speed with what’s happening as much as he is in other cases. But, no, the operational decisions will be made inside of that group.
Q The President doesn’t want to referee this idea that (inaudible) and Moveon.org want (inaudible) Ted Kennedy. Does he agree with Senator Byrd that legislation, at least in the Senate, be renamed in Ted Kennedy’s honor or some of these other devices that are being suggested to elevate the symbolic (inaudible) importance of (inaudible) health care legislation in his name?
MR. BURTON: I know there’s a lot of these discussions happening and there’s going to be a lot of discussions that continue to happen. But the President’s view is that today is not the appropriate time for him to be commenting on that sort of thing.
Q (Inaudible) stop — would that be the most appropriate thing?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President’s view is that he’s not going to discuss these kind of implications or plans and that sort of thing right now.
Q Does the President agree with the federal judge who said that the Federal Reserve should (inaudible)?
MR. BURTON: I know that there has been this question out there. I don’t have an answer for you. I’ll have to get back to you.
Q The President ran on a platform of more transparency in government (inaudible) some of these financial programs (inaudible).
MR. BURTON: The President has obviously shown a higher level of transparency than any President in the history of the government. So his view is that we have done a lot to bring transparency in all areas of the executive branch. On the specific issue I’ll just have to get back to you.
Q And does the President — will the salary for the AIG CEO be approved by the — by Feinberg?
MR. BURTON: That’s obviously a process that’s ongoing. Feinberg is still making his recommendations and we’ll obviously comment at the appropriate time.
Q Does it need to be approved, the $7.5 million package?
MR. BURTON: Well, the reason that Feinberg is there is to put in place a process by which these things are determined, so he’s not going to prejudge the outcome of that process.
Q Obviously lawmakers are not actively engaged in the debate over health care because they’re out –
MR. BURTON: Can you speak just a little louder — I can barely hear you.
Q I said lawmakers have not been actively involved in the debate over health care reform since they’re away from Washington. But has the President been able to test the temperature of health care reform? And if so, how does he view it?
MR. BURTON: Well, I can say that this week Secretary Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle have been very busy working with both members of Congress, their staff, and different groups who have a stake in this. So the President’s view is that we’re continuing to make progress on health care reform. The American people are still foursquare behind making some progress on health care reform. He still believes that we’ll be able to get a bipartisan bill through the House and the Senate. And that’s the end that we’re working towards.
So I would say that the temperature right now is that the American people want and need health care reform, and the President is committed to getting that by the end of the year.
Q What is his reaction when he hears news reports that health care reform has been derailed, or major roadblocks for health care reform?
MR. BURTON: Well, health care reform is obviously a very difficult thing. Over the course of the last 60 years, a lot of different Presidents have tried to bring about comprehensive health care reform, and the reason that they haven’t been able to get it done is that it’s not just a series of easy and politically popular decisions.
But we’ve been able to make more progress than has been made before by getting the doctors and the nurses and the hospitals on board; the AARP is supporting health care reform. It’s been passed through four of the five committees that need to pass it out. Because costs have gotten to a point where if we don’t do something not only is health care going to be in crisis, but the deficit will — we just will not be on a fiscally sustainable path as it relates to the deficit.
So the President’s view is we’ve made a lot of progress already; we continue to make progress; we’re going to be able to — he’s working towards getting a bipartisan result and he’ll continue to work towards that end until we get health care reform for the American people.
Q And on the budget deficit, there are some economists out there who are saying because of this mounting debt that we have — or the deficit — that middle-class taxpayers will have to be (inaudible). Does the President still hold to the fact that he will not raise taxes on the middle class?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q In the last 24 hours there have been a number of analyses written about Ted Kennedy’s influence on the President, with two basic arguments: Number one, the President might not be President today if it weren’t for Ted Kennedy. Do you have any sense of how the President feels about that? And number two, that Ted Kennedy had an enormous influence on the political views and ideology, especially on health care, of President Obama. Do you have any sense of how much the President believes he’s been influenced over the years by Ted Kennedy?
MR. BURTON: Well, I don’t know that I could improve on what the President had to say in his personal statement about Senator Kennedy yesterday, so I would reference — I would reference that for starters. But in terms of the impact that Senator Kennedy had on President Obama and his time as President and his campaign, it was obviously incredible and immeasurable in some ways, because he endorsed President Obama as a candidate at a time that provided a cannon burst for the campaign. It was a psychological boost that would be hard to replicate in any other way. He was a colleague of his who helped show him the ropes in the United States Senate, one of the first people that then-Senator Obama met with after he was elected, to get a good sense of how to be the best, most productive senator that he possibly could.
And over the course of the campaign and his time as a senator, he did provide plenty of advice and guidance for Senator Obama and now President Obama. And it’s hard to measure any of those different things. He was a giant to the United States but also in President Obama’s life.
Q Forgive me if anybody already dealt this question — I couldn’t hear the person — but is the White House in any way at all involved in the situation in Massachusetts in trying to get a short-term replacement?
MR. BURTON: No, the President’s view is that that kind of decision is — the decision of how Massachusetts is represented in the United States Senate is for the people, legislature, and governor of Massachusetts to decide.
Q Bill, give us some sense about how the President is going to rejoin the health care reform debate after his vacation?
MR. BURTON: I don’t have a lot new to tell you. He’s going to continue to do a lot of the things that he’s done before. He’s going to energetically put his force behind working with senators, members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans. He’s going to be out there talking to the American people directly about just how important health care reform is and the sort of reform that he thinks is the best prescription for our country.
So I think that you’ll see, after he gets a little time to recharge his batteries, spend some time with his family here and then in Camp David, he’s going to come back as rip-roaring as he was before.
Q So the — after next week before he — the events that you talked about next week don’t deal with health care reform?
MR. BURTON: I’ll get back to you on what those events on Tuesday are. But when he does — when he gets back, that’s right, that’s when he’ll still engage.
But as I said before, his staff, his Cabinet are still working tremendously hard to make some progress.
Q We’re not talking about a town hall on health care on Tuesday or something?
MR. BURTON: That’s not the plan at this point, but we’ll make sure you know.
Q Senator McConnell is out there today brushing aside the need for comprehensive health care reform. He suggested that there should be smaller steps — tax moves, other things — rather than what he called “massive government overreach.” Is that going to be a major impediment, this continued talk like that from the Republicans?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President — I don’t think it’s any surprise that the Republican leader is not foursquare behind getting comprehensive health care reform done. You know, there’s been a lot of misinformation out there about what health care reform means. I saw yesterday there was a fake poll that was sent out to Republican donors that contained a lot of the different misinformation that there’s been in this health care debate — things like, “Would you agree or disagree with politicians using voter rolls to determine what kind of health care you get?” I mean, there’s really a lot of stuff that we’ve had to knock down.
So what we’re focused on is working with Democrats and Republicans who come to this debate honestly looking to make progress on health care reform. And the President still believes that we’re going to be able to get a bipartisan solution through the House and through the Senate that he signs.
Q Bill, even though the succession issue is a question for the voters of Massachusetts and the governor, how concerned is the President about that vote, given the narrowness with which this whole issue might be decided?
MR. BURTON: You know, I addressed this a little bit in the beginning of the week, and the President’s view is that he’s going to work to get every single vote that he can. So I don’t think that anything that has happened changes the President’s opinion now, that it’s up to the people of Massachusetts to decide. It’s just not a scale that he’s going to put his thumb on.
Yes. I mean Mike, sorry.
Q Can you go back to the vacation stuff here? Can you give us any more detail about, you know, what his workouts have been like in the morning? What progress he’s made through the five books that you suggested he was going to read? Anything else about, you know, the sort of private relaxing that he’s been able to do?
MR. BURTON: What other detail can I give you? Not a ton. I don’t have an exact progress update on the amount of reading, but I can tell you that obviously some things have come up over the course of the week that have probably cut into a lot of the different things he’s done to relax, including his reading.
But, you know, we were out there on the basketball court yesterday and he was talking as much trash as he usually does — and that’s the rumor from the golf course, as well. So it sounds like the relaxing is happening at an appropriate pace.
Q You played with him yesterday?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q What kind of basketball court — is this on the — it’s on the –
MR. BURTON: Yes, there’s just a little half-court.
Q Bill, why wasn’t he wearing a helmet when he was riding his bike? We’re getting a number of questions about that.
MR. BURTON: You know, I heard that and I know that he — it was about bicycle helmets. I know that he generally does wear a helmet when he rides a bicycle, so I don’t know. I wasn’t out there today. I’ll find out more, but I know he generally wears bicycle helmets. He supports the wearing of bicycle helmets. I know — I’ve heard that the other folks who were with him were all wearing helmets, so –
MR. BURTON: I’m not going to get into the President’s style. I’ve heard people get in trouble for that before. I’ll get back to you. I just want to get around the room.
Q Does the President regret calling the Afghan elections a success given the increasing reports of fraud by the Karzai camp that are still coming out?
MR. BURTON: Well, these — for starters, the elections in Afghanistan are obviously historic. It’s the first election that the Afghan people have been able to conduct themselves for the last 30 years. The President’s view is we’re all waiting for the results to trickle in, just like everybody else. But we think that with the mechanisms in place to address any allegations of fraud, that there — that they will work. And we’re just waiting out the process, just like everybody else.
Q Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said it was — today that it was now time for crippling sanctions against Iran. The Europeans, the Germans, the French, and the British also started to move this way. Does the White House now think that that is the route that you will be going down after September? Is there any chance, you think, of some kind of 11th-hour message, and the Iranians saying, okay, we’ll take up the President’s offer of negotiations?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President’s view is that Iran should come back to the P5-plus-1 discussions, but there is — obviously the international community is going to get together at the end of September at the United Nations General Assembly and talk about these issues. I’m not going to say anything here that’s going to predetermine what the outcome of that is going to be about.
Q Hi, I’m WMVY radio, Martha’s Vineyard. And on behalf of WMVY and many of the residents here on Martha’s Vineyard, we’re very pleased –
MR. BURTON: You know, I can barely you. Can you speak up?
Q I’m sorry. We’re really pleased to have the First Family here, and it’s been a really great thing for the island during these economic times, which have been tough here. And with that in mind, are there any plans for the First Family to return next year?
MR. BURTON: Well, Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful place, and the President loves to come here. He’s been coming here for the last 10 years. And I think that you can probably bet that he’ll be back. But we haven’t thought ahead that far in terms of figuring out what he’s going to do on vacation next year.
Q And what about a highlight for the President and the First Family on Martha’s Vineyard this vacation?
MR. BURTON: A highlight. I can’t speak to what the favorite thing that he’s seen or done is, but I can say that he had the steak and rib dinner at The Sweet Life, and he said it was really good.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURTON: You bet. (Laughter.)
Q In terms of the President’s health care initiative, how big of a loss is it not to have Senator Kennedy around helping him fight that battle?
MR. BURTON: I think I addressed this earlier. There is going to be a — people are going to have discussions about this, but the President doesn’t think that today is an appropriate time to do that.
Q The President is taking Monday off to do some meetings (inaudible).
MR. BURTON: I don’t know if there are back-to-school meetings on Monday; interesting question. I can see if I — I know it is for some schools, I don’t know about theirs. I’ll find out if there’s any more granularity I can give you about the schedule that day. But that sort of thing we probably wouldn’t put on a public schedule.
Q Okay. And then going forward to Camp David, is there a meeting agenda at all? Is that downtime or is there something on the agenda?
MR. BURTON: The agenda is to try to get a little rest and relaxation. If anything gets added or put on the schedule — yes, he’s looking to get a break from his vacation. (Laughter.)
Q Another quick question. Is the President paying attention to the decline in approval ratings? Does he — in his approval ratings — does he view that as a byproduct of health care reform? Does he have confidence that if he manages to pass something that that will rebound once people see the thing in action?
MR. BURTON: When it comes to poll numbers, this President, just like a lot of other Presidents, came into office with very high approval. But the President never thought that his high ratings were something that he should just put up on a shelf and admire. His view is that he was sent here to bring about some fundamental change to the way that we’re doing business in Washington, to the way Americans get health care, to the way things were going in Iraq and Afghanistan. And to do that you have to make some difficult decisions, and I don’t think the President’s view is that if he made all the different difficult decisions that he made that every American would agree with him every single time. In fact, it’s real easy, as the President has said, to stay popular in Washington if you just don’t do anything at all. But he thinks that he was sent there to do quite a bit. And along the way, sure, there’s going to be people who disagree with him, but his view is that he’s got to make tough decisions in order to get things done.
Q Does he think that’s what’s going on with poll numbers right now, that this is a direct result of the health care debate?
MR. BURTON: I don’t know about that specifically. But the President does think that when you make tough decisions your numbers tend to go down.
(Intercom interruption.) I think Major is probably just happy he didn’t get called to the principal’s office. (Laughter.)
Q Some of the answers that you gave to Chip on the relationship between the President and Senator Kennedy, and then earlier you said he intends to make a personal statement during his eulogy. Are those the types of things we expect to hear during the eulogy, the impact that Kennedy had on him, on the campaign, and in the Senate? Can you talk any more about that?
MR. BURTON: I can’t because he’s still working on it and I don’t want to say something that doesn’t ultimately make it in. It’s obviously going to be very personal and something that he’s working on very hard. And I don’t want to get ahead of what he actually says.
Q And can you — is the Camp David schedule next week, was that created because of the way this week has gone, in terms of busyness and lack of vacation time?
MR. BURTON: No, no. That was always tentatively scheduled. It’s just now that we’re a little closer we’re able to lock it in.
Q Can you give us a sense of the level of concern the White House has for the approaching tropical storm that may impact New England and whether that could possibly cut short the vacation of the President or the rest of the folks that are here?
MR. BURTON: We’re monitoring the tropical storm very closely. Obviously we’ve got some of the smartest weather folks in the world working for the federal government and we’re going to make sure that we act appropriately in terms of how that goes. Obviously these events can be pretty unpredictable, so we’re just watching just like everybody else.
Q Can you talk a little bit about what the girls have done on vacation, and also what will happen when the Obamas go to Boston — for the girls?
MR. BURTON: Well, I suspect — and if that’s somebody’s phone, I’d appreciate it if you turned it off — so far the girls have eaten some ice cream, hung out at the arcade, spent a lot of time on the farm hanging out with their parents and friends. In terms of what they’re going to do when the Obamas are at the funeral, I’m not a hundred percent sure.
Q But they’ll definitely leave the Vineyard with their parents?
MR. BURTON: On Sunday?
Q On Friday.
MR. BURTON: No, on Friday they’re staying here. On Sunday, everybody is going back to Washington.
Q Apologies that it’s kind of hard to hear everybody’s questions — regarding Camp David, was the trip itself and the scheduled duration planned before this week?
MR. BURTON: It was always tentatively on the schedule. We’ve just been able to lock it in.
Q Tentatively on the schedule for five days?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q And does the President view it in any way as kind of like a take-two on the family vacation that maybe didn’t play out the way he thought it would?
MR. BURTON: I don’t think you can replicate such a terrific place as Martha’s Vineyard, but I do think that he’s looking to get some more rest and relaxation when he goes up there.
Q One more question on health care. I think we can all respect the President not saying much about this today, the politics of it and so forth. But are you concerned about losing the initiative on this issue if, in fact, the President doesn’t say much about it now? The funeral happens a couple of days –
MR. BURTON: I don’t mean to cut you off, but I’m just not going to get into it today.
Sir. Oh, just holding up your mic.
You bet. Last one.
Q Can you tell us if the President has had any conversations with specific members of the Kennedy family since we heard from him yesterday, and maybe you could just share with us any details about what went on in those conversations?
MR. BURTON: None that I know of.
Q Did the President get as much R&R on this vacation as he was hoping to?
MR. BURTON: Like I said at the top, the President’s view is that when you’re President you’ve always got that job, and I think he’s been appreciative that he could come to Martha’s Vineyard and enjoy some of its beauty and its nice restaurants and good people, and along the way he has gotten in some of the vacation that he wanted to.
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT
ON THE PASSING OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
The Department of Energy
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you and your staff for the privilege of being with you today on what, as I prepared last night, was to be a joyous occasion, announcing another step in the direction of energy independence. And you said the President made a wise choice. The wisest choice the President made was asking you to be — I mean that sincerely — to be the Secretary to the Department of Energy. You’ve assembled a first-rate staff, and you’ve taken on a role that is going to be a — is going to, in large part, determine the success of these next three-and-a-half years, whether or not we make a genuine dent, genuine progress in moving toward an energy policy that can help America lead the world in the 21st century as it did in the 20th century.
Some suggest we’re trying to do too much. But my response is, is there any possibility of America leading the world in the 21st century without a radically altered energy policy? It is not possible. And that charge has been given to one of the most remarkable men to serve in a President’s Cabinet, a Nobel laureate who is as articulate as he is obviously bright, and a man who has assembled a staff that can corral the bureaucracy — and we’re all — deal with bureaucracy, we’re all part of it — in a way that I haven’t seen in awhile.
And I had planned on speaking to the Clean Cities Program as one of the several initiatives we have to begin to reshape our energy policy. But as if Teddy were here, as we would say in the Senate, if you’d excuse a point of personal privilege, I quite frankly think it’s — would be inappropriate for me to dwell too much on the initiative that we’re announcing today and not speak to my friend.
My wife Jill, and my sons Beau and Hunter, and my daughter Ashley — and I don’t say that lightly, because they all knew Teddy, he did something personal and special for each one of them in their lives — truly, truly are distressed by his passing. And our hearts go out to Teddy Jr., and Patrick and Kara, and Vicki, with whom I spoke this morning, and the whole Kennedy family.
Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. And for 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and literally, not figuratively sitting next to him, and being witness to history. Every single day the Senate was in session, I sat with him on the Senate floor in the same aisle. I sat with him on the Judiciary Committee next — physically next to him. And I sat with him in the caucuses. And it was in that process, every day I was with him — and this is going to sound strange — but he restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do.
He and I were talking after his diagnosis. And I said, I think you’re the only other person I’ve met, who like me, is more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more idealistic, sees greater possibilities after 36 years than when we were elected. He was 30 years-old when he was elected; I was 29 years-old. And you’d think that would be the peak of our idealism. But I genuinely feel more optimistic about the prospect for my country today than I did — I have been any time in my life.
And it was infectious when you were with him. You could see it, those of you who knew him and those of you who didn’t know him. You could just see it in the nature of his debate, in the nature of his embrace, in the nature of how he every single day attacked these problems. And, you know, he was never defeatist. He never was petty — never was petty. He was never small. And in the process of his doing, he made everybody he worked with bigger — both his adversaries as well as his allies.
Don’t you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his — so many of his foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.
You know, he changed the circumstances of tens of millions of Americans — in the literal sense, literally — literally changed the circumstances. He changed also another aspect of it as I observed about him — he changed not only the physical circumstance, he changed how they looked at themselves and how they looked at one another. That’s a remarkable, remarkable contribution for any man or woman to make. And for the hundreds, if not thousands, of us who got to know him personally, he actually — how can I say it — he altered our lives as well.
Through the grace of God and accident of history I was privileged to be one of those people and every important event in my adult life — as I look back this morning and talking to Vicki — every single one, he was there. He was there to encourage, to counsel, to be empathetic, to lift up. In 1972 I was a 29 year old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign, him showing up at the Delaware Armory in the middle of what we called Little Italy — who had never voted nationally by a Democrat — I won by 3,100 votes and got 85 percent of the vote in that district, or something to that effect. I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy — not figuratively, this is not hyperbole — literally.
He was there — he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, thankfully survived very serious injuries. I’d turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.
You know, it’s not just me that he affected like that — it’s hundreds upon hundreds of people. I was talking to Vicki this morning and she said — she said, “He was ready to go, Joe, but we were not ready to let him go.”
He’s left a great void in our public life and a hole in the hearts of millions of Americans and hundreds of us who were affected by his personal touch throughout our lives. People like me, who came to rely on him. He was kind of like an anchor. And unlike many important people in my 38 years I’ve had the privilege of knowing, the unique thing about Teddy was it was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him. It was people I admire, great women and men, at the end of the day gets down to being about them. With Teddy it was never about him.
Well, today we lost a truly remarkable man. To paraphrase Shakespeare: I don’t think we shall ever see his like again. I think the legacy he left is not just in the landmark legislation he passed, but in how he helped people look at themselves and look at one another.
I apologize for us not being able to go into more detail about the energy bill, but I just think for me, at least, it was inappropriate today. And I’m sure there will be much more that will be said about my friend and your friend, but — he changed the political landscape for almost half a century. I just hope — we say blithely, you know, we’ll remember what we did. I just hope we’ll remember how he treated other people and how he made other people look at themselves and look at one another. That will be the truly fundamental, unifying legacy of Teddy Kennedy’s life if that happens — and it will for a while, at least in the Senate.
Mr. Secretary, you and your staff are doing an incredible job. I look forward to coming back at a happier moment when you are announcing even more consequential progress toward putting us back in a position where once again can control our own economic destiny.
Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
The funeral arrangements for Senator Edward Kennedy is as follows:
Senator Kennedy will lie in repose Thursday, August 27th and Friday, August 28th, at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library in the Smith Room. (Boston, MA)
Family memorial service, Friday, August 28, 2009 in the Smith Room. (Boston, MA)
Funeral services will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, Saturday, August 29, 2009. (Boston, MA)
Burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The family of Senator Edward Kennedy have disclosed that the “center of the family (Kennedy)” will be buried within 90 feet of brothers Robert F. Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy at Arlington Cementary. Funeral arrangements are pending.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE PASSING OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
Blue Heron Farm
9:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to say a few words this morning about the passing of an extraordinary leader, Senator Edward Kennedy.
Over the past several years, I’ve had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor, and a friend. And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.
Since Teddy’s diagnosis last year, we’ve seen the courage with which he battled his illness. And while these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they’ve also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us. His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you — and goodbye.
The outpouring of love, gratitude, and fond memories to which we’ve all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just — including myself.
The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party. And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth, and good cheer. He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.
And that’s one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.
His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. And the extraordinary good that he did lives on. For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was the defender of a dream.
I spoke earlier this morning to Senator Kennedy’s beloved wife, Vicki, who was to the end such a wonderful source of encouragement and strength. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, his children Kara, Edward, and Patrick; his stepchildren Curran and Caroline; the entire Kennedy family; decades’ worth of his staff; the people of Massachusetts; and all Americans who, like us, loved Ted Kennedy.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a longtime champion of health care reform who had been battling brain cancer himself, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
While Mr. Kennedy had been physically absent from the capital in recent months, his presence had been deeply felt as Congress weighed the most sweeping revisions to America’s health care system in decades, an effort Mr. Kennedy called “the cause of my life.”
As President Obama pushed health care reform, Senator Kennedy played a behind-the-scenes role.
***From The New York Times***
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) releases report assessing H1N1 preparations
Administration’s H1N1 efforts to date praised
Additional recommendations made to improve monitoring and strengthen medical response
WASHINGTON – A Presidential advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers today released a new report assessing the Obama Administration’s preparations for this fall’s expected resurgence of 2009-H1N1 flu and outlining key steps officials can take in the coming weeks and months to minimize the disease’s impact on the nation.
The Federal Government’s preparations for 2009-H1N1 flu have been well-organized and are scientifically grounded, according to the report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which assembled a subcommittee of experts on influenza and public health for the purpose. (PCAST is an independent group of leading scientists from academia and industry administered by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.) But some aspects of those preparations could and should be improved or accelerated, the group concluded.
“As the nation prepares for what could be a challenging fall, it is crucial that our public health decisions are informed by the very best scientific and technological information,” said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and a co-chair of PCAST.
The report concludes that the 2009-H1N1 flu is unlikely to resemble the deadly flu pandemic of 1918-19. But in contrast to the benign version of swine flu that emerged in 1976, the report says the current strain “poses a serious health threat” to the nation. The issue is not that the virus is more deadly than other flu strains, but rather that it is likely to infect more people than usual because it is a new strain against which few people have immunity. This could mean that doctors’ offices and hospitals may get filled to capacity.
Among the group’s prime recommendations: accelerate the preparation of flu vaccine for distribution to high-risk individuals; clarify guidelines for the use of antiviral medicines; upgrade the current system for tracking the pandemic’s progress and making resource allocation decisions; accelerate the development of communication strategies—including Web-based social networking tools—to broadcast public health messages that can help mitigate the pandemic’s impact; and identify a White House point person with primary authority to coordinate key decisions across the government as the pandemic evolves.
An overarching message of the new report is that through their behavior, individuals can have a potentially big impact on the flu season’s severity. Frequent hand-washing and staying home from school or work when sick will be crucial. The report recommends intensive public education campaigns to reinforce those key behaviors, and also calls for policy adjustments that can reduce economic and other incentives that might encourage people to risk infecting others. For example, workplaces could liberalize rules for absenteeism so employees don’t feel pressured to come to work when sick and school districts could arrange alternative means of distributing lunches to children who are sick but who normally depend on school meals for adequate nourishment.
Overall, the PCAST subcommittee concluded that it was “deeply impressed” by the H1N1-related efforts underway across the Federal Government, including the breadth of issues being anticipated and addressed, the depth of thinking, the overall level of energy being devoted, and the awareness of potential pitfalls.
“The Federal Government’s response has been truly impressive and we’ve all been pleased to see the high level of cooperation among the many departments and agencies that are gearing up for the expected fall resurgence of H1N1 flu,” said Harold Varmus, a PCAST co-chair and President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
“This virus has pulled us all together in common cause,” said PCAST co-chair Eric Lander, who is also President and Director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. “The preparations are the best ever for an influenza pandemic.”
“As the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology notes, influenza brings many challenges and agencies across the government will need to make many key decisions in the face of uncertainty about when and how the virus will play out. As we did in the spring, we can hope for the best, but we must prepare for the worst.”
Administration officials leading the flu response efforts praised the report and welcomed the recommendations from the PCAST subcommittee.
“The PCAST H1N1 subcommittee report recommendations will enhance National preparedness and response to 2009-H1N1 flu, and be valuable for longer term, systematic pandemic policy coordination and planning. The President discussed this report at length with PCAST members and expressed sincere thanks for their expert contributions,” said John Brennan, White House Homeland Security Advisor.
“The President has been clear from day one that he wants our H1N1 flu response to be guided by science. He also has made it clear that he believes that responding to the flu is a shared responsibility, one that requires the efforts of every American and cooperation between the private and public sectors,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and Food and Drug Administration, has already made some important progress on the recommendations found in the PCAST subcommittee report and we plan to adopt others to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep Americans healthy and safe.”
“As this PCAST report notes, it is not possible to predict how the 2009-H1N1 influenza virus or the upcoming influenza season will play out, but it is best that we plan and prepare for a resurgence of H1N1 flu,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “HIN1 influenza has the potential to affect virtually every aspect of our lives, from our economy and national security to our education system. It may not be possible to stop influenza, but we can reduce the number of people who become severely ill by preparing well and acting effectively.”
“Schools, child care facilities and institutions of higher learning will not only play a key role in helping to mitigate the transmission of the flu this fall but will also play a significant role in promoting critical public health information,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I am happy to report that we are well on our way to implementing many of the recommendations for schools found in this comprehensive report and have joined with our partners across government to roll out guidance for K-12 and Institutions of Higher Learning over the past two weeks.”
“The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology did an excellent job, working on a short timeline, of summarizing and assessing the U.S. preparations for 2009-H1N1 influenza,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Their subcommittee, which included individuals from across the public and private sectors, has provided valuable insights and recommendations, including strategies for strengthening our nation’s ability to monitor the presence and impact of 2009-H1N1 influenza and strengthen our medical and non-medical response.”
To see the PCAST Recommendations and Administration Progress, click here (pdf).
To see the full report, click here (pdf).
For more about PCAST, visit: http://www.ostp.gov/cs/pcast.
L.A. coroner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran declared the death of music icon Michael Jackson a “homicide” according to court documents released Monday. The documents state that there were lethel amounts of the anesthetic Diprivan in Jackson’s blood. Dr. Conrad Murray administered the drug within 24 hours of Michael Jackson’s death.
Who didn’t suspect that Dr. Conrad Murray unwittingly did Michael Jackson in with his acute negligence?
The question is when will there be an arrest made in connection with Michael Jackson’s death? The world knows how and why Jackson died.
Now, we await the TRUE breaking news flash: Dr. Conrad Murray arrested for the murder of Michael Jackson.
WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Debunks “Phony Claims” about Health Reform; Emphasizes Consumer Protections
WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama set the record straight on some of the most pervasive myths about health insurance reform. He addressed a range of “outrageous myths” including that illegal immigrants will be covered, that abortions will be funded by taxpayer dollars, that so-called “death panels” will be formed to decide who receives treatment, and that reform will lead to a government takeover of health care. In addition, the President reiterated that a public option would be just that – an option, not a requirement, for consumers – and would help introduce choice and competition to the health care market, while reminding American’s that it is only one component of health reform. The proposed reforms will also provide Americans unprecedented security and stability by prohibiting insurance companies from refusing or dropping coverage due to medical history, capping out-of-pocket expenses, and banning caps on coverage, among other consumer protections.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
Each and every day in this country, Americans are grappling with health care premiums that are growing three times the rate of wages and insurance company policies that limit coverage and raise out-of-pocket costs. Thousands are losing their insurance coverage each day.
Without real reform, the burdens on America’s families and businesses will continue to multiply. We’ve had a vigorous debate about health insurance reform, and rightly so. This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I’m glad that so many are engaged.
But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.
So today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country.
Let’s start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform. That’s not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has never even been on the table. Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false. When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform. And as every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called “death panels” – an offensive notion to me and to the American people. These are phony claims meant to divide us.
And we’ve all heard the charge that reform will somehow bring about a government takeover of health care. I know that sounds scary to many folks. It sounds scary to me, too. But here’s the thing: it’s not true. I no sooner want government to get between you and your doctor than I want insurance companies to make arbitrary decisions about what medical care is best for you, as they do today. As I’ve said from the beginning, under the reform we seek, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.
Now, the source of a lot of these fears about government-run health care is confusion over what’s called the public option. This is one idea among many to provide more competition and choice, especially in the many places around the country where just one insurer thoroughly dominates the marketplace. This alternative would have to operate as any other insurer, on the basis of the premiums it collects. And let me repeat – it would be just an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan.
The insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea, or any that would promote greater competition. I get that. And I expect there will be a lot of discussion about it when Congress returns.
But this one aspect of the health care debate shouldn’t overshadow the other important steps we can and must take to reduce the increasing burdens families and businesses face.
So let me stress them again: If you don’t have insurance, you will finally have access to quality coverage you can afford. If you do have coverage, you will benefit from more security and more stability when it comes to your insurance. If you move, lose your job, or change jobs, you will not have to worry about losing health coverage. And we will set up tough consumer protections that will hold insurance companies accountable and stop them from exploiting you with unfair practices.
We’ll prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history. They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We’ll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick.
And we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives, and it will also save money over the long-run. Taken together, the reforms we’re seeking will help bring down skyrocketing costs, which will mean real savings for families, businesses, and government.
We know what a failure to act would bring: More of the same. More of the same exploding costs. More of the same diminished coverage. If we fail to act, the crisis will grow. More families will go without coverage. More businesses will be forced to drop or water down their plans.
So we can push off the day of reckoning and fail to deal with the flaws in the system, just as Washington has done, year after year, decade after decade. Or we can take steps that will provide every American family and business a measure of security and stability they lack today.
It has never been easy, moving this nation forward. There are always those who oppose it, and those who use fear to block change. But what has always distinguished America is that when all the arguments have been heard, and all the concerns have been voiced, and the time comes to do what must be done, we rise above our differences, grasp each others’ hands, and march forward as one nation and one people, some of us Democrats, some of us Republicans, all of us Americans.
This is our chance to march forward. I cannot promise you that the reforms we seek will be perfect or make a difference overnight. But I can promise you this: if we pass health insurance reform, we will look back many years from now and say, this was the moment we summoned what’s best in each of us to make life better for all of us. This was the moment when we built a health care system worthy of the nation and the people we love. This was the moment we earned our place alongside the greatest generations. And that is what our generation of Americans is called to do right now.
Is the picture below the face of a man? The IAAF Athletic Association seems to think so. Questions surrounding the gender of Caster Semenya, of South Africa, escalated with the female sprinter’s 800 meter World Title win at the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championship held in Berlin, Germany Wednesday.
Semenya’s father and coach rejected any such notion by telling reporters that his 18 year old “is my little girl…I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times.”
Ok. You make the call! LOL
It is truly frightening to watch the debate on universal health care reform every day on the news. Not only are there angry mob scenes, but also protesters against health care reform outfitted with pictures of President Obama scribbled over to look like Hitler and assault weapons.
The only things missing are the pitchforks and blazing torches!
Is there not a decent person in America that sees the danger in such antisocial behavior that actually perpetuates the same terroristic patterns that radical Muslim fundamentalists breed? The same patterns that led to 9/11 and the violence in the Middle East? When protesters show up at town hall meetings strapped all that says about America is that we are an ignorant, backwards society of people desperately in need of some form of reformation. How did a discussion turn into a gun show?
The question of universal health care has entire segements of the American public up in arms over a basic right and freedom that countries around the world envy the United States for: the pursuit of liberty, happiness, and justice for all. How is it just for select Americans to receive ultimate health care and those without means to suffer severely until these clog emergency rooms around the country, drive hospital costs sky high, and to pay for the uninsured, the costs are passed right on down to the consumer?
Those who are against universal health care reform need to think twice about the ramifications of allowing the very sick health insurance industry to putt along banking millions of tax payer dollars. The health insurance industry is a legalized racket, one of the last of its’ kind that sucks billions from Americans while paying out less and less for claims. Last years, the health insurance industry paid out top level management a surplus of almost eleven million fat ones. There are a couple of well-known health insurance CEO’s that have been paid in the double digits of millions for their services.
How is that possible? Insurance companies thrive off of denying legitimate claims to policy holders. How many stories have surfaced concerning big time insurance companies denying claims of those seeking cancer treatment, organ transplants, mediacl supplies, postpartum and senior medical assistance? Insurance companies hike co-pays on wellness visits, lab work, vaccinations, oxygen and diabetic supplies, nursing care and other important medical treatment?
It is really sad that there is a segement of the American population who would rather live their lives in the Dark Ages and want to force progressive Americans to do the same. Kinda reminds one of the Civil Rights Movement. To those who oppose universal health care:
Did you know that children in this country top those that are uninsured in America?
Did you also know that the five bills proposed by the House and Senate state nothing about “death panels?”
Did you know that if you contract certain rare cancers, a great deal of name brand insurance companies will not cover your treatment?