And if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.
You know, after we killed bin Laden, I was at Ground Zero for a memorial and talked to a — a — a young woman who was 4 years old when 9/11 happened.
And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying, Peyton (sp), I love you, and I will always watch over you. And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, you know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.
And when we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world, and it tells Peyton (sp) that we did not forget her father.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And — and I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership — and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s go — and that leads us — this takes us right to the next segment, Governor, America’s longest war, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MR. ROMNEY: Bob —
MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor, you get to go first.
MR. ROMNEY: You can’t — you can’t — well, OK, but you can’t have the president just lay out a whole series of items without giving me a chance to respond.
MR. SCHIEFFER: With respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program there.
MR. ROMNEY: Well, that’s probably true. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: And we’ll — we’ll give you —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’ll agree (with that ?)
MR. SCHIEFFER: We’ll catch you up.
The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghans.
At that point we will withdraw our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans, if I understand our policy, in Afghanistan for training purposes. It seems to me the key question here is what do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave? And I believe Governor Romney, it — you go first.
MR. ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding at pace. There are now a large number of Afghan security forces, 350,000, that are — are ready to step in to provide security. And — and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of — of 2014. So our troops’ll come home at that point.
I — I can tell you, at the same time, that — that we will make sure that we — we look at what’s happening in Pakistan and recognize that what’s happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. And — and I say that because I know a lot of people just feel like we should just brush our hands and walk away. And I don’t mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the — in our nation feel that Pakistan (doesn’t ?) — being nice to us and that we should just walk away from them.
But Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads, and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the — in the relatively near future. They also have the Haqqani network and — and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a — a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us. And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a — a more stable government and — and rebuild a relationship with us. And that means that — that — that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.
So for me, I look at this as both a — a — a need to help move Pakistan in the right direction and also to get Afghanistan to be ready. And they will be ready by the end of 2014.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, when I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq, and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan. And we did deliver a surge of troops. That was facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq.
And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place. Part of what had happened is we’d forgotten why we’d gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated al-Qaida’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.
Now, that transition’s — has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been there a long time, and we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need.
But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that, you know, our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.
You know, I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is, let’s change those certifications.
The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population, it was higher when I came into office. So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because we’re making that transition in Afghanistan.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Let me go to Governor Romney because you talked about Pakistan and what needs to be done there. General Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, says that Americans continue to die at the hands of groups who are supported by Pakistan. We know that Pakistan has arrested the doctor who helped us catch Obama’s — bin Laden. It still provides safe haven for terrorists, yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of dollars. Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?
MR. ROMNEY: No, it’s not time to divorce a nation on earth that has a hundred nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation — as I indicated before, the Taliban, Haqqani network. It’s a nation that’s not like — like others and that does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there.
You’ve got the ISI, their intelligence organization is probably the most powerful of the — of the three branches there. Then you have the military and then you have the — the civilian government. This is a nation which if it falls apart — if it becomes a failed state, there are nuclear weapons there and you’ve got — you’ve got terrorists there who could grab their — their hands onto those nuclear weapons.
This is — this is an important part of the world for us. Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now, but we have some work to do.
And I — I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We had to go into Pakistan; we had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do. And that upset them, but there was obviously a great deal of anger even before that. But we’re going to have to work with the — with the people in Pakistan to try and help them move to a more responsible course than the one that they’re on. And it’s important for them, it’s important for the nuclear weapons, it’s important for the success of Afghanistan, because inside Pakistan you have a large group of Pashtuns that are — that are Taliban, that they’re going to come rushing back into Afghanistan when we go. And that’s one of the reasons the Afghan security forces have so much work to do to be able to fight against that. But it’s important for us to recognize that we can’t just walk away from Pakistan. But we do need to make sure that as we — as we send support for them, that this is tied to them making progress on — on matters that would lead them to becoming a civil society.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Governor, because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.
Let me also note that, as I said earlier, we’re going to have to do more than just going after leaders and — and killing bad guys, important as that is. We’re also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism.
We haven’t done that yet. We talk a lot about these things, but you look at the — the record. You look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is — is al-Qaida on the run, on its heels? No. Is — are Israel and the Palestinians closer to — to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have, and I’m convinced that with strong leadership and an effort to build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn’t just going after bin Laden. We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism — in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day, to make sure that their government aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown, and to make sure that they’ve got a free market system that works.
So across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries and we have stood on the side of democracy. One thing I think Americans should be proud of — when Tunisians began to protest, this nation, me, my administration stood with them earlier than just about any other country. In Egypt we stood on the side of democracy. In Libya we stood on the side of the people. And as a consequence there is no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed.
But there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States.
And we want to shrink those groups and those networks, and we can do that, but we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that al-Qaida is much weaker than it was when I came into office, and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s go to the next segment because it’s a very important one. It is the rise of China and future challenges for America. I want to just begin this by asking both of you — and Mr. President, you go first this time — what do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it will continue to be terrorist networks. We have to remain vigilant, as I just said.
But with respect to China, China’s both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.
And I know Americans had — had seen jobs being shipped overseas, businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it came to trade. And that’s the reason why I set up a trade task force to go after cheaters when it came to international trade. That’s the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the other — the previous administration had done in two terms. And we’ve won just about every case that we’ve filed, that — that has been decided. In fact, just recently, steelworkers in Ohio and throughout the Midwest, Pennsylvania, are in a position now to sell steel to China because we won that case.
We had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires — or — or — or cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it and, as a consequence, saved jobs throughout America. I have to say that Governor Romney criticized me for being too tough in that tire case, said this wouldn’t be good for American workers and that it would be protectionist. But I tell you, those workers don’t feel that way. They feel as if they had finally an administration who was going to take this issue seriously.
Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we’ve also got to make sure, though, that we’re taking — taking care of business here at home. If we don’t have the best education system in the world, if we don’t continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to — to create great businesses here in the United States, that’s how we lose the competition. And unfortunately, Governor Romney’s budget and his proposals would not allow us to make those investments.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.
MR. ROMNEY: Well, first of all, it’s not government that makes business successful. It’s not government investments that make businesses grow and hire people.
Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest national security threat, is a nuclear Iran.
Let’s talk about China. China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They don’t want to see the — the world break out into — into various forms of chaos, because they have to — they have to manufacture goods and put people to work. And they have about 20,000 — 20 million, rather, people coming out of the farms every year, coming into the cities, needing jobs. So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open.
And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them. We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible.
Now, they look at us and say, is it a good idea to be with America?
How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy?
They look at the fact that we owe them a trillion dollars and owe other people 16 trillion (dollars) in total, including them. They — they look at our — our decision to — to cut back on our military capabilities — a trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It’s not my term. It’s the president’s own secretary of defense called them devastating. They look at America’s commitments around the world and they see what’s happening and they say, well, OK, is America going to be strong? And the answer is yes. If I’m president, America will be very strong.
We’ll also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us. I’ve watched year in and year out as companies have shut down and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency. It holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods aren’t as competitive and we lose jobs. That’s got to end.