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Hempstead, New York
MS. CROWLEY: I want to move you both along to the next question because it’s in the same wheelhouse so you will be able to respond. But the President does get this question. I want to call on Michael Jones.
Q Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve gone through a tough four years, there’s no doubt about it. But four years ago, I told the American people and I told you I would cut taxes for middle-class families, and I did. I told you I’d cut taxes for small businesses, and I have. I said that I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said we’d refocus attention on those who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have gone after al Qaeda’s leadership like never before and Osama bin Laden is dead.
I said that we would put in place health care reform to make sure that insurance companies can't jerk you around, and if you don't have health insurance, that you'd have a chance to get affordable insurance -- and I have.
I committed that I would rein in the excesses of Wall Street, and we passed the toughest Wall Street reforms since the 1930s.
We've created 5 million jobs -- gone from 800,000 jobs a month being lost -- and we are making progress. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse.
Now, does that mean you're not struggling? Absolutely not. A lot of us are. And that's why the plan that I've put forward for manufacturing, and education, and reducing our deficit in a sensible way, using the savings from ending wars to rebuild America and putting people back to work, making sure that we are controlling our own energy, but not just the energy of today, but also the energy of the future -- all those things will make a difference.
So the point is the commitments I've made I've kept. And those that I haven't been able to keep, it's not for lack of trying and we're going to get it done in a second term. But you should pay attention to this campaign, because Governor Romney has made some commitments as well, and I suspect he'll keep those, too. When members of the Republican Congress say, we're going to sign a no-tax pledge so that we don’t ask a dime from millionaires and billionaires to reduce our deficit so we can still invest in education and helping kids go to college, he said, me, too.
When they said, we're going to cut Planned Parenthood funding, he said, me, too. When they said, we're going to repeal Obamacare -- the first thing I'm going to do, despite the fact that it's the same health care plan that he passed in Massachusetts and is working well -- he said, me too.
That is not the kind of leadership that you need, but you should expect that those are promises he's going to keep.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me let --
THE PRESIDENT: And the choice in this election is going to be whose promises are going to be more likely to help you in your life, make sure your kids can go to college, make sure that you are getting a good-paying job, making sure that Medicare and Social Security will be there for you.
MS. CROWLEY: Thank you.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven't been so good as the President just described, and that you don't feel like you're confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get. You're going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can't afford four more years like the last four years.
He said that by now we'd have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work. I wasn't the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the President's plan -- didn't get there.
He said he would have by now put forward a plan to reform Medicare and Social Security, because he pointed out they're on the road to bankruptcy. He would reform them. He'd get that done. He hasn't even made a proposal on either one. He said in his first year he’d put out an immigration plan that would deal with our immigration challenges -- didn't even file it.
This is a President who has not been able to do what he said he’d do. He said that he’d cut in half the deficit -- he hasn’t done that either; in fact, he doubled it. He said that by now, middle-income families would have a reduction in their health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year. It’s gone up by $2,500 a year. And if Obamacare is passed -- or implemented -- it’s already been passed -- if it’s implemented fully, it will be another $2,500 on top.
The middle class is getting crushed under the policies of a President who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again. He keeps saying, look, I’ve created 5 million jobs. That’s after losing 5 million jobs. The entire record is such that the unemployment has not been reduced in this country. The unemployment, the number of people who are still looking for work, is still 23 million Americans. There are more people in poverty -- one out of six people in poverty.
How about food stamps? When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps. How about the growth of the economy? It’s growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.
The President wants to do well, I understand. But the policies he’s put in place, from Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his tax policies to his regulatory policies -- these policies combined have not let this economy take off and grow like it could have. You might say, well, you got an example of when it worked better? Yes. In the Reagan recession, where unemployment hit 10.8 percent, between that period -- the end of that recession and the equivalent period of time to today, Ronald Reagan’s recovery created twice as many jobs as this President’s recovery.
Five million jobs doesn’t even keep up with our population growth. And the only reason the unemployment rate seems a little lower today is because of all the people that have dropped out of the workforce.
The President has tried, but his policies haven’t worked. He’s great as a speaker and describing his plans and his vision. That’s wonderful, except we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just hasn’t been able to cut the deficit, to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them, to get us the rising incomes we need. Median incomes down $4,300 a family, and 23 million Americans out of work -- that’s what this election is about. It’s about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future and assure our kids the kind of hope and optimism they deserve.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, I want to move you along. Don’t go away, and we’ll have plenty of time to respond. We are quite aware of the clock for both of you. But I want to bring in a different subject here. Mr. President, I’ll be right back with you. Lorraine Osario (ph) has a question for you about a topic we have not heard.
THE PRESIDENT: This is for Governor Romney?
MS. CROWLEY: Yes, this is for Governor Romney, and we’ll be right with you, Mr. President. Thanks.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Is it Lorena?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Lorraine.
Q Yes, Lorraine. How are you doing?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Good, thanks.
Q President. Romney: What do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green card that are currently living here as productive members of society?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you, Lorraine. Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for question. And let me step back and tell you what I’d like to do with our immigration policy broadly, and include an answer to your question.
First of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.
I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don’t think you have to -- shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally. I also think that we should give visas to people -- green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma; come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure that our legal system works.
Number two, we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration. There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who’ve come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who’ve come here illegally. What I will do is I’ll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so. I won’t put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. So, for instance, I would not give driver’s licenses to those that have come here illegally, as the President would.
The kids of those that came here illegally -- those kids I think should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States. And military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.
Now, when the President ran for office he said that he’d put in place in his first year a piece of legislation -- he’d file a bill in his first year that would reform our immigration system -- protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn’t do it. He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, a supermajority in both houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come here legally and for those that are here illegally today? That’s a question I think the President will have a chance to answer to answer right now.
THE PRESIDENT: Good, I look forward to it. Was it Lorena? Lorraine. We are a nation of immigrants. We’re just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here. People are willing to take risks. People who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have even bigger dreams than they have.
But we’re also a nation of laws. So what I’ve said is we need to fix a broken immigration system. And I’ve done everything I can on my own, and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fixed the system.
First thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law, to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country. And that's good for our economic growth. They’ll start new businesses. They’ll make things happen that create jobs here in the United States.
Number two, we do have to deal with our border, so we put more Border Patrol on than any time in history, and the flow of undocumented workers across the border is actually lower than it’s been in 40 years.
What I’ve also said is if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gangbangers, people who are hurting the community -- not after students. Not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that's what we’ve done.
And what I’ve also said is for young people who come here, brought here oftentimes by their parents, have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag, think of this as their country, understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers, then we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that's what I’ve done administratively.
Now, Governor Romney just said that he wants to help those young people, too. But during the Republican primary he said, I will veto the DREAM Act that would allow these young people to have access. His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, we’re going to encourage self-deportation -- making life so miserable on folks that they’ll leave.
He called the Arizona law a model for the nation -- part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers. And you know what, if my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're not a citizen, I don't want to empower somebody like that.
So we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says the challenge is, well, Obama didn't try -- that's not true. I sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term, and I said, let’s fix this system, including senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it’s very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform if their standard bearer has said that, this is not something I’m interested in supporting.
MS. CROWLEY: Let me get the Governor in here, Mr. President. Let’s speak to, if you could, Governor --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Let’s.
MS. CROWLEY: -- the idea of self-deportation.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: No, let me go back and speak to the points that the President made and let’s get them correct. I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is -- which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That's number one.
Number two, I asked the President a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you’d file legislation in your first year, didn’t you do it? And he didn’t answer. He doesn’t answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn’t for it. I’m glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn't. Four years ago, you said in your first year, you would file legislation. In his first year, I was just getting -- licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer. My view is that this President should have honored his promise to do as he said.
Now, let me mention one other thing and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented, illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead, let people make their own choice. And if they find that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where they have better opportunities.
But I’m not in favor of rounding up people and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the President has said and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we’ve got to get them out of this country.
Let me mention something else the President said. It was a moment ago and I didn’t get a chance to -- when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth --
THE PRESIDENT: Candy, hold on a second. At some point --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Mr. President, I’m still speaking.
MS. CROWLEY: I’m sorry --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Mr. President, why don't you let me finish --
THE PRESIDENT: Governor Romney, I’m used to --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’m going -- I’m going to continue -- I’m going to continue. If the President made --
MS. CROWLEY: Go ahead and finish, Governor Romney. Governor Romney, if you could make it short. See all these people, they’ve been waiting for you. Could you make it short and then --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Yes, just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in Chinese companies.
Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
THE PRESIDENT: Candy --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Have you looked at your pension?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve got to say -- Candy --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long. (Laughter.)
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t check it that often.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman’s trust.
MS. CROWLEY: We are sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re a little off topic here.
MS. CROWLEY: We are completely off immigration.
THE PRESIDENT: I know we were talking about immigration.
MS. CROWLEY: And we’ve -- quickly, Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: I do want to make sure --
MS. CROWLEY: If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn’t referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top advisor on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it. Not E-Verify, the whole thing. That’s his policy. And it’s a bad policy. And it won’t help us grow.
Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation, and they start companies like Intel and Google -- and we want to encourage that.
Now, we’ve got to make sure that we do it in a smart way, in a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don’t have bipartisan support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can’t --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I’ll get it done. I’ll get it done the first year --
THE PRESIDENT: -- we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me move you on here, please. Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: And it’s time for them to get serious on this.
MS. CROWLEY: Don’t go away, though.
THE PRESIDENT: This used to be a bipartisan issue.
MS. CROWLEY: Right. Don’t go away, because --
THE PRESIDENT: I’m here. (Laughter.)
MS. CROWLEY: -- I want you to talk to Carey Ladka (ph), who wants to switch the topic for us.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Hi, Carey.
Q Good evening, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, what’s your name?
Q It’s Carey. Carey Ladka (ph).
THE PRESIDENT: Great to see you, Carey.
Q This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security, and why?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me, first of all, talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States. They’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know these families. So nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and procedures not just in Libya but in every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.
Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And that's not how a Commander-in-Chief operates. You don't turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.
And people -- not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made, but when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya -- in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al Qaeda and bin Laden -- we have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That's what I’m doing.
And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable -- and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, I’ve got to move us along.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Thank you, Carey, for your question. It’s an important one, and I think the President just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk, and he takes responsibility for that -- for the failure in providing those security resources. And those terrible things may well happen from time to time. I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. And today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We think of their families and care for them deeply.
There were other issues associated with this tragedy. There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack. And it took a long time for that to be told to the American people.
Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself, why didn’t we know five days later when the Ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration -- how could we have not known?
But I find more troubling than this that on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador -- the first time that's happened since 1979 -- when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the President, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event. I think these actions taken by a President and a leader have symbolic significance, and perhaps even material significance in that you’d hope that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.
And this calls into question the President’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what's happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and Israel. The President said that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb.
Syria -- Syria is not just the tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategically significant player for America. The President’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour, and pursue a strategy of leading from behind. And this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.
MS. CROWLEY: Because we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the Governor just quickly. Your Secretary of State, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your Secretary of State, as far as what went on here?
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job, but she works for me. I’m the President, and I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.
The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror, and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base, and grieving with the families.
And the suggestion that anybody on my team -- whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador -- anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as President. That’s not what I do as Commander-in-Chief.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to reply quickly to this please.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Yes, I surely do. I think it’s interesting the President just said something, which is that on the day after the attack he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an attack of terror.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s what I said.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration?
THE PRESIDENT: Please proceed.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?
THE PRESIDENT: Please proceed, Governor.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
THE PRESIDENT: Get the transcript.
MS. CROWLEY: He did, in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terror in the Rose Garden. He used the word --
THE PRESIDENT: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Applause.)
MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did, as well, take -- it did, as well, take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that. (Applause.)
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
MS. CROWLEY: They did.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest -- am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday, your Secretary --
THE PRESIDENT: Candy?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: -- excuse me, the Ambassador to the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction.
THE PRESIDENT: Candy, I’m happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me -- I know you -- absolutely. But I want to move you on.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, I’m happy to do that, too.
MS. CROWLEY: And also, people can go to the transcripts and --
THE PRESIDENT: I just want to make sure that --
MS. CROWLEY: -- figure out what was said and when.
THE PRESIDENT: -- all those wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.
MS. CROWLEY: Because what I want to do, Mr. President -- stand there for a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot both over the Internet and from this crowd.
Q President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen, and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.
But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency where I’ve had to comfort families who have lost somebody -- most recently, out in Aurora. Just a couple of weeks ago -- actually probably about a month, I saw a mother who I had met at the bedside of her son who had been shot in that theater. And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time and we said a prayer. And remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable -- good as new. But there were a lot of families who didn’t have that good fortune, and whose sons or daughters or husbands didn’t survive.
So my belief is that, A, we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got; make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement.
But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence -- because, frankly, in my hometown of Chicago there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s, they’re using cheap handguns.
And so what can we do to intervene, to make sure that young people have opportunity? That our schools are working? That if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control.
And so what I want is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor Romney, the question is about assault weapons, AK-47s.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Yes, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don't want to have automatic weapons, and that's already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.
What I believe is we have to do, as the President mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree. We were able to drive our schools to be number one in the nation in my state, and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll give people the hope and opportunity they deserve and perhaps less violence from that.
But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the benefit of having two parents in the home -- and that's not always possible -- a lot of great single moms, single dads, but, gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea, because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.
The greatest failure we’ve had with regards to gun violence in some respects is what is known as Fast and Furious, which was a program under this administration. And how it worked exactly I think we don't know precisely, but where thousands of automatic and AK-47-type weapons were given to people that ultimately gave them to drug lords that used those weapons against their own citizens and killed Americans with them. And this was a program of the government. For what purpose it was put in place, I can't imagine. But it’s one of the great tragedies related to violence in our society which has occurred during this administration, which I think the American people would like to understand fully.
It’s been investigated to a degree, but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all the information from coming out. I’d like to understand, who were the ones that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence. Thousands of guns going to Mexico --
It’s been investigated to a degree, but the administration has carried out executive privilege to prevent all the information from coming out. I’d like to understand, who were the ones that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence. Thousands of guns going to Mexico --
THE PRESIDENT: Candy.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: -- drug lords --
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that? Given the kind of violence that we see sometimes with these mass killings, why is that, that you’ve changed your mind?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it’s referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted. There were hunting opportunities, for instance, that hadn’t previously been available and so forth. So it was a mutually agreed upon piece of legislation.
That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked.
MS. CROWLEY: So if you could get people to agree to it, you’d be for it?
THE PRESIDENT: Candy.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: We haven’t had the leadership in Washington to work at a bipartisan basis. I was able to do that in my state and bring these two together.
THE PRESIDENT: Candy.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it. And he said that the reason he changed his mind was, in part, because he was seeking the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. So that’s on the record.
But I think that one area we agree on is the importance of parents and the importance of schools -- because I do believe that if our young people have opportunity, then they’re less likely to engage in these kind of violent acts. We’re not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we’ve got to make sure that they don’t get weapons, but we can make a difference in terms of ensuring that every young person in America, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, have a chance to succeed.
And, Candy, we haven’t had a chance to talk about education much, but I think it is very important to understand that the reforms we’ve put in place, working with 46 governors around the country, are seeing schools that are some of the ones that are the toughest for kids starting to succeed -- we’re starting to see gains in math and science.
When it comes to community colleges, we are setting up programs, including with Nassau Community College, to retrain workers, including young people who may have dropped out of school, but now are getting another chance -- training them for the jobs that exist right now. And in fact, employers are looking for skilled workers, and so we’re matching them up, giving them access to higher education. As I said, we have made sure that millions of young people are able to get an education that they weren’t able to get before. Now --
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, I have to move you along here. You said you wanted to get this question so we need to do it here.
THE PRESIDENT: Just one second, because this is important. This is part of the choice in this election. When Governor Romney was asked whether teachers -- hiring more teachers was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn’t grow our economy.
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, it was guns here so I need to move us along. The question was guns so let me --
THE PRESIDENT: But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people and reduce our violence.
MS. CROWLEY: Okay. Thank you so much.
I want to ask Carol Goldberg to stand up because she gets to a question that both these men have been passionate about. It’s for Governor Romney.
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