Barack Obama on Homeland Security

Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect

FactCheck: F-22 Raptor costs $140M and has never been used

Some claims that made our ears perk up actually checked out OK, like on Cold War Weapons: Obama criticized "Cold War weapons we don't use." That's a reference to the F-22 Raptor, a high-tech fighter plane that has been operational since 2005. It costs about $140 million per plane and has never been used in combat.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2009 State of the Union address Feb 24, 2009

Obama Doctrine: moral interest as well as national interest

Q: What is the Obama doctrine for use of force that the US would send when we don’t have national security issues at stake?

OBAMA: Well, we may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake. If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in? If we could’ve stopped Rwanda, surely, if we had the ability, that would be something that we would have to strongly consider and act. So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us.

And so I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible. But understand that there’s a lot of cruelty around the world. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to work in concert with our allies.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain Oct 7, 2008

Strategic issue is where to send & how to fund our troops

McCAIN: Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic & a strategy. Obama, who after promising not to vote to cut off funds for the troops, did the incredible thing of voting to cut off the funds for the troops.

OBAMA: McCain opposed funding for troops in legislation that had a timetable, because he didn’t believe in a timetable. I opposed funding a mission that had no timetable, and was open- ended, giving a blank check to George Bush. I understand the difference between tactics & strategy. And the strategic question that the president has to ask is not whether or not we are employing a particular approach in the country once we have made the decision to be there. The question is, was this wise? We have seen Afghanistan deteriorate. We need more troops there. We should end [the Iraq] war responsibly. We should do it in phases. In 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain Sep 26, 2008

Inappropriate to lie to public; just don’t answer questions

Q: Describe a situation when you think it’s appropriate to lie to the American people.

A: I don’t think it’s appropriate to lie to the American people. And I think that one of the things I want to change about the culture of Washington is, not just the “big lie,” but also the “soft lie.” The fudging, the manipulation, the spin. If we can restore a sense of trust between the American people and their government, we’re going to go a long way to changing the country for the better.

Q: What about in a national security situation?

A: I don’t think it’s appropriate to lie. I mean, you can put together a hypothetical where there is a national security emergency that is imminent. And you don’t want to provide, for example, the location of our troops. You don’t have to lie in those situations. You simply say, “we’re not answering questions.”

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Sep 23, 2008

Disrupting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan prevented another 9/11

Q: Why do you think there has not been another terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11?

A: Well, I think that the initial invasion into Afghanistan disrupted al Qaeda. And that was the right thing to do. I mean, we had to knock out those safe havens. And that, I think, weakened them. We did some work in strengthening our homeland security apparatus here. Obviously, the average person knows that when they go to the airport, because they are goin’ through taking off their shoes & all that.

Q: As president, how would you prevent another 9/11 from happening?

A: The problem is when we got distracted by Iraq. We gave al Qaeda time to reconstitute itself. My hope obviously is that we continue to prevent them from being able to move at all out of those safe havens. But our intelligence indicates the likelihood of a potential attack is significantly higher now. And that has been an enormous mistake that I intend to correct when I’m president.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Sep 17, 2008

Grandfather served in Patton's tank corps in WWII

With the onset of World War II, [Obama's grandfather] Stanley Dunham enlisted in the army and ended up slogging through Europe with General George Patton's tank corps without ever seeing real combat. [His wife, Obama's grandmother] Madelyn worked as a riveter at the Boeing Company's B-29 plant in Wichita. In Nov. 1942, their daughter, Ann Dunham, was born.

Stanley Dunham has been described as a kind of Willy Loman, the tragic, broken character in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. There are similarities. Returning from war and grasping the promise of the GI Bill, Stanley moved his young family to California, where he enrolled at the University of California-Berkeley. Obama would later recount kindly of his grandfather that "the classroom couldn't contain his ambitions, his restlessness, and so the family moved on." It was the pattern of a lifetime. There was first a return to Kansas and then years of one small Texas town after another, one dusty furniture store after another.

Source: The FAITH of Barack Obama, by Stephen Mansfield, chapter 1 Aug 5, 2008

Islam in 1970s was not opposed to West & rule of law

Q: Do you believe that Islamic extremism is the transcendent challenge of the 21st century?

A: I think the problems of terrorism and groups that are resisting modernity, whether because of their ethnic identities or religious identities, and the fact that they can be driven into extremist ideologies, is one of the severe threats that we face. I don’t think it’s the only threat that we face.

Q: But how do you view the problem within Islam? As somebody who saw it in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world?

A: When I lived in Indonesia, in the late ‘60s & early ‘70s, Indonesia was never the same culture as the Arab Middle East. The brand of Islam was always different.But around the world, there was not the sense that Islam was inherently opposed to the West, or inherently opposed to modern life, or inherently opposed to universal traditions like rule of law. And now in Indonesia, you see some of those extremist elements.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series on Zakaria’s GPS Jul 13, 2008

Go after al Qaeda but also shrink pool of potential recruits

The way we have to approach the problem of Islamic extremism, is we have to hunt down those who would resort to violence to move their ideology forward. We should be going after al Qaeda and those networks fiercely and effectively.

But what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits. And that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it, and making sure that we understand that not only are those in Islam who would resort to violence a tiny fraction of the Islamic world, but that also, the Islamic world itself is diverse.

And that lumping together Shia extremists with Sunni extremists, assuming that Persian culture is the same as Arab culture, that those kinds of errors in lumping Islam together result in us not only being less effective in hunting down and isolating terrorists, but also in alienating what need to be our long-term allies on a whole host of issues.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series on Zakaria’s GPS Jul 13, 2008

No torture; no renditions; no operating out of fear

Q: A disturbing Justice Department memo emerged saying that not even interrogation methods that “shock the conscience” would be considered torture nor would they be considered illegal if they had been authorized by the president. Comments?

A: We have to be clear and unequivocal. We do not torture, period. Our government does not torture. That should be our position. That will be my position as president. That includes renditions. We don’t farm out torture. We don’t subcontract torture. Torture does not end up yielding good information--most intelligence officers agree with that--but it is also important for our long-term security to send a message to the world that we will lead not just with our military might but we are going to lead with our values and our ideals. That we are not a nation that gives away our civil liberties simply because we’re scared. We’re always at our worst when we’re fearful. Fear is a bad counsel and I want to operate out of hope and out of faith.

Source: 2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008

Al Qaida is stronger now than in 2001 as Iraq distracted us

We are seeing Al Qaida stronger now than at any time since 2001. That is a significant threat that has to be dealt with. Because we have been distracted, we have ended up seeing a more dangerous situation, and so we are not--this is not just a matter of who is right and who is wrong about having gone to war or the surge. It’s also, how do we deal with the future threats? And as long as we’re bogged down in Iraq, we are not going to be able to deal with those future threats.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate Jan 21, 2008

Colleges must allow military recruiters for ROTC on campus

Q: Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs? A: Yes.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

No presidential power for secret surveillance

Q: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

A: The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

No holding US citizens as unlawful enemy combatants

Q: Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

A: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

Congress decides what constitutes torture, not president

Q: If Congress prohibits a specific interrogation technique, can the president instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

A: No. The President is not above the law, and not entitled to use techniques that Congress has specifically banned as torture. We must send a message to the world that America is a nation of laws, and a nation that stands against torture. As President I will abide by statutory prohibitions for all US Government personnel and contractors.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

No torture; defiance of FISA; no military commissions

Q: Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional?

A: I reject the view that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority. Some further points:

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

Restore habeas corpus to reach Muslims abroad

If you were a Muslim overseas listening to Rudy Giuliani say “they are coming here to try to kill you,” which is the tenor of many of the speeches that are delivered by Republicans, you would get an impression that they are not interested in talking and resolving issues peacefully. Now, what we need to do [to reach Muslims] is we need to close Guantanamo. We need to restore habeas corpus. We need to send a strong signal that we are going to talk directly to not just our friends but also to our enemies.
Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR Dec 13, 2007

Human rights and national security are complementary

Q: Is human rights more important than American national security?

A: The concepts are not contradictory, but complementary. Pakistan is a great example. We paid $10 billion over the last seven years & we had two goals: deal with terrorism and restore democracy. We’ve gotten neither. Pakistan’s democracy would strengthen our battle against extremists. The more we see repression, the more there are no outlets for how people can express themselves and their aspirations, the worse off we’re going to be, and the more anti-American sentiment there’s going to be in the Middle East. We keep on making this mistake. As president, I will make sure that nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of extremists, especially Al Qaida. If we simply prop up anti-democratic practices that feeds the sense that the US is only concerned about us and that our fates are not tied to these other folks. That’s going to make us less safe. That’s something I intend to change.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada Nov 15, 2007

Don’t allow our politics to be driven by fear of terrorism

A statement most Democrats will make only in progressive precincts, the one he couldn’t quite get out when asked what he would do if American cities were attacked: “The threat that we face now is nowhere near as dire as it was in the Cold War. We shouldn’t allow our politics to be driven by the fear of terrorism.”
Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p. 82 Nov 11, 2007

2006: Obama-Lugar bill restricted conventional weapons

Obama worked with Richard Lugar (R-IN) to pass legislation to help secure dangerous conventional weapons, especially from the former Soviet Union. In Dec. 2006, the Senate passed the Lugar-Obama bill to restrict the global spread of conventional weapons. Obama noted, “The Lugar-Obama initiative will help other nations find and eliminate the type of conventional weapons that have been used against our own soldiers in Iraq and sought by terrorists all over the world.”
Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.160 Oct 30, 2007

Judgment is as important as experience

The conservative magazine the Economist said, “Mr. Obama has already shown that he possesses something more important than expertise--judgment. His prediction about the Iraq war back in 2002 has proved strikingly prescient.” In 2002, Obama said: “I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.“ Everything Obama said five years ago has come true. As columnist Margaret Carlson noted, Obama ”was dead-on correct about the seminal issue of our time.“
Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 39 Oct 30, 2007

If attacked, first help victims then prevent further attacks

At the First Democratic debate on April 26, 2007, the moderator asked how would you change the US military stance overseas if we learned that two US cities were hit by al-Qaeda terrorists.

Obama responded, “Well, first thing we’d have to do is make sure that we’ve got an effective emergency response. The second thing is to make sure we’ve got good intelligence, A, to find out that we don’t have other threats and attacks potentially out there, and B, to find out do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.“

Later in the debate, Obama added, ”We have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down; networks have to be dismantled. There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military and, in some cases, lethal force to take out terrorists and, at the same time, building the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been lacking over the last six years.“

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 40-41 Oct 30, 2007

America cannot sanction torture; no loopholes or exceptions

America cannot sanction torture. It’s a very straightforward principle, and one that we should abide by. Now, I will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. And there are going to be all sorts of hypotheticals & emergency situations & I will make that judgment at that time. But what we cannot do is have the president state, as a matter of policy, that there is a loophole or an exception where we would sanction torture. I think that diminishes us and it sends the wrong message to the world.
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College Sep 6, 2007

Repeal Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell

Obama believes we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in consultation with military commanders. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure we accomplish our national defense goals.
Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007

2005: Passed bill to reduce conventional weapon stockpiles

Obama’s greatest legislative success was teaming with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana on a bill that expanded US cooperation to reduce stockpiles of conventional weapons and expanded the State Department’s ability to interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction. In the spring of 2005, Obama had traveled to Russia with Lugar to inspect nuclear weapons stockpiles.
Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.313 Aug 14, 2007

We are no safer now than we were after 9/11

Q: What do you think we’re not prepared for?

A: I don’t believe that we are safer now than we were after 9/11 because we have made a series of terrible decisions in our foreign policy. We went into Iraq, a war that we should have never authorized and should not have been waged. It has fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment. It has, more importantly, allowed us to neglect the situation in Afghanistan. We know right now that al Qaeda is hiding in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Close Guantanamo and restore the right of habeas corpus

Why don’t we close Guantanamo and restore the right of habeas corpus, because that’s how we lead, not with the might of our military, but the power of our ideals and the power of our values. It’s time to show the world we’re not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. We’re not a country that runs prisons which locks people away without ever telling them why they’re there or what they’re charged with. We’re not a country which preaches compassion to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of major American cities. That’s not who we are.

We’re America. We’re a nation that liberated a continent from a mad man, that lifted ourselves from the depths of depression, that won civil rights and women’s rights and voting rights for all our people. We’re the beacon that has led generations of weary travelers to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep. That’s who we are.

Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference Jun 19, 2007

Homeland security must protect citizens, not intrude on them

Every democracy is tested when it is faced with a serious threat. As a nation we have to find the right balance between privacy and security, between executive authority to face threats and uncontrolled power. What protects us are the procedures we put in place to protect that balance, namely judicial warrants and congressional review. These are concrete safeguards to make sure surveillance hasn’t gone too far.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 99 Mar 27, 2007

America must practice the patriotism it preaches

I think it is unconscionable for us to stand by our troops and hoist the flag and suggest how patriotic we are at the same time as the veterans’ budget is being effectively cut.

I’m going to monitor very closely how we are treating 100,000+ veterans wh are coming home, to make sure the VA has the capacity to provide transition services for veterans who are leaving the service and reentering civilian life--particularly the National Guardsman and Reservists who did not expect to be fighting in Iraq.

Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p.155 Mar 27, 2007

Personal privacy must be protected even in terrorism age

Americans fought a revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches, to ensure that our government couldn’t come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure that we [stop] terrorists while protecting the privacy and liberty of innocent Americans.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p.132 Mar 27, 2007

Get first responders the healthcare and equipment they need

It is a noble calling what you do [as firefighters]. You know that. I know that. This country knows that. But sometimes Washington forgets. They praise your work. But when it’s time for you to get health care or buy the radios and equipment you need, those supporters disappear like a puff of smoke.

Instead of making your job easier, they tried to cut funding so that you couldn’t buy the masks and suits you need. They wanted to stop the hiring of 75,000 new firefighters. They wanted to hide the US Fire Administration under layers of bureaucracy at Homeland Security. And 5 years after September 11th, they still won’t give our first responders the health care they earned that day.

What keeps Washington from doing all that it needs to do to better protect our firefighters, police officers, and EMT’s--it’s not a lack of ideas and solutions that’s holding us back. It is the smallness of our politics.

Source: 2007 IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington DC Mar 14, 2007

Need to be both strong and smart on national defense

Obama takes an unexceptional position on defense spending, i.e., we need to be strong but we need to be smart about it. However, some papers reported the story as “Obama chides other Democrats on defense.” Of course, it is not true. The rumor got started that way, in the lead of an AP article on Obama’s Sept. 18 speech to Iowa Democrats. Six other articles reporting on the same event failed to mention the mythical attack on other Democrats.
Source: Should Barack Obama be President, by F. Zimmerman, p. 50 Oct 17, 2006

Grow size of military to maintain rotation schedules

Our most complex military challenge will involve putting boots on the ground in the ungoverned or hostile regions where terrorists thrive. That requires a smarter balance between what we spend on fancy hardware and what we spend on our men and women in uniform. That should mean growing the size of our armed forces to maintain reasonable rotation schedules, keeping our troops properly equipped, and training them in the skills they’ll need to succeed in increasingly complex and difficult missions.
Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.307 Oct 1, 2006

Battling terrorism must go beyond belligerence vs. isolation

We know that the battle against terrorism is at once an armed struggle and a contest of ideas, that our long-term security depends on a judicious projection of military power and increased cooperation with other nations, and that addressing the problems of global poverty and failed states is vital to our nation’s interests rather than just a matter of charity. But follow most of our foreign policy debates, and you might believe that we have only two choices--belligerence or isolationism.
Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 23 Oct 1, 2006

Going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan is not Bush-style invasion

Q: You stand by your statement that you would go into western Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after al Qaeda, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed. Isn’t that essentially the Bush doctrine? We can attack if we want to, no matter the sovereignty of the Pakistanis?

A: No, that is not the same thing, because here we have a situation where Al Qaida, a sworn enemy of the United States, that killed 3,000 Americans and is currently plotting to do the same, is in the territory of Pakistan. We know that. And this is not speculation. This is not a situation where we anticipate a possible threat in the future. And my job as commander in chief will be to make sure that we strike anybody who would do America harm when we have actionable intelligence do to that.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

We are currently inspecting 3% of all incoming cargo

Q: Name a key vulnerability or weakness that you see in homeland security.

A: Our inspections of ports. We are currently inspecting 3% of all incoming cargo. Terrorists could load up a cargo container and drive it straight into the middle of the Loop without significant risk of them being inspected. Our chemical and nuclear plants are still unsecured, despite how vulnerable they are. There are a whole host of domestic priorities that have been neglected by the Bush administration.

Source: IL Senate Debate Oct 26, 2004

Balance domestic intelligence reform with civil liberty risk

[The US should] strengthen and improve intelligence capabilities. We must reform our domestic intelligence capabilities in a manner that balances the risks of impeding on the civil liberties of our citizens and increase international cooperation on all fronts. We should also give the Director of Intelligence the authority he or she needs over budget and personnel to be effective and accountable.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” Jul 12, 2004

Give our soldiers the best equipment and training available

[The US should] prepare our military to meet the new threats of the 21st century. We must prepare our military to meet the new threats of the 21st century by making sure that we have sufficient forces and by giving our soldiers the best equipment and training available. We must also ensure that members of our National Guard and reservists have access to affordable, quality health care.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” Jul 12, 2004

Barack Obama on National Service

Serving America doesn’t mean going out shopping

Q: As president, what sacrifices will you ask every American to make, to get out of the economic morass that we’re now in?

OBAMA: A lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11 and how all of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer, but to make us a better country and a more unified country. And President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, “Go out and shop.“ That wasn’t the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for.

I think the young people of America are especially interested in how they can serve, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in doubling the Peac Corps, making sure that we are creating a volunteer corps all across this country that can be involved in their community, involved in military service, so that our troops are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain Oct 7, 2008

$4,000 tuition tax credit in exchange for community service

Our commitment to education cannot end with a high school degree. The chance to get a college education must not be a privilege of the few--it should be a birthright of every single American. Senator McCain is campaigning on a plan to give more tax breaks to corporations. I want to give tax breaks to young people, in the form of an annual $4,000 tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at an average public college, and make community college completely free. In return, I will ask students to serve, whether it’s by teaching, joining the Peace Corps, or working in your community. And for those who serve in our military, we’ll cover all of your tuition with an even more generous 21st Century GI Bill. The idea is simple--America invests in you, and you invest in America. That’s how we’re going to ensure that America succeeds in this century.
Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.251 Jun 15, 2008

Expand Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to 266,000 slots

Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 45-46 Feb 2, 2008

Put forward a national service program

The volunteer Army is a way for us to maintain excellence. If we are deploying our military wisely, then a voluntary army is sufficient, although I would call for an increase in our force structure, particularly around the Army and the Marines, because we’ve got to put an end to people going on three, four, five tours of duty and the strain on families is enormous. The obligation to serve exists for everybody. That’s why I’ve put forward a national service program that is tied to my tuition credit for students who want to go to college. You get $4000 every year to help you go to college. In return, you have to engage in some form of national service. Military service has to be an option. We have to have civilian options as well. Not just the Peace Corps, but one of the things that we need desperately are people in our foreign service speaking foreign languages in a lot of work that may not be hand-to-hand combat but just as critical in ensuring our long-term safety & security.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

Give 18-year-old women opportunity to serve

Q: Teenage boys must register for selective service at age 18, but not girls. I’m wondering whether this sends the right message about national service?

DODD: I don’t see a need for the draft. I don’t believe that is necessary. But if you are going to have one I think it ought to be gender neutral.

Q: If it did not necessarily mean military service, should the country examine registering women at 18?


EDWARDS: Yes. But it’s absolutely crucial that we ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. As with John Kennedy’s call to action, I think we need a president who asks Americans to sacrifice.

KUCINICH: We have to say no to a draft.

BIDEN: Yes ,and there should be universal service.

OBAMA: Yes. Every young person should have that opportunity to serve and do something that is bigger than themselves.

RICHARDSON: Yes. And I outlined a plan two years of college tuition paid off by the government, one year of national service

Source: 2007 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum Dec 1, 2007

Register women for draft, but not for combat

Q: Do you think women should register for selective service when they turn 18 like men do currently?

A: You know, a while back we had a celebration in the Capitol for the Tuskegee Airmen, and it was extraordinarily powerful because it reminded us, there was a time when African-Americans weren’t allowed to serve in combat. And yet, when they did, not only did they perform brilliantly, but what also happened is they helped to change America, and they helped to underscore that we’re equal. And I think that if women are registered for service--not necessarily in combat roles, and I don’t agree with the draft-- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they’ve got obligations to this great country as well as boys do.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

Barack Obama on Nuclear Weapons

Goal is a world without nuclear weapons

Without any introduction, Obama begins, "I am the only major candidate to oppose this war from the beginning and, as president, I will end it.

"Second," he continues, "I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems and I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.

"Third," he says, without pausing, "I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons. I will seek a ban on the production of fissile materials. And I will negotiate with Russia to take ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals."

Source: Obama Nation, by Jerome Corsi, p. 1-2 Aug 1, 2008

A New Beginning: seek world with no nuclear weapons

On Oct. 2, 2007, Obama declared, "A New Beginning," announcing, "America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons." Obama made clear he did not intend to pursue unilateral disarmament. He promised to work with Russia "to take US & Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert."

"We'll start by seeking a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons." Obama stated we would set a goal to expand the US-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so the agreement is global

Obama argued, "We'll be in a better position to lead the world in enforcing the rules of the road if we firmly abide by those rules." This is truly the crux of Obama's argument: because we do not demonstrate moral leadership, other nations have no choice but to proliferate nuclear weapons. At the base of the argument, Obama is saying a world with nuclear weapons is our fault. "It's time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse," he said. "It's time for America to lead."

Source: Obama Nation, by Jerome Corsi, p.261-262 Aug 1, 2008

Seek the peace of a world without nuclear weapons

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The Cold War superpowers came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the furthe spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
Source: Speech in Berlin, in Change We Can Believe In, p.267-8 Jul 24, 2008

2007: With Hagel, introduced nuclear nonproliferation bill

We must once again convince the world that America has the clear intention of fulfilling the nuclear disarmament commitments that we have made. Building a new global nuclear consensus is the only way to achieve lasting solutions to challenges such as Iran's nuclear ambition.

Last summer, Senator Barack Obama and I introduced comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation legislation. Among other things, our bill would provide funding for an international fuel bank that would be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This fuel bank has the potential to be a critical mechanism to help reduce the demand for sensitive nuclear technologies that could be used to produce nuclear weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Our bill would also provide funding to enable the United States to work with other countries to develop the technology to identify sources of nuclear material. If Iran's nuclear intentions prove to be peaceful, as its leaders claim, this bill can put that to the test.

Source: Our Next Chapter, by Chuck Hagel, p. 92-93 Mar 25, 2008

Pursue goal of a world without nuclear weapons

Obama will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But he will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons. He will stop th development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and expand globally the US-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles.
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 50-55 Feb 2, 2008

Rebuild a nuclear nonproliferation strategy

I’ve worked on nuclear proliferation in the Senate, to improve interdiction of potentially nuclear materials. It is important for us to rebuild a nuclear nonproliferation strategy, something that this administration has ignored, and has made us less safe as a consequence. It would not cost us that much, for example, and would take about four years for us to lock down the loose nuclear weapons that are still floating out there, and we have not done the job.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2008

Protecting nuclear power plants is of utmost importance

We have utterly failed to deal with what may be one of the most significant potential terror threats to this country, and that is how we protect our chemical plants across the nation. These plants are stationary weapons of mass destruction spread across the country. Their security is light, their facilities are easily entered, and their contents are deadly.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p.160 Mar 27, 2007

Rebuild the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

We would obviously have to retaliate against anybody who struck American soil, whether it was nuclear or not. It would be a much more profound issue if it were nuclear weapons. That’s why it’s so important for us to rebuild the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has fallen apart under this administration. We have not made a commitment to work with the Russians to reduce our own nuclear stockpiles. That has weakened our capacity to pressure other countries to give up nuclear technology. We have not locked down the loose nuclear weapons that are out there right now. These are all things that we should be taking leadership on. Part of what we need to do in changing our foreign policy is not just end the war in Iraq; we have to change the mindset that ignores long-term threats and engages in the sorts of actions that are not making us safe over the long term.
Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic primary debate Jan 6, 2006

Increase funding to decommission Russian nukes

More than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia still has more nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons and enough nuclear material to produce 50,000 more. At the current rate of spending, it will take 13 years to secure all the potential bomb material from the old Soviet Republic. We should increase funding to do it in four years. We must also strengthen the existing Non-Proliferation Treaty, and lead in the efforts to prevent countries with the proven capability to build WMDs from doing so.
Source: Press Release, “Renewal of American Leadership ” Jul 12, 2004

Barack Obama on Veterans

Unacceptable to have veterans drive 250 miles to a hospital

The incredible burden that has been placed on the American people, starting with military families, and the fact that we still are not doing right by our veterans, that we still don’t honor their service, that there are still homeless veterans, that we still don’t screen properly for post-traumatic stress disorder and make sure that they’re getting mental services that they need, that we are still having veterans in south Texas have to drive 250 miles to access a veterans hospital. That’s unacceptable.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

Improve veterans’ mental health treatment & PTSD benefits

Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 56-57 Feb 2, 2008

Support veterans via the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act

Following reports of neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Obama introduced the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act. The bill improves the condition of troop housing, streamlines the process for seeking care, provides greater information to recovering servicemembers, requires the hiring of more caseworkers, and provides more support to family members who care for injured troops:
Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007

Address the deficiencies in the VA system

We don’t have a full-service VA system, so a lot of troops that have been injured are having to travel elsewhere, and that’s something that we have to address. There are important efficiencies that we can obtain by having a VA hospital system; for example, prescription drugs. But we have to have a VA that serves everybody. In some rural communities that the veterans don’t have access to the services needed, we’ve got to make sure that they do have the option for a private hospital that is close by
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College Jun 3, 2007

The cost of the Iraq war should not shortchange VA benefits

We tried to tell the Bush administration you need an additional $2 billion to provide services to troops who are coming home. They said no. Everything’s covered. Six months through, they had to come back and say, it turns out we did need it after all. Part of the reason is because they have been trying to keep the costs down of this war and have not fully factored in the sacred obligation that we have to make sure that every single veteran has the services that they need.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College Jun 3, 2007

Make sure the outpatient facilities work for veterans

I visited Walter Reed repeatedly. Typically what would happen is we would go to visit troops in the medical facility, and people will acknowledge that the medical facility at Walter Reed does great work. Unfortunately, it turned out that the outpatient facilities were disastrous. That’s why we now have legislation to make sure not only that we’re just painting over some of the mold in there, but also making it easier for families & veterans to negotiate the system once they’re outpatients.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College Jun 3, 2007

Comprehensive plan for our veterans healthcare

Washington says that they support the troops. They give long speeches about valor and sacrifice. But when it comes time to sending our troops into battle with the proper equipment and ensure that veterans have what they need when they get home, they don’t do anything except slap a yellow ribbon on the back of their SUV. That’s how come our men and women have to use scrap metal to protect their Humvees.

Our veterans end up living among mice and mold. They stare at stacks of paperwork. They thought they left the frontline in Iraq but they came home to a new frontline of red tape and bureaucracy.

This is unacceptable. When our veterans come home, I don’t want them crawling around a dumpster for a meal or a box for shelter. I don’t want them drowning in whiskey to silence the PTSD. I don’t want that for our veterans. We know they deserve more.

So let’s make a promise today--and say that, right here and right now, is when we begin to put together a comprehensive plan for our veterans.

Source: 2007 IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington DC Mar 14, 2007

Barack Obama on Voting Record

FactCheck: Promised to repeal Patriot Act, then voted for it

Clinton took direct aim at Obama and connects fairly solidly: “You said you would vote against the Patriot Act; you came to the Senate, you voted for it.” Clinton is correct to say that Obama opposed the Patriot Act during his run for the Senate. She’s relying on a 2003 Illinois National Organization for Women questionnaire in which Obama wrote that he would vote to “repeal the Patriot Act” or replace it with a “new, carefully crafted proposal.” When it came time to reauthorize the law in 2005, though, Obama voted in favor of it. He started out opposing it: In Dec. 2005, Obama voted against ending debate--a position equivalent to declaring a lack of support for the measure. Then in February of that year, Obama said on the floor that he would support th Patriot Act’s reauthorization. In March 2006, Obama both voted for cloture and for the Patriot Act reauthorization conference report.

Clinton, by the way, followed exactly the same path on the 2005 bill, from speaking in opposition to voting for it.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Democratic debate Jan 5, 2008

Wrote law to secure & destroy world’s deadliest weapons

I’ve worked with GOP Sen. Dick Lugar to pass a law that will secure and destroy some of the world’s deadliest, unguarded weapons. We can work together to track terrorists down with a stronger military, we can tighten the net around their finances, and w can improve our intelligence capabilities. But let us also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will come only by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions around the globe.
Source: Speech in Springfield, in Change We Can Believe In, p.199 Feb 10, 2007

Voted NO on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad.

Vote on passage of S.1927, the Protect America Act: Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of "electronic surveillance" should encompass surveillance directed at any person reasonably believed to be located outside the US.

A modified version, S.2011, failed; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.

Reference: Protect America Act; Bill S.1927 ; vote number 2007-309 on Aug 3, 2007

Voted YES on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months.

Vote on an amendment, SA2032, which amends HR1585, the Defense Authorization bill: To limit the deployment of a unit or individual of the Armed Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to no more than 12 consecutive months; and to limit Marine Corps deployment to no more than 7 consecutive months; except in time of national emergency.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.

Reference: Hagel Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill; Bill SA2032 to HR1585 ; vote number 2007-243 on Jul 11, 2007

Voted YES on implementing the 9/11 Commission report.

Vote on passage of a bill to implement unfinished recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) to fight the war on terror more effectively:

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

One of the authors of the 9/11 Commission report said, the President's announced strategy should be given a chance to succeed. That is what I think we should do, give this plan a chance to succeed. Our troops in theater, our commanders, and the Iraqi leaders all believe they can see early signs of success in this program, even though it has just begun, and they are cautiously optimistic that it can succeed. I think it would be unconscionable for the Congress, seeing the beginnings of success here, to then act in any way that would pull the rug out from under our troops and make it impossible for them to achieve their mission.

Reference: Improving America's Security Act; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 2007-073 on Mar 13, 2007

Voted YES on preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.

Sen. Specter's amendment would strike the provision regarding habeas review. The underlying bill authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. Excerpts from the Senate floor debate:

Sen. GRAHAM [recommending NO]: The fundamental question for the Senate to answer when it comes to determining enemy combatant status is, Who should make that determination? Should that be a military decision or should it be a judicial decision? That is something our military should do.

Sen. SPECTER [recommending YES]: My amendment would retain the constitutional right of habeas corpus for people detained at Guantanamo. The right of habeas corpus was established in the Magna Carta in 1215 when, in England, there was action taken against King John to establish a procedure to prevent illegal detention. What the bill seeks to do is to set back basic rights by some 900 years. This amendment would strike that provision and make certain that the constitutional right of habeas corpus is maintained.

GRAHAM: Do we really want enemy prisoners to bring every lawsuit known to man against the people fighting the war and protecting us? No enemy prisoner should have access to Federal courts--a noncitizen, enemy combatant terrorist--to bring a lawsuit against those fighting on our behalf. No judge should have the ability to make a decision that has been historically reserved to the military. That does not make us safer.

SPECTER: The US Constitution states that "Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." We do not have either rebellion or invasion, so it is a little hard for me to see, as a basic principle of constitutional law, how the Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court does say in the next round of legal appeals there is a constitutional right to habeas corpus by those detained at Guantanamo Bay, then Sen. Specter is absolutely right.

Reference: Specter Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5087 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-255 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on requiring CIA reports on detainees & interrogation methods.

Amendment to provide for congressional oversight of certain Central Intelligence Agency programs. The underlying bill S. 3930 authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. The amendment requires quarterly reports describing all CIA detention facilities; the name of each detainee; their suspected activities; & each interrogation technique authorized for use and guidelines on the use of each such technique.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I question the need for a very lengthy, detailed report every 3 months. We will probably see those reports leaked to the press.

This amendment would spread out for the world--and especially for al-Qaida and its related organizations--precisely what interrogation techniques are going to be used.

If we lay out, in an unclassified version, a description of the techniques by the Attorney General, that description will be in al-Qaida and Hezbollah and all of the other terrorist organizations' playbook. They will train their assets that: This is what you must be expected to do, and Allah wants you to resist these techniques.

We are passing this bill so that we can detain people. If we catch someone like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we have no way to hold him, no way to ask him the questions and get the information we need, because the uncertainty has brought the program to a close. It is vitally important to our security, and unfortunately this amendment would imperil it.

Reference: Rockefeller Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5095 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-256 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.

This vote reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act with some modifications (amendments). Voting YEA extends the PATRIOT Act, and voting NAY would phase it out. The official summary of the bill is:
A bill to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes.