President Obama Chats With Telemundo's Jose Diaz Balart
Telemundo's Jose Diaz Balart met with President Barack Obama yesterday. The following is a transcript of their conversation:
Jose Diaz Balart – MR. President, Gracias.
Pres. Obama: Gracias.
Jose Diaz Balart – For the first time since 1979, a sitting ambassador, Christopher Stevens, plus three other Americans were killed in the line of duty. We send more than a billion dollars a year to Egypt, tens of millions to Libya after its liberation. Is it time to reconsider foreign aid to countries where many of the people don’t want us around?
Pres. Obama: Well, look, the Unites States doesn’t have an option of withdrawing from the world. And we’re the one indispensable nation. Countries all around the world look to us for leadership, even countries where sometimes you experience protests. And so it’s important for us to stay engaged. But obviously what happened last night was heartbreaking. And Libya in particular is a government that is very friendly towards us. The vast majority of Libyans welcomed the United States involvement. They understand that it’s because of us that they got rid of a dictator who would crush their spirits for 40 years. Many Libyans came to the defense of our team in Benghazi when they were attacked. But, you know what we have to do now is to do a full investigation. Find out the facts. Find out who perpetrated these terrible acts and bring them to justice.
Jose Diaz Balart – What does that mean, bring them to justice? What are your options?
Pres. Obama: Well you know, I hope it’s to be able to capture them, and, But we’re going to have to obviously cooperate with the Libyan government and I have confidence that we will stay on this relentlessly because Chris Stevens, he’s somebody who actually advised me and Secretary Clinton during the original Libyan uprising. He was somebody who Libyans recognized as being on the side of the people. And we’re going to get help. We’re going to get cooperation on this. You know, the broader issue of what’s happened in both in the Middle East and North Africa is one where we know that these are new democracies. I mean Egypt, this is the first democracy in maybe 7,000 years. A true democracy where people have a voice. They don’t have traditions of a civil society. And some of the aspects of our democracy that are so important. And they’re going to develop those and during that time, there are going to be some rocky times. And we have to understand that but the message we’ve communicated to the Egyptians, to the Libyans and everybody else is that there are certain values we insist on, That we believe in, And certainly the security of our people and protecting diplomats in these countries is something that we expect and so we’re going to continue to look at all aspects of how our embassies are operating in those regions.
Jose Diaz Balart – Would you consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States?
Pres. Obama: I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They’re a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident. How they respond to, for example, maintaining the peace treaty in isr..with Israel. So far, at least, what we’ve seen is that in some cases they’ve said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they’ve responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests. And, So I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected, and if they take actions that indicate they’re not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.
Jose Diaz Balart – Mr. President, Governor Romney today said your foreign policy lacks clarity. Representative Ryan implied that you’re not speaking to the world with force. You said this shouldn’t be politicized. But then you kind of reacted to what the governor had said. Some say, were you not in turn politicizing this whole issue as well?
Pres. Obama: Well, no, I don’t think so. My statements have been very clear. I was asked directly by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes what I thought of these comments and what I said was, “this wasn’t the time for politics.” I have observed that there’s a tendency to shoot before you aim, as I pointed out, and that as President, my obligation is to focus on security for our people, making sure that we gather all the facts, making sure that we’re advancing American interests and not having ideological arguments on a day when we’re mourning the loss of outstanding folks who have served our country very well. I think at this point, probably the best thing to do would be to refer the questions about Mr. Romney’s comments to the Romney campaign. Yeah.
Jose Diaz Balart – Let’s talk about some other issue that’s been brought up politically. The issue of Israel. Have you drawn a red line on Iran and its nuclear power future? And do you feel that there is any kind of disagreement with the government of Israel?
Pres. Obama: The government of Israel and the United States government are entirely united in believing that it would be a grave threat for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. That’s why I’ve helped to organize an international coalition that’s unprecedented, to put incredible pressure and sanctions on the Iranian regime. They are seeing a huge amount of economic turmoil as a consequence of those sanctions. What we’ve said is that we are willing to offer them a path to resolve this diplomatically, but we reserve all options on the table.