September 19, 2019
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President Obama Participates in a Fireside Hangout on Google+


President Roosevelt:
My fellow Americans. I seek to look beyond the
doors of the White House, into the hopes and fears of
men and women in their homes. ♪♪ (music playing) ♪♪ Our capacity is limited only by
our ability to work together. I am determined to do my share. Now, it is your turn. Steve Grove:
Hello, everyone, my
name is Steve Grove, and I’m on the Community
Partnerships team here for Google Plus in Mountain
View, California. I’d like to welcome you to a
very special Fireside Hangout with President Obama. You heard the voice of Franklin
Roosevelt there from his famous Fireside Chats of
the 1930s and ’40s. Well, this is a new tradition
we’ve established with the President, a Fireside Hangout. This is actually the fourth
year in a row that we’ve had the chance to sit down with the
President after his State of the Union speech to hear his
answers to your questions, both on YouTube and
here on Google Plus. Perhaps fittingly, the President
is coming to us this year from the Roosevelt Room
of the White House. Mr. President, welcome
to Google Plus. The President:
It’s great to
talk to you, Steve. I have to admit, though, we
do not have a fire going in the Roosevelt Room right now. Steve Grove:
You don’t. Well, maybe we can white
one up a little bit later. You know, we also are joined
by five Americans here, all that watched the
State of the Union speech, and are looking forward
to hang out with you. Let’s meet everybody. First we’re going to
hear from Lee Doren. He is in Arlington, Virginia. Lee is a conservative online
blogger and GOP strategist, his popular YouTube channel is
called “How the World Works.” Lee Doren:
Hi, Mr. President. The President:
How are you, Steve. Steve Grove:
Next, we have John Green. John is the co-creator with his
brother Hank of the popular Flog Brothers Channel on YouTube. John is also a number one New
York Times best-selling author, and is coming to us from
Indianapolis, Indiana. John Green:
Hi, Mr. President. The President:
Hi, John. Steve Grove:
We also have Limor Fried. Limor is an entrepreneur
and CEO of Adafruit, an electronics manufacturing
education company in New York City. Limor Fried:
Hi, Mr. President. The President:
How are you? Limor Fried:
Good. Steve Grove:
Next to Limor,
we have Kira Davis. Kira is a conservative online
video blogger and a proud stay-at-home mom of two in
Orange County, California. Kira Davis:
Hi, Mr. President, it’s great
to hang out with you today. The President:
I’m looking forward to it. Steve Grove:
And finally, joining
us from Los Angeles is Jacky Guerrero. Jacky is the founder
of “My Culture,” an online website that
is devoted to LGBT and Latino issues. Jacky Guerrero:
Hi, Mr. President. The President:
Hi, Jacky, how are you. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, our team
here at Google Plus selected these participants to represent
a diverse set of perspectives, and also because they have
connected to their online communities, who have
helped them think through their questions today. I assure our viewers that
neither the President nor anyone at the White House have seen
these questions ahead of time. So let’s get started. Mr. President, let’s start with
an issue that you actually ended your State of the Union
on: Reducing gun violence. And let’s start with Kira. Kira Davis:
Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so much. One of your solutions to
keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of bad
people is to propose a ban on so-called assault rifles. However, according to
the FBI’s own statistics, the majority of death by
gun in this country is perpetrated by handguns. Do you think we
should ban handguns? The President:
Well, I actually don’t
think we should ban handguns, but keep in mind that
what we’re trying to do is to come up with a package
that protects Second Amendment rights, but also makes a
meaningful difference in reducing violence. We’re not going to
eliminate it completely. And so the package that we’ve
put forward will have an impact on handguns by instituting
a universal background check system to make sure that people
can’t — who shouldn’t have any kind of gun, aren’t able
to go in and purchase them, whether they’re at a gun show
or in a store because somebody’s not doing the checks
that they need. We’re talking about making sure
that we crack down on straw purchasers, people who go into
a store, buy a bunch of guns, and then turn around immediately
and dump them in the hands of people who shouldn’t get them. Those things will have an
impact on handgun violence. When it comes to assault weapons
and these high, you know, high-capacity magazine clips,
the concern is, for example, in Aurora, when a young person
can go in to a theater and shoot off a hundred rounds
in less than a minute. The potential for large-scale
fatalities are increased, and these are weapons of war. They’re generally
not used for hunting, they’re not used for the kinds
of things that we would think sportsmen or hunters or people
who are just looking to protect their homes are trying
to use them for. And so for us to restrict some
of those high-capacity magazines and some of those weapons
that really belong in the war theater, that probably
can save some lives. It’s not going to
solve every problem, but it can be a meaningful part
of an overall effort to reduce gun violence in our country. Lee Doren:
Mr. President, in response to
the question that Kira just had regarding guns, Vice
President Biden has said that people have nothing to
worry about in terms of the government coming to
take away their guns. The President:
Right. Lee Doren:
But if people own guns
that are currently legal and the government passes a
law to make those guns illegal, isn’t that exactly
what you’d be doing? The President:
Well, no, look. You know, I think that people
are going to be able to buy all kinds of guns and use them
legally for protection, for sport, for hunting. What we’re saying is there may
be a small category of weapons that we think really can
drastically increase the incidence of gun violence and we
already have some restrictions. I mean, we can’t purchase a
grenade launcher from a store, although there may be some
folks who want to buy those. And the reason is we
think that on balance, the Second Amendment does not
automatically assume that any weapon that’s available you
can automatically purchase. And so this is a package
that we’re seeing some bipartisan support for. What I said was that I
recognize there’s a lot of passions on this issue. That people in rural
communities, for example, feel differently about
these issues than folks in urban communities. And we’ve got to be respectful
of regional differences, but there are some common sense
steps that we can take right now to reduce gun violence. And my hope and expectation
is that Congress actually puts these to a vote and will
have a vigorous debate about all these issues. But, you know, I can tell you
that having visited Newtown and visited with those parents just
a couple of days after this horrific incident, anybody who
talked to those parents or the siblings of those who were
killed would say we’ve got to crack down and do something to
prevent this kind of violence, even if we’re reducing the
odds that it’s going to happen, you know, just a bit, and saving
a few lives, it’s well worth it. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, let’s
transition to the economy next and go to one of the
top voted YouTube questions that was submitted. This one come from
Marques Brownlee. Let’s watch. Marques Brownlee:
Hi, Mr. President. My name is Marques, and I’m
a student in New Jersey. While I saw your recent proposal
to adjust the minimum wage in the United States, that’s good
news for students like me, but could be bad news for
businesses in the U.S. with their increased expenses. So my question to you was what
were your plans to keep high tech businesses and jobs in
the United States when other countries don’t have
the same restrictions. The President:
Well, first of all, I think it’s
important to recognize that our overall strategy has to
be to attract new jobs and manufacturing back
into the United States. And so I laid out a
whole range of proposals. Changing our tax code so we’re
incentivizing our companies to stay here instead
of moving overseas. Making sure that we’re creating
hubs of advanced manufacturing here in the United States. We’ve got models where we’re
already seeing that happen. Making sure that we’re training
our workforce for the jobs that exist right now. That can have a huge impact. So there are a wide range of
efforts that we’ve got to move forward on to ensure that this
is the best place to do business in the world. Now, when it comes
to the minimum wage, what we’ve seen is that most
studies indicate that in fact it does not have a big
impact on employment, but it does have a big impact on
a portion of our workforce that works full time but right
now is still in poverty. Even if they’re working
40 hours a week, they are still making less
than is required to get above the poverty line. And, you know, the truth is is
that the purchaser power for the minimum wage is still
significantly lower than it was back in the ’80s. And what we would do would be
able to set that mark and then index it so that the purchasing
power from a minimum wage does not continually decline
every time there’s inflation. This, by the way, was an idea
that wasn’t just proposed by me, it was also proposed by
Mr. Romney during the presidential campaign. I don’t think people would
suggest that somehow he wanted to be tough on business. But what we’ve seen generally
over the last 20 years is that increases in productivity in
our economy are helping a lot of folks at the top, less folks
in the middle and at the bottom. And wages and incomes have not
gone up even as productivity and the profits from productive
have gone sky high. And there are a lot of countries
that are competing very well. Some of our toughest
competitors, countries like
Germany, for example, who in fact have seen greater
wage and income growth. This is just one portion of
our efforts to make sure that workers are also benefiting
from the hard work that we’re all doing. Kira Davis: Mr.
President, if I may jump in,
I am curious about what the minimum wage will do to just
regular people — the minimum wage, raising it will do
to regular people like me. I’ve been in a situation where
minimum wage has been raised and I’ve had to let go two employees
from a nonprofit because we just couldn’t afford
the wages anymore. But as a mom I worry
about, you know, how that’s going to affect the
bottom line when I go to the grocery store, you know, when
I go to get that Starbucks in the morning after dropping
my kids off at school or at the gas pump. You know, how will the minimum
wage affect what I buy day to day as companies are having
to raise their prices to accommodate the minimum wage? That concerns me, you know,
as just a regular mom. The President:
Well, I guess I’d
make two points, Kira. First of all, the fact of the
matter is corporate profits are at record highs, right? So what’s happening right now is
not that corporations and most companies would be somehow
obliged to go out of business because they’re providing a
little higher wage to minimum wage workers. It might have some modest
impact on their profits, but, the fact of the
matter is, you know, if we’re going to have a society
in which we’ve got broad-based prosperity, those same
businesses also have to worry about do customers
have money in their pockets. You know, Henry Ford, when
people asked him why is it that you’re giving these big raises
to your assembly workers, he said the only way I’m going
to be able to sell enough of my product, these cars, is to make
sure that the people who are building them can actually
afford to buy one. And what’s always made
America’s economy stand out, what’s driven its growth, is the
fact that we’ve built this big, thriving middle class. We don’t just have a bunch of
folks at the bottom who are scraping by and then a few
folks at the top who are doing incredibly well. And so what we want to do is
just make sure that if you work hard in this society, that
you’ve got a living wage. Nobody’s going to be
getting rich on $9 an hour. They’re still going
to be struggling. But it could make the difference
between whether they can afford to buy groceries or whether
or not they are going to a food bank. And my suspicion is that you’ll
still be able to get your Starbucks as a consequence. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, we’re
going to go to John Green next, who has a question that
was actually also the number one voted question in the
economy section on YouTube. John? John Green:
Hi, Mr. President. So almost all economists
agree that we should stop minting pennies. In addition to costing
more than a penny to mint, they’re really economically
inefficient because they don’t work as currency. I mean, you can’t even use
them in public tollbooths. This is a pet issue
of mine, I guess. I know it’s a small issue. We’re talking about maybe
saving the federal government $100 million over the
course of ten years, but it’s also really obvious. Australia, Canada, New Zealand,
many other countries have gotten rid of their pennies and they
haven’t seen prices rise, and it hasn’t been
an issue at all. It’s a really obvious thing. It’s not a particularly
interesting or partisan thing, but it’s really obvious. So my question to you is
why haven’t we done it? The President:
You know, I’ve got to tell
you, John, I don’t know. It’s one of those things where
I think people get attached emotionally to the
way things have been. All right, and we all remember,
at least those of us a certain age — some of you are a
lot younger than me — but, we remember our piggy
banks and, you know, counting up all our pennies
and then taking them in and, you know, getting a dollar bill
or a couple dollars from them. And maybe that’s the reason
why people haven’t gotten around to it. I will tell you
that you’re right. This is not going to be a
huge savings for government. But any time we’re spending more
money on something that people don’t actually use, that’s an
example of something we should probably change. And one of the things that you
see chronically in government is it’s very hard to get rid
of things that don’t work so that we can then invest
in the things that do. And the penny ends
up being, I think, a good metaphor for some of the
larger problems that we’ve got. I’ll give you an example. We have probably 16 different
agencies dealing with businesses, small business,
large business, exports, domestic, lending, marketing,
all kinds of stuff that we do. A lot of those services
are really good. But they’re in a bunch
of different agencies, and so the average
small business person, a lot of times has no idea
where to go and how to access this help that could help them
build their small business or help them sell overseas. What I’ve said to Congress
is give me the authority to reorganize agencies that were
designed back in the 1930s for a 21st century economy. And we’ll have one agency
that deals with all kinds of business issues. It will streamline our
operations, reduce overhead, make us more customer friendly. And the problem and the reason
that we can’t do it is Congress hasn’t given me the authority,
in part because the way Congress works is that committee
jurisdictions are spread out matching these various agencies. And so there may be some members
of Congress that say, well, I don’t want to give up this
little piece of leverage that I’ve got over a
particular agency, even though it’s not efficient. So we’re constantly trying to
reduce these inefficiencies. We’ve made some progress,
eliminating paperwork, going back and looking at
regulations that don’t work, et cetera. Everything that we can
do administratively, we are prepared to do. But the penny is an example
of something that I need legislation for, and frankly,
given all the big issues that we have to deal with
day in and day out, a lot of times it just
doesn’t, you know, we’re not able to get to it. Steve Grove:
We haven’t heard from Limor yet. Let’s go to Limor
in New York City. Limor Fried:
Hi there. On the topic of legislation,
I’m an entrepreneur, and I think start-ups are an
important engine of the American economy, but when I go around
and talk to other entrepreneurs, what I hear is they’re worried
that if they become successful they’re going to be targeted
by software patent trolls. These are firms that collect
software patents just for the purpose of litigation
and, you know, getting money out of small
companies that can’t afford patent defense. They’re expensive. So I know you’ve made a lot
of progress on patent reform, but I’m wondering what are you
planning to do to eliminate the abuses of software patents? For example, would you be
supportive of limiting software patents to only five years long? The President:
Well, I think it’s
a great question, and you’re right. A couple of years ago we began
the process of patent reform. We actually passed some
legislation that made progress on some of these
issues, but it hasn’t captured all the problems. And the folks that
you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce
anything themselves, they’re just trying to
essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea
and see if they can extort some money out of them. And, you know, sometimes
these things are challenging, because we also want to make
sure that the patents are long enough that, you know,
people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with
making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced. And, but I do think that our
efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to
where we need to go. And what we need to do is
pull together, you know, additional stakeholders, and see
if we can build some additional consensus on some
smarter patent laws. This is true, by the way, across
the board when it comes to high tech issues. The technology’s
changing so fast, we want to protect privacy, we
want to protect people’s civil liberties, we want to make
sure the internet stays open. And I’m an ardent believer
that what’s powerful about the internet is its openness and the
capacity for people to get out there and just introduce a new
idea with low barriers to entry. We also want to make
sure that, you know, people’s intellectual
property is protected. And whether it’s, you know, how
we’re dealing with copyright, how we’re dealing with patents,
how we’re dealing with piracy issues, what we’ve tried to
do is to be an honest broker between the various
stakeholders, and to continue to refine
it, hopefully keeping up with the technology. Which doesn’t mean that there
aren’t occasionally going to be some problems that we
still haven’t identified, and we have to keep
on working on them. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, another
major economic issue is, of course, immigration, and
that’s something that you’ve spent a lot of time
talking about lately. It’s also something that Jacky
Guerrero’s been thinking a lot about out in Los Angeles. Let’s go to Jacky. Jacky Guerrero:
Hi, Mr. President. Your administration has deported
a record high number of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants,
more than your predecessor, and I know your administration
took some steps last year to protect unintended undocumented
immigrants from being deported. However, many people say that
those efforts weren’t enough. What I’d like to know is what
you’re going to do now until the time immigration reform
is passed to ensure that more people are not being
deported and families aren’t being broken apart. The President:
Well, look, Jacky, this is
something that I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is is
that, you know, I’m the President of
the United States, I’m not the emperor
of the United States. My job is to execute
laws that are passed. And Congress right now has not
changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system. And what that means is that
we have certain obligations to enforce the laws
that are in place, even if we think that in many
cases the results may be tragic. And what we have been able to
do is to make sure that we’re focusing our enforcement
resources on criminals as opposed to somebody who’s here
just trying to work and look after their families. What we have tried to do is
administratively reduce the burdens and hardships on
families being separated. And what we’ve
done is, obviously, pass a deferred action which
makes sure that the dream — you know, the Dreamers, young people
who were brought here and think of themselves as Americans,
are American except for their papers, that they’re
not deported. Having said all that, we’ve kind
of stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can. And that’s why making sure that
we get comprehensive immigration reform done is so important. And frankly, my goal is to make
sure that we get that done in the next four or five months,
and the reason is precisely because every day that we
wait, every week that we wait, every month that we wait, there
are going to be some stories that break our hearts. And, more importantly, we’re
going to continue to have an economy that is stifled by a
really inefficient system where not only are we deporting
folks, but we also have a legal immigration system that is
so bottlenecked that it forces sometimes people into
the illegal system. It prevents us from recruiting
and keeping top-flight engineers and tech people who are ready
to work here or invest here, but because the legal
immigration system is so broken we’re not
able to track them, and so often times we train them
here and then we send them back to their countries of origin
to start businesses there. The good news is I think that
the opportunity for immigration reform has never been higher. We’re seeing some good
bipartisan discussions and possible legislation, and my
hope is that we can actually get this done in the
next few months. Jacky Guerrero:
That’s great, because
that kind of leads into my next question, which is
your support for gay rights has continued to grow
over the last year. And I’d like to know if
you’re committed to supporting binational same-sex couples in
the immigration reform bill that you’re hoping to pass. Recently Marco Rubio did a
interview with BuzzFeed where he was asked this question, and
he said that if this became a central issue that it would
make it much harder to get done. So I’d like to know from you if
this is something that you’re willing to stand behind to
ensure that same sex binational couples are included in the
immigration reform bill or if this is something that you’re
willing to compromise on. The President:
Well, first of all, I
think it’s important, Jacky, to say that my
support on LGBT issues didn’t start last year. Right, it started when
I came into office, making sure that we had
hospital visitations, making sure that federal
workers were — and partners were able to receive
benefits, and, you know, on through us ending
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and most recently making sure
that same sex partners were able to get benefits when they’re
serving in the military. So this is something
I care deeply about, and I have said very clearly
that I think that people should be treated the same. They should not be treated
differently when it comes to any aspect of American
life, and that includes our immigration laws. So I’m, what I’m trying to do
right now is to give Democrats and Republicans in the Senate
and in the House the opportunity to work through some
of these issues, to see where their
compromises are, and not be too heavy handed in
a way that might end up breaking up these discussions. Because I think it’s very
important for us to get immigration reform done. But we’ve been very clear
that we think that it makes sense for same sex couples
to be treated the same when it comes to immigration
laws and every other law. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, let’s
just give someone, we wanted to have everyone
get the chance to ask a more personal question
during the hangout, and let’s start
with Limor and Lee. Limor Fried:
Hi, thanks. Mr. President, have your
daughters expressed any interest in pursuing a career
in science or engineering? The President:
You know, they’re doing
really well in science and math so far, and
that’s encouraging, that they actually like it. And they have fun doing it. Malia just turned
14, Sasha’s 11. I don’t think they’re yet at
the age where they’ve kind of determined what their
career path is going to be. And what Michelle and I try
to encourage is just saying, you know, math and science
is part of your overall educational experience. We don’t want you
intimidated by it. We want you to continue to
pursue it so that your options remain open as you get older,
but one of the things that I really strongly believe in is
that we need to have more girls interested in math,
science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population
that is way underrepresented in those fields, and that means
we’ve got a whole bunch of talent that downstream
is not being encouraged the way they need to. And so the White House Office
of Women and Girls has been partnering with the Department
of Education so that our STEM education agenda, trying to
get more math and science and technology education
in the schools, also focuses on making sure
underrepresented groups like, like girls, are encouraged
in these fields. Lee Doren:
Mr. President, my question is
for those of us who disagree with you politically, what’s
one book you’d recommend we read to better understand your
political philosophy better? The President:
Other than my own, I assume. (laughter) Lee Doren:
Other than your own. The President:
I don’t want to be
pitching my own book. You know, I have to tell you
that where I draw inspiration from is the writings of
Lincoln, and I’m assuming you’re a Republican. Well, this was our first
Republican President. But the core philosophy that
he espouses, this sense that, you know, we are this nation
that is built on freedom and individual initiative
and free enterprise, but there are some things
we do in common together, whether it’s building railroads
or setting up land-lease colleges or making
sure that we’ve got investments in science. And that our nation only
works when everybody has that same opportunity. That we’re all open to being
able to participate if we work hard in the incredible
bounty of this nation. You know, that’s probably
where I start in terms of political philosophy. My inauguration speech, I
think, was reflective of that. I start with the Declaration
of Independence, and, you know, probably Lincoln’s writings, and
Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail,
and the Bible, and those are some pretty
good places for me to start. Now I can recommend some
good novels for you, too, if you want. But in terms of
political philosophy, that’s probably where I’d start. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, I want
to shift now to the topic of education, something that you
spent a lot of your State of the Union speech talking about. And let’s go back to
Limor in New York City. Limor Fried:
Thanks. On Tuesday you challenged
American high schools to better equip graduates for the
demands of a high-tech economy. When I attended high
school I had to take a foreign language requirement. So my question is, can we make
it a national effort to also add a computer programming
language requirement? The President:
I think it makes
sense, I really do. And, you know, part of what
I’m trying to do here is to make sure that we’re working
with high schools and school districts all across the
country to make the high school experience relevant
for young people, not all of whom are going to
get a four-year college degree or an advanced degree. And, you know, I think that the
concept of vocational education got a bad rap at a certain point
because the perception was, well, you know, we’re
tracking folks into, you know, blue-collar jobs and we’re
reserving white-collar jobs for a certain group. All those categories
I think have eroded. So, you know, you look at
somebody like Mark Zuckerberg, I was sitting next to him at
dinner a couple of years ago, and he basically said, you know,
he taught himself programming. Primarily because he
was interested in games. And there are a whole bunch
of young people out there, I suspect, who if in high school
are given the opportunity to figure out here’s how you
can design your own games, but it requires you to know
math and it requires you to know science or, you know, here’s
what a career in graphic design looks like, and we’re going to
start setting those — you know, programs in our high schools,
not waiting until the community college, and then you can
apprentice with somebody who’s already a graphic
designer in your area. What it does not only is to
prepare young people who may choose not to go to a four-year
college to be job ready, but it also engages kids because
they feel like I get this. This is not just me sitting
there slouching in the back of the room while
somebody’s lecturing. And I think given how pervasive
computers and the internet is now and how integral it is into
our economy and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to
make sure that they know how to actually produce stuff
using computers and not simply consume stuff. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, you know, you
were speaking to a divided House of Congress tonight, of course,
and, you know, Pew Research poll recently said that only about
25 percent of Americans trust the federal government
to actually do the right thing most of the time. John had a question about sort
of government dysfunction as it relates to climate change. Let’s go to John. John Green:
Yeah, hi, thanks. One of the problems that we
have on YouTube that instead of discussing policy we end
up discussing ideology a lot. So instead of, for instance,
talking about which guns should be for sale to private citizens,
we end up talking about the abstract idea of gun control. And that seems really
problematic to me when it comes to a big civilizational
problem like climate change, because we can never get
to the policy conversation as long as we’re stuck in
an ideological conversation. I really appreciated your robust
defense of climate science in your speech and your
embrace of Executive action. But in the end I think the real
work is probably going to have to be done with Congress. And so my question is,
is both about YouTube, the discourse among individuals,
but also discourse in Congress. How do we get past that
ideological rigidity and that divisiveness to have a policy
discussion about what’s actually the most efficient way to
reduce our carbon emissions? The President:
Well, a couple of things
that we’ve tried to do is, first of all, focus on things
that even if there wasn’t climate change, we should want
to do anyway, but has the added benefit of reducing
carbon in the atmosphere. So, for example, when we
worked with the automakers to, through voluntary action,
implement a doubling of fuel efficiency standards on cars,
that is going to have a huge impact on carbon
in the atmosphere, but it’s also good economics
because it means that consumers are saving money at the
pump, it means that U.S. automakers are competing
with foreign automakers that previously had had a corner on
the small car market or the fuel efficient car market. And so that’s gotten us
part of the way there. The next steps, though, are
going to be more challenging, and, you know, some of
this is ideological, some of it is economic,
and it’s not all partisan. I have to tell you that there
are some Democrats, for example, who represent states or
districts that are heavily reliant on old power plants and
are more heavily manufacturing based, and the truth is that
if you produce power using old power plants you’re going
to be emitting more carbon, but to upgrade those plants
means energy’s going to be a little bit more expensive,
at least on the front end. So at the core, we have to
do something that’s really difficult for any society to do,
and that is to take actions now where the benefits are going to
be coming down the road or at least we’re going to be avoiding
big problems down the road, and it’s hard when people are
thinking day to day about bread and butter issues. That’s true in our own
lives, it’s true as a society in the whole. What I’m optimistic about is
that we can continue to make progress without
slowing economic growth. And the same steps that we
took with respect to energy efficiency on cars, we
can take on buildings, we can take on appliances. We can make sure that new power
plants that are being built are more efficient
than the old ones, and we can continue to put
research and our support behind clean energy that is
going to continue to help us transition away
from dirtier fuels. And, you know,
we’ve made progress, but I’ve got to tell you,
John, I wish I could say that, you know, the way Washington
works that it’s a rational, reasoned, policy wonk
conversation where you would, you know, be very comfortable. That’s not what motivates folks
a lot of times around here. What motivates folks
is getting re-elected, and for a lot of
members of Congress, what they’re responding to
is a public that is still not entirely convinced that
this is an urgent problem. And part of my job, I think, is
to use the bully pulpit to help raise people’s awareness because
if the public cares about it, eventually Congress acts. If the public doesn’t
care about it, it’s very hard to get big
stuff done because, you know, legislators respond to their
constituents sooner or later. Steve Grove:
Kira, did you want to — Kira Davis:
Mr. President — Yeah, I did. Steve Grove:
Go ahead. Kira Davis:
Just on this interest, on
this subject of government and how Washington works,
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I do
remember clearly in 2008 you ran on a platform
of really trying to become one of the most
transparent administrations in American history. However, with recent leaked
guidelines regarding drone strikes on American citizens
and Benghazi and closed-door hearings on the
budget and deficit, it just feels a lot less
transparent than I think we had all hoped it would be. How is the reality of the
presidency changed that promise, and what can we do moving
forward to kind of get back to that promise? The President:
Well, actually on a whole
bunch of fronts we’ve kept that promise. This is the most transparent
administration in history, and I can document
how that is the case. Everything from every visitor
that comes into the White House is now a part of
the public record. That’s something
that we changed. Just about every
law that we pass, every rule that we implement,
we put online for everybody there to see. There are a handful of issues,
mostly around national security, where people have
legitimate questions, where they’re still concerned
about whether or not we have all the information we need. Benghazi, by the way, is
not a good example of that. That was largely driven
by campaign stuff because everything about that, we’ve had
more testimony and more paper provided to Congress
than ever before, and Congress is sort of
running out of things to ask. But, when it comes to
things like, you know, how we conduct counterterrorism,
there are legitimate questions there and we should
have that debate. And what I’ve tried to do coming
into office was to create a legal and a policy framework
that respected our traditions and our rule of law, but some
of these programs are still classified, which meant that
we might have shared them, for example, with the
Congressional Intelligence Office, but they’re not on
the front page of the papers or on the web. Lee Doren:
Mr. President, in response
to that question that Kira just asked regarding drones, a
lot of people are very concerned that your administration
now believes it’s legal to have drone strikes
on American citizens, and whether or not that’s
specifically allowed with citizens within
the United States. And if that’s not true, what
will you do to create a legal framework to make American
citizens within the United States know that drone
strikes cannot be used against American citizens? The President:
Well, first of all, I think
— there’s never been a drone used on an American
citizen on American soil. And the, you know, we respect
and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how
we conduct counterterrorism operations outside
of the United States. The rules outside of the United
States are going to be different than the rules inside
the United States, in part because our
capacity, for example, to capture terrorists in the
United States are very different than in the foothills or
mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan. But, what I think is absolutely
true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just
take my word for it that we’re doing the right thing. I am — Lee Doren:
So what would your solution be? The President:
I am the head of
the Executive Branch, and what we’ve done so far is
to try to work with Congress on oversight issues. But part of what I’m going to
have to work with Congress on is to make sure that whatever it is
that we’re providing Congress, that we have mechanisms to
also make sure that the public understands what’s going on,
what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are,
and that’s something that I take very seriously. I don’t, I am not somebody who
believes that the President has the authority to do whatever
he wants or whatever she wants whenever they want, just under
the guise of counterterrorism. There have to be real
checks and balances on it. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, before
we let everyone else ask a final personal
question of you, we’d be remiss not to ask you
about an interesting thing that everyone on the internet
is buzzing about today, the Republican filibuster of
Senator Hagel for your Secretary of Defense nomination. Are you worried that this
nomination is not going to go through? The President:
Well, here’s what we know. That Chuck Hagel
who, by the way, was a member of the
Republican caucus, a colleague of all
of these folks, who the Republican leader
Mitch McConnell and others consistently praised when
he was still in the Senate, who has two Purple Stars
— two Purple Hearts, was an extraordinary soldier,
was the head of the USO, served on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, and is praised by people
like Brent Scowcroft, who was George H.W. Bush’s
National Security Advisor and Colin Powell and others,
is eminently qualified to be Secretary of Defense. And the notion that we would
see an unprecedented filibuster, just about unprecedented, we’ve
never had a Secretary of Defense filibustered before. There’s nothing in the
Constitution that says that somebody should get 60 votes. There are only a handful of
instances in which there’s been any kind of filibuster of
anybody for a Cabinet position in our history. And what seems to be happening
— and this has been growing over time — is the Republican
minority in the Senate seem to think that the rule now
is that you have to have 60 votes for everything. Well, that’s not the rule. The rule is that you’re supposed
to have a majority of the 100 Senators vote on most bills. The filibuster historically
has been used selectively for a handful of issues
to extend debate, but we don’t have
a 60-vote rule. And yet that’s become
common practice. And this is just
the latest example. We’ve seen it on judges, we’ve
seen it on Deputy Treasury Secretaries, and part of what’s
happening is it’s becoming more and more difficult for people
to join our government. So my expectation and
hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a
vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as
our Defense Secretary. It’s just unfortunate that this
kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding
over a war in Afghanistan and I need a Secretary of Defense who
is coordinating with our allies to make sure that our troops are
getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve. Steve Grove:
Mr. President, before we let
you go, we want to give the rest of our hangout the chance to
ask you a personal question. Let’s go with Jacky,
John, and Kira. Jacky. Jacky Guerrero:
Hi, Mr. President. My partner and I are always
talking about how fortunate she was to have
grown up in Hawaii. She actually went to Kamehameha. And while in Hawaii, where a
majority of people who live there are multi-ethnic,
so I wanted to know what, how that experience has
shaped you as a person. The President:
You know, I’ve thought
about this a lot, and I do think that growing up
in Hawaii makes you a little bit different, for some of the
reasons you talked about. Well, now, first of all, part of
it’s just the weather’s nice all the time, so that kind
of chills you out. And you spend a lot
of time outside, and that makes you
pretty healthy. But it is as much of a melting
pot as just about any place in the United States, and for
kids to be exposed to different cultures and different religions
and different outlooks really early in life, I do
think has an impact. It makes you appreciate
people’s differences, as opposed to being scared of
them or worried about them. And I do think that that
attitude is something that I continue to, you know,
to live by as President. Jacky Guerrero:
Thank you. John Green:
Mr. President, my wife
Sarah — who’s actually here — and I are
expecting our second child. We have — The President:
Hey, Sarah. Sarah Green:
Hello. The President:
Do you already have a bump? Sarah Green:
Yes, I do. The President:
Okay, stand up, let’s
see it a little bit. (laughter) The President:
Nice. All right. John Green:
Yeah, it’s pretty good. The President:
Good. John Green:
We are expecting
our second child. We have a boy named picked
out, but Sarah had a question for you. Sarah Green:
Yes, hello, Mr. President. We are wondering if you prefer
the name Eleanor or Alice. The President:
Eleanor or Alex. John Green:
Alice. The President:
Alice. John Green:
A-L-I-C-E. The President:
You know, I’m going
to leave this up to you guys because if I — John Green:
Aww. The President:
Here’s the reason. If I gave a preference and
you guys went the other way, forever this child would say the
President doesn’t like my name, which could the traumatize them. (laughter) But the main thing is, tell
either Eleanor or Alice not to forget to be awesome. Sarah Green:
Oh. John Green:
Thank you, sir. The President:
There you go. Steve Grove:
Let’s go to Kira. Kira Davis:
I think you just caused
more problems for them. Now they’re going to be arguing. You were supposed
to settle that. The President:
I wasn’t going to get
involved in this one. Now, if you want — if it’s
a boy and you want to name it Barack, that’s fine. (laughter) Kira Davis:
Mr. President, my
family is here with me. The President:
Hey, guys. Kira Davis:
These are my
children, Scott, Ruby. Say hi, Mr. President. Scott Davis:
Hi, Mr. President. Kira Davis:
And this is my husband Mark. The President:
Hey, Mark. Mark Davis:
Hi, Mr. President. The President:
I like the White
Sox T-shirt, man. Mark Davis:
Oh, how could you not. (laughter) Kira Davis:
Mr. President, you’re
married, so you know it’s Valentine’s Day. The President:
I do. Kira Davis:
Yes, I know you know. Now, my husband, Mark Davis,
believes that Valentine’s Day is just a made up Hallmark
holiday designed to separate him from his hard-earned
money and he never celebrates. Mr. President, on the behalf
of all American women, will you please right now issue
an Executive Order via Google Hangout for my husband
Mark Davis to spoil me this Valentine’s Day. The President:
Can I just say, Mark, I
think here’s the general rule: If mama’s happy,
everybody’s happy. (laughter) So do right, man. You will pay a higher price
later than doing the right thing during Valentine’s Day. Mark Davis:
Okay, I will. Kira Davis:
Thank you, sir. Mark Davis:
Thank you, Mr. President. Steve Grove:
Well, thank you Mr. President. We really appreciate you
joining us here on Google Plus. We’d love to see you here
for another Fireside Hangout real soon. Thanks a lot. The President:
I had a great time, guys. Thanks everybody. In Unison:
Bye. Good-bye. Bye. Steve Grove:
All right. Great. Thank you, Mr. President,
really appreciate it. A Speaker:
Are we done?

Otis Rodgers

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