John Kelly’s fiery defense of Trump’s shot at Obama and Gold Star phone call, annotated – Washington Post

White House Chief of Staff john Kelly on Oct. 19 criticized Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) for comments she made at an FBI building dedication in 2015. (Reuters)

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly stood up for his boss, President Trump, during a media briefing on Thursday, telling reporters that he is the one who told Trump that previous presidents typically did not call the families of fallen troops and hailing Trump as “brave” for being willing to do so.

Obama administration alumni have hammered Trump for suggesting on Monday that his predecessor was insufficiently compassionate toward Gold Star families. And Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said Wednesday that she overheard what she considered an insensitive remark by Trump when the president phoned the family of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four servicemen killed in a recent ambush in Niger. Johnson’s mother told The Washington Post that “Trump did disrespect my son.”

The Fix has annotated Kelly’s remarks, using Genius. To view an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.

KELLY: So I just wanted to perhaps make more of a statement than an — give more an explanation than a — what amounts to be a traditional press interaction.

Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or Coast Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens. Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine and sends them home.

Their first stop along the way is when they’re packed in ice, typically at the airhead, and then they’re flown to, usually, Europe, where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the — with the medals that they’ve earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with a casualty officer escort that takes them home.

A very, very good movie to watch, if you haven’t ever seen it, is “Taking Chance,” where this is done in a movie, HBO setting. Chance Phelps was killed under my command right next to me. And it’s worth seeing that, if you’ve never seen it. So that’s the process.

While that’s happening, a casualty officer typically goes to the home very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on. And then he knocks on the door. Typically, the mom and dad will answer, the wife. And if there is a wife, this is happening in two different places. If the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until — well, for a long, long time. Even after the internment. So that’s what happens. Who are these young men and women? They are the best 1 percent this country produces.

Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any one of them. But they are the very best that this country produces. And they volunteer to protect our country when there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required. But that’s all right.

Who writes letters to the families? Typically, the company commander. In my case, as a marine, the company commander, battalion commander, regimental commander, division commander, secretary of defense, typically, the service chief, commandant of the Marine Corps and the president, typically, writes a letter.

Typically, the only phone calls a family receives are the most important phone calls they can imagine, and that is from their buddies. In my case, hours after my son was killed, his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was.

Those are the only phone calls that really matter. And, yes, the letters count a degree, but there’s not much that really can take the edge off what a family member is going through.

So, some presidents have elected to call. All presidents, I believe, have elected to send letters.

If you elect to call a family like this, it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call.

When I took this job and talked to President Trump about how to do it, my first recommendation was he not do it, because it’s not the phone call that parents, family members are looking forward to. It’s nice to do, in my opinion, in any event.

He asked me about previous presidents, and I said I can tell you that President Obama, who was my commander in chief when I was on active duty, did not call my family. That was not a criticism. That was just to simply say, I don’t believe President Obama called. That’s not a negative thing.

I don’t believe President Bush called in all cases. I don’t believe any president, particularly when the casualty rates are very, very high, that presidents call.

But I believe they all write. So, when I gave that explanation to our president three days ago, he elected to make phone calls in the case of the four young men who we lost in Niger at the earlier part of this month.

And then he said, you know, what — how do you make these calls? If you’re not in the family, if you have never worn the uniform, if you have never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call.

I think he very bravely does make those calls.

The call in question that he made yesterday, day before yesterday now, were to four family members, the four fallen. And, remember, there’s a next of kin designated by the individual. If he’s married, that’s typically the spouse. If he’s not married, that’s typically the parents, unless the parents are divorced, and then he selects one of them.

If he didn’t get along with parents, he will select a sibling.

But the point is, the phone call is made to the next of kin, only if the next of kin agrees to take the phone call. Sometimes, they don’t. So, a pre-call is made.

The president of the United States or the commandant of the Marine Corps or someone would like to call. Will you accept the call? And, typically, they all accept the call.

So, he called four people the other day, and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could.

And he said to me, what do I say?

I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. But let me tell you what I tell them. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me, because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war.

And when he died — and the four cases we’re talking about Niger, in my son’s case, in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.

That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.

I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing, a member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero.

He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist. He enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted.

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life was sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer.

I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them, because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.

I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there, because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.

I’ll end with this. And in October — or April, rather, of 2015, I was still on active duty. And I went to the dedication of the new FBI field office in Miami. And it was dedicated to two men who were killed in a firefight in Miami against drug traffickers in 1986 by the name of Grogan (ph) and Duke (ph).

Grogan almost retired, 53 years old. Duke, I think less than a year on the job. Anyways, they got in a gunfight and they were killed. Three other FBI agents were there, were wounded, now retired.

So, we go down. Jim Comey gave an absolutely brilliant memorial speech to those fallen men and the — and to all of the men and women of the FBI who serve our country so well and law enforcement so well.

There were family members there. Some of the children that were there were only 3 or 4 years old when their dads were killed on that street in Miami-Dade. Three of the men that survived the fight were there and gave a rendition of how brave those men were and how they gave their lives.

And a congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down.

And we were stunned, stunned that she’d done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, okay, fine.

So, I still hope, as you write your stories, and I appeal to America, that let’s not let this maybe last thing that is held sacred in our society, a young man, a young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country, let’s try to somehow keep that sacred.

But it eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Oct. 19 defended President Trump’s call to the widow of a soldier killed in action. (Reuters)

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White nationalist Richard Spencer to noisy Florida protesters: You didn’t shut me down – Los Angeles Times

Students and other audience members heavily booed white nationalist Richard Spencer on Thursday as he gave a speech at the University of Florida, where the atmosphere was tense but mostly peaceful as police in riot gear kept watch.

“We represent a new white America,” said one speaker who came onstage to introduce Spencer.

“Black lives matter,” student protesters responded. “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”

Later, Spencer’s supporters, some of whom filled the front rows of the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, chanted back: “You will not replace us!”

“Go home, Spencer!” protesters intoned after Spencer began speaking.

“You are trying to stifle our free speech,” Spencer said as the crowd continuously booed and chanted through his speech, in which he recited his ideas about the “ideal” of a white nation.

Police and media helicopters circled over the area Thursday as hundreds of protesters marched in opposition to Spencer’s appearance. Demonstrators were met by a blockade of police wearing riot gear.

“From what I’ve learned, this guy just preaches hate,” said one of the marchers, LaMonte Kendrick, 22, of Gainesville. “What he says doesn’t make sense. It’s like the ’60s or something. Gainesville’s already had enough hate and racism in its history.”

Spencer’s last major public appearance with other white nationalists ended with a deadly riot in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

Spencer gained national prominence in recent years for his support of President Trump and for his views calling for a separate nation for white people. The apparent resurgence in white nationalism in the United States has sparked anti-supremacists to mobilize with their own efforts, including nonviolent demonstrations and pressure campaigns on companies providing services to white nationalists and sometimes violent attacks intended to drive them out of public spaces.

Spencer has turned his sights to public universities, where 1st Amendment protections of free speech limit officials’ ability to deny Spencer a platform. Officials at the Florida college have confirmed they’ve spent roughly $500,000 on security for the event, and police from around Florida gathered in Gainesville to assist local police.

About 700 free tickets were available for the event and were supposed to be distributed outside the venue on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Spencer’s website, Weapons were banned from the event, along with a wide range of other items, including water bottles, masks, shields and hats.

“Everyone is welcome at #SpenceratUF,” Spencer tweeted before the event Thursday. “This is going to be an important dialogue for the entire community.”

Police corralled protesters into a single line outside the venue and turned away attendees for various reasons, including a military veteran who walked with a cane, which was deemed a potential weapon. One woman said she was denied entry by Spencer’s supporters at the gate because she was with an African American man. Some journalists with cameras and notebooks were denied access but were allowed entry without those items.

Inside the auditorium, a group of Spencer’s supporters sat close to the stage, while the audience of protesters sat toward the back, separated from Spencer and his proponents by rows of empty seats and a cordon of police.

Spencer initially protested the boos as suppression of his speech but later began taking questions from audience members who variously asked why he hadn’t left yet or how he could form a white ethno-state without performing violent ethnic cleansing. Many in the audience protested by standing during his speech and holding up their fists, the symbol of black power.

One questioner who introduced himself as a son of immigrants told Spencer he was disappointed with the crowd’s protests, saying he wanted to engage in a dialogue.

Another introduced herself as a “beautiful brown woman” of Egyptian and Puerto Rican descent. She thanked Spencer for coming, and asked, “How did it feel to get punched in the face on camera?”

The student was referring to a viral video of Spencer being struck by an anti-fascist in Washington, D.C., on the day of Trump’s inauguration. Her question drew a cheer from the crowd.

“It hurt,” Spencer said. “Yeah, it hurts when someone punches you in the face. Is that a real question?”

Spencer added: “What’s the point of such a question? Are you threatening me with violence? … Do you all want to get your hands dirty? Are you really willing to do something like that, or do you just want to shout self-righteously?”

The woman’s question was the final one during Spencer’s 90-minute appearance. He thanked the crowd for coming, and to protesters, he said: “You think that you shut me down? Well, you didn’t. You actually even failed at your own game. … The world is not going to be proud of you.”

Spencer left campus shortly afterward as the audience filed out.

Outside the venue, where hundreds of protesters gathered, small scuffles broke out when one man with swastikas on his shirt walked through the center of the crowd, seeming to relish the startled and appalled reactions of protesters. He was escorted away after someone punched him in the face, according to reporters on the scene.

Only one arrest appeared to take place before Spencer’s appearance. Police said a security guard, hired by a media outlet covering the event, had illegally brought a gun on campus.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County on Monday, saying in his executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent,” and that law enforcement must defend “public safety and security will be safeguarded and critical infrastructure, and public and private property will be protected.”

The measures, which came at the request of Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, are not in response to any specific threats, according to the sheriff’s and governor’s offices.

University officials announced that most classes would meet as normal Thursday. The school asked students to boycott Spencer, whose views university President W. Kent Fuchs has described as “repugnant.”

A group calling itself “No Nazis at UF” planned to stage a protest outside the event. About 3,000 people indicated on Facebook they planned to participate. Students also staged a sit-in at a student senate meeting earlier in the week.

The neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer urged Spencer supporters who couldn’t get tickets to carry out “flash mobs” throughout the city, including at a Jewish center, a black culture center and the Gainesville Sun newspaper, though as Spencer gave his speech, no such events appeared to have taken place.

“The point is to confuse the situation and to create public attention, to make it feel like the entire city is taken over by our guys,” wrote site editor Andrew Anglin, who also urged followers to dress normally, leave signs or flags in their cars and not bring weapons.

The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate groups, warned about attending the event.

“This type of activity is dangerous. We are working with local officials to ensure everyone’s safety,” the group tweeted. “We encourage people to avoid this event all together. Showing up will only play into their hands.”

Los Angeles Times staff writer Pearce reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Neuhaus from Gainesville, Fla. The Orlando Sentinel contributed to this report.

[email protected]

Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.


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1:55 p.m.: This article was updated with Richard Spencer’s response to questions from the crowd.

1 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Richard Spencer.

12 p.m.: This article was updated to report crowd reaction.

11 a.m.: This article was updated with information on protesters and additional reaction.

This article was originally published at 10 a.m.

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Without Saying ‘Trump,’ George W. Bush Delivers an Implicit Rebuke – New York Times

Former President George W. Bush never mentioned his name but delivered what sounded like a sustained rebuke to President Trump on Thursday, decrying nationalism, protectionism and the coarsening of public debate while calling for a robust response to Russian interference in American democracy.

In a speech in New York, Mr. Bush defended free trade, globalization and immigration even as Mr. Trump seeks to raise barriers to international commerce and newcomers from overseas. He condemned the “casual cruelty” he sees in public discourse and denounced white supremacy two months after Mr. Trump suggested that “both sides” were to blame at a neo-Nazi rally that turned violent in Virginia.

“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” Mr. Bush said. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.”

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The former president said these afflictions have created a crisis of confidence in the United States that has endangered its historic ideals. “In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity,” he said. “Americans have great advantage. To renew our country we only need to remember our values.”

Mr. Bush addressed these issues at a bipartisan conference that his presidential center sponsored in New York to promote democracy and freedom. Since leaving office in January 2009, he has largely sought to avoid engaging in current-day political struggles, even as he promotes issues he has long cared about like the spread of democracy around the world.

His speech on Thursday seemed a clear rejoinder to Mr. Trump in various ways. Asked by a reporter as he left the hall whether his message would be heard in the White House, Mr. Bush smiled, nodded slightly and said, “I think it will.”

The Bush family has never been fond of Mr. Trump, who beat former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida for the Republican presidential nomination last year. Neither the former president nor his father, former President George Bush, voted for Mr. Trump last November. But advisers said the younger Mr. Bush has been deeply troubled by the state of the national debate under a president who routinely demonizes his adversaries on Twitter.

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children,” Mr. Bush said in his speech. “The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

Mr. Bush, who issued a statement with his father condemning white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., in August, returned to the theme. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” he said.

Along with the conference, the president released a paper examining threats to the liberal democratic order and making recommendations for protecting and strengthening American institutions. The paper was drafted by Peter H. Wehner, a former adviser in Mr. Bush’s White House, and Thomas O. Melia, a former State Department official under President Barack Obama.

The conference also featured a panel with two former secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine K. Albright, joining Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Ms. Rice, who served under Mr. Bush, and Ms. Albright, who served under President Bill Clinton, seemed to gently coach Ms. Haley, urging the Trump administration to rethink its cuts to the State Department budget and its approach to the United Nations, to protect rather than attack the news media and to make a stronger response to Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Ms. Albright said the disparity between the Pentagon and State Department budgets was “crazy” and deprived the president of necessary resources. “We do not have a lot of tools,” she said. “It is necessary to have a functioning diplomatic service.”

Ms. Haley said the president’s budget proposal to slash the State Department budget by one-third was not meant to be enacted in its original form. “It was just his conversation point,” she said. “He was starting a conversation.”

Ms. Rice and Ms. Albright also pressed the administration to take Russia’s interference in last year’s election more seriously. Ms. Rice, a longtime Russia scholar, said that past Soviet disinformation campaigns were “clumsy” but last year’s effort was “highly sophisticated.”

“My own view is if they do this to us once it’s their fault,” she said. “If they do this to us twice, it’s ours.”

That is one area where Ms. Haley has been in agreement, even though she is working for a president who derides the “Russia story” as a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats and the media.

“The Russians, God bless them, they’re saying, ‘Why are Americans anti-Russian and why have we done the sanctions?’” Ms. Haley said. “Well, don’t interfere in our elections and we won’t be anti-Russian. We have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable.”

Mr. Bush echoed that in his own speech. “America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” he said. “According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other.” He added: “We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our election system from subversion.”

The former president acknowledged the forces of discontent that have given rise to Mr. Trump. “We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization,” he said. “People are hurting. They’re angry and they’re frustrated. We must hear and help them. But we cannot wish globalization away any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution.”

Correction: October 19, 2017

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the given name of a former secretary of state. She is Madeleine K. Albright, not Madeline.

Follow Peter Baker on Twitter @peterbakernyt.

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Kelly Speaks About Son’s Death and Criticizes Congresswoman Wilson – New York Times

WASHINGTON — John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, delivered an emotional, personal defense of President Trump’s call this week to the widow of a slain soldier, describing the trauma of learning about his son’s death in Afghanistan and calling the criticism of Mr. Trump’s call unfair.

Mr. Kelly said that he was stunned to see the criticism, which came from a Democratic congresswoman, Representative Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, after Mr. Trump delivered a similar message to the widow of one of the soldiers killed in Niger. Mr. Kelly said afterward that he had to collect his thoughts by going to Arlington National Cemetery for more than an hour.

In a remarkable, somber appearance in the White House briefing room, Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general whose son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was slain in battle in 2010, said he had told the president what he was told when he got the news.

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“He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed,” Mr. Kelly recalled. “He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.”

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and brokenhearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing,” he said. “What she was saying, what she was doing on TV. The only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go walk among the finest men or women on this earth.”

Mr. Kelly, who had long guarded his personal story of loss even as he served as a high-profile public official, broke that silence in dramatic fashion on Thursday. With no advance notice to reporters, Mr. Kelly offered poignant criticism of the news media and the broader society for failing to properly respect the fallen.

The appearance came after Mr. Trump and the White House were consumed by criticism after the president’s actions this week — first appearing to criticize former presidents for failing to call the families of fallen service members and later for the words Mr. Trump chose to use in speaking with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

Mr. Kelly defended Mr. Trump by offering a detailed, even excruciating description of what happens to those killed in combat, including how the remains are packed in ice for the flights back to the United States. He testified to the deep pain that parents feel when they get an early-morning knock on the door from an official there to tell them that their son or daughter has been killed in action.

“The casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member,” Mr. Kelly said, his eyes reddening as he spoke.

He said that presidents often are not among those who call family members directly, and he confirmed what Mr. Trump had alluded to publicly this week: that former President Barack Obama had not called him after Lieutenant Kelly was killed.

“That was not a criticism, that was simply to say I don’t believe President Obama called,” Mr. Kelly said, adding that President George W. Bush and other presidents did not always make personal phone calls to family members. He said Lieutenant Kelly’s friends in Afghanistan called him in the hours after his son died.

“Those were the only phone calls that really matter,” Mr. Kelly said. “Yeah, the letters count to a degree. But there’s not much that can take the edge off.”

The controversy over Mr. Trump’s remarks began even before he made the calls to the families, when former Obama administration officials took offense at the suggestion that Mr. Obama had not done as much as Mr. Trump to pay honor to the fallen.

Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump did not intend that to be a criticism of his predecessor, but rather was repeating what Mr. Kelly had briefed him on before he got the question at an impromptu news conference on Monday in the Rose Garden.

Mr. Kelly expressed frustration and even anger at the fact that the conversation between Mr. Trump and Sergeant Johnson’s widow was exposed to the world by Ms. Wilson, a friend of the family, who was in the car with the family when the president’s call came in.

“I thought at least that was sacred,” Mr. Kelly said, expressing dismay at other aspects of society that were no longer sacred, including women, religion and Gold Star families.

Ms. Wilson had publicized her criticism of Mr. Trump’s call, saying that the president had told Sergeant Johnson’s widow that he “knew what he signed up for,” and that the family was offended by Mr. Trump’s words.

Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump had tried, in the call, to express what Mr. Kelly had talked to him about ahead of time — that people like her husband were doing what they loved, and what they had chosen to do, when they were killed serving the country.

“That’s what the president tried to say to four families,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly said that he was so upset on Wednesday that he went to the cemetery to walk among the service members who had died fighting for the country.

“Some of them,” he said, “I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.”

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George W. Bush’s anti-Trump manifesto, annotated – Washington Post

Former president George W. Bush spoke on Oct. 19 at a forum for the George W. Bush Institute in New York. (The Bush Center)

George W. Bush delivered an unexpected and rather eloquent speech against Trumpism and its offshoots on Thursday at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York. It marked the first time the former president seemed to weigh in at length on what has happened during Trump’s brief tenure. And while a lot of the blows weren’t totally direct, the target of the speech became clearer as it went on.

Below is the whole transcript, with our annotations. To see an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.

Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here.

And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries.

I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny.

Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie [Tom Bernstein], I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie.

It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. Thank you.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.

And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership.  This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence.  Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy.  Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning.  Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.   We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.

Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement:  In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions.

And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust.

For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

Thank you.

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