Good afternoon! Well, as you know, I'm just back from the Middle East and Asia. I've been doing a lot of thinking – no joke! – and I want to share some of my thoughts with you, my fellow Americans.
Here's the deal, folks: As I've said before, I'm pleased with the results of the midterm elections. But 70 percent of Americans say they're unhappy with the state of our nation. And my Republican colleagues may have won a slender majority in the House.
So, the next two years will be different from the past two years. If I'm going to unite Americans – always one of my goals – and if I'm to govern in the American people's interest, bipartisanship is required. It's my job to lead the way. I'm not being facetious!
Because I've been overseas, international relations are, as Karine Jean-Pierre would say, "top of mind." I'm going to talk today about three critical foreign policy issues. Over the weeks ahead, I'll discuss other issues on which I plan to make midcourse corrections.
Start with Vladimir Putin's brutal war against the Ukrainian people – an issue on which there is already significant bipartisan consensus.
Bottom line: Support for Ukrainians fighting courageously to free their homeland from a serial war criminal – who has declared himself an enemy of the United States – is both in the American national interest and consistent with American values.
What about the expense? Since Putin's invasion last February, we've spent less than $19 billion on military aid – sending sophisticated weapons systems made in America by skilled American workers – and less than $10 billion on other forms of assistance.
The student loan forgiveness I proposed would cost more than $400 billion. A federal court has now ruled that I don't have the constitutional authority to use taxpayer funds for this purpose.
I'm not sure I agree, but I'm not going to waste precious time arguing. We'll find other ways to help young people burdened by loan obligations.
Next, I want to talk about Iran. President Obama stretched out his hand to that country's rulers and asked them to unclench their fists.
Instead, they've continued swinging those fists – attacking and menacing their neighbors who are also America's friends. In recent days, their militias in Iraq have killed two American citizens. They're threatening others. Regime thugs have murdered hundreds of Iranians – women, girls, and children among them.
It's become clear to me that it would make no sense to help enrich and empower the clerical dictator in Tehran. And that's what the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would do – without stopping him from acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
Our next step: work with our European allies to snap back tough U.N. sanctions. Then we'll talk with our Middle Eastern allies about Plan B.
I want to say a word about Robert Malley, who has been my point man on Iran. We're grateful for his service. In the New Year, we'll find him a new mission worthy of his talents.
Okay, China. America helped that country grow its economy. President Clinton brought China into the World Trade Organization – with special privileges that Beijing still retains.
For years, my predecessors in the White House turned a blind eye as China's rulers stole our intellectual property. They hoped those rulers would become more moderate – good stakeholders in the international rules-based order. Didn't happen.
China's Muslim and Tibetan minorities are being terribly persecuted and oppressed. China's rulers signed a treaty promising to respect the rights of the people of Hong Kong. They broke that promise.
They've blocked efforts to uncover the origins of the virus that emerged from their country and was responsible for so much death and destruction around the world. They're attempting to make the U.N. march to their drum. And they continue to threaten our friends in Taiwan.
John Kerry did his best to persuade them to partner with us on climate change. They're uninterested. They're building scores of dirty coal-fired power plants – rendering the efforts of Americans and others to curb global emissions useless.
There are other ways for us to address climate change which, I've come to understand, is a challenge – not an emergency. More about that another day, but right now I want to thank John Kerry for his service, too. We'll also have a new mission for him in 2023.
Final and most important point about China: Earlier this year, Xi Jinping, the country's ruler, established a "no-limits" and anti-American alliance with Putin. Iran's ruling clerics are supplying weapons and advisors to Russia in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. What's emerging here is nothing less than an Axis of Autocrats. North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela are junior members. That's a big deal!
I told Xi in Bali that I'm not seeking a new Cold War. But if that's what he, Putin, Khamenei, and their cronies want – American will rise to the challenge.
To do so effectively, while also preventing Cold War II escalating into World War III, will require policy changes. As my father used to say: "Joey, don't tell me what you value, show me your budget. I'll tell you what you value."
More on all these issues soon but that's all for today, except to add that I've never been so optimistic about the future of the American people. United under my leadership, we're going to achieve great progress over the next two years. That's not hyperbole!
Now, I've been given a list of 10 people I must call on. You're all supposed to ask me one question, but I'm sure you'll ask me more. Peter – I'd like to start with you, my friend.