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Remarks by the President-Elect on Tim Geithner and the Vice President-Elect's Trip to Afghanistan

January 14, 2009

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you, Joe, for the outstanding trip that you took. And thank you for having the wisdom and foresight to invite Lindsey Graham, because there -- these two represent, in their respective parties, as smart and as dedicated a pair of public officials as we have.

And, Joe, I drafted as vice president. But Lindsey Graham, I'm drafting as one of our counselors in dealing with foreign policy because the fact is, as our tradition has always been, that our differences end at the water's edge and that at a certain point it is imperative for us to have a clear, coherent strategy at home, so that the young men and women who are day to day engaged in extraordinary -- extraordinarily difficult, you know, deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, that they are well served.

And so, the trip that both of you took and the recommendations that you're going to be delivering to me are going to be of enormous help in making sure that we do what is my number-one task as president-elect and as president, and that is to keep the American people safe and to make sure that when we deploy our military, that we do so with a clear sense of mission and with strong support from the American people.

And I think the trip that you've taken helps us move in that direction.

So, with that, I'm going to take...

THE VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: One comment that I want to make (inaudible).


THE VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Every place we went, we visited our troops.


THE VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Every place, the degree of enthusiasm and well wishes for you personally were -- I have been there a lot -- were spontaneous. So they're wishing you well, man, and they're looking forward to you being commander in chief. And it really was -- it was heartening to see.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, that's wonderful.

QUESTION: Sir, just a quick question, going back to Capitol Hill: Are you concerned that Timothy Geithner's taxes mishap will affect his chances of confirmation and, if he is confirmed, will affect his credibility?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: No. Tim Geithner when I nominate him was right -- rightly lauded by people from both sides of the aisle, from the market, from labor as somebody who is uniquely qualified to deal with, as what Lindsey described properly as the biggest crisis that we've had since the Great Depression.

You know, look, is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself. But it was an innocent mistake. It is a mistake that is commonly made for people who are working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He paid penalties.

And as I have said before, if my criteria, whether it was for Cabinet secretary or vice presidents or presidents or reporters was that you'd never made a mistake in your life, none of us would be employed.

So my expectation is that Tim Geithner will be confirmed. And my expectation is, is that he is going to do an outstanding job on part -- on part of the -- on behalf of the American people.

STAFF: Last question.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Lindsey, you want to add...


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Just speaking as a single -- as one Republican, I couldn't agree more. These are huge times. It's not -- now is not the time to think in small political terms.

He has a great resume. He's been involved with Secretary Paulson. He knows the past. I think he can help fashion the future.

So the problems that we talked about, I think, have been dealt with responsibly, and I don't see any desire by the Republican Party to play gotcha on something like this.

We need -- we need a new secretary of treasury that understands where this country's at financially and has a game plan to move forward. I think he's the right guy.

STAFF: Mr. President-elect...


THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm sorry. I think we had interrupted her question.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

Mr. Vice President-elect, first of all, what was the update on Osama bin Laden (inaudible)?

Also, Mr. President-elect, new tapes have surfaced from Osama bin Laden. What are your thoughts about those tapes? And what are your efforts moving into your new administration (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Yes, I'm going to take the question first, and then, Joe, if you want to add something.

But I have been assiduous about this, I have been consistent about this, that we have one president at a time when it comes to foreign policy. And so I don't want to get too far afield in terms of what our -- our policies are going to be.

I can refer back to what I said during the campaign and the fact that I haven't changed my mind, that bin Laden and al Qaeda are our number one threat when it comes to American security, and this administration, working in concert with Congress, with Republicans and with the American people, we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that they cannot create safe havens they can attack America. That's the bottom line.

Now, as Joe indicated, we have to take a regional approach. We're not going to solve the problem just in Afghanistan; we're going to have address issues in Pakistan as well.

Barack Obama, Remarks by the President-Elect on Tim Geithner and the Vice President-Elect's Trip to Afghanistan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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