Syria - The president was asked about his administration's non-response to Syria's use of chemical weapons -- which was the "red line" standard his administration erected months ago. They repeated this line often, but reportedly now regret ever establishing it. Here's Obama "clarifying" what he meant by calling WMD deployment a game-changer: “By game changer I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.” How that changes the game in any practical sense is a complete mystery. As I wrote last week, the administration has no good options in Syria, and I'm not convinced that we should intervene militarily. But "red-line" threats from the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America must hold substantial weight. By talking big then backing down, Obama has sent a muddled message to outlaw regimes in Damascus and beyond, while projecting weakness and reluctance to friends and foes alike.
Benghazi - Katie's got you covered, but I wanted to add my two cents as well. The president plead ignorance on the explosive allegations that Benghazi survivors and potential whistle-blowers have been intimidated into silence by his administration. We can probably go ahead and assume that he is also "not familiar" with the provocative report released by House investigators last week (with more major hearings to come). But let's focus on what the president did say about Benghazi today:
“Our job, with respect to Benghazi, has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies – not just in the Middle East but around the world – are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice."
We're approaching eight months since dozens of terrorists overran our consulate and murdered four Americans, including our sitting Ambassador, yet the president is recycling his status-quo rhetoric from last September. Obama says it's his "job" to determine what happened and carry out justice. His administration is working to obstruct testimony to the former end, and has made zero arrests in pursuit of the latter.
Sequester - To the surprise of nobody, the president attempted to blame his sequester on his political opponents. Maybe the three-thousandth time is the charm on that approach. Stephen Hayes offers a quick and dirty history of Obama's nuanced relationship with his own program of cuts:
Obama: (1) proposed the sequester, (2) threatened to veto any attempt to avoid it, (3) ignored warnings about its consequences for months,— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
(4) promised it wouldn’t happen, (5) pledged to pay legal fees of federal employees if it did, (6) complained he had too little flexibility,— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
(7) rejected Republican efforts to give him more flexibility, and then, (8) predicted calamity once the cuts he’d championed went through.— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
I'd also add stage (9), when people recognized the White House's pain game for what it was, and Democrats lost this battle. Obama is finally poised to sign the FAA flexibility bill, but he made clear to today that he's not happy about it. The American people remain perfectly comfortable with the sequester's miniscule spending reductions. Just over one-third believe the "cuts" are harming the economy.
Guantanamo - Again, check out Katie's post on this subject. The president has been talking about closing the terrorist detention facility for at least six years, and renewed his commitment to shuttering the prison today. He called it "unsustainable," which isn't true. It's quite sustainable, actually -- and has been sustained rather well since it opened its doors to hardened jihadists in 2002. If Obama meant it isn't morally sustainable, that's another argument. He expressed concern about the ongoing prisoner hunger strike at the facility. Evidently, he'd rather see terrorists die pre-interrogation via drone strike than post-interrogation via hunger strike. A strange calculus. The president's dreams of closing down Gitmo have been stymied and stifled at every turn by members of both parties; he's far out of the mainstream on this issue. Indeed, a majority (53 percent) of self-described liberal Democrats support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, alongside 70 percent of the general public.
Obamacare - This may have been Obama's most fascinating response. Asked about the negative reviews pouring in from members of his own party, the legislation's key author, and the program's top administrator, the president's effective answer was, "nothing to see here, folks." He actually argued that the vast majority of Americans are already enjoying Obamacare's wonderful benefits, ahem, "even if they don't know it yet:"
Whoa, Obama claim that folks who have insurance now have already gone through the ACA implementation is just not rt. Lots of issues left— Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) April 30, 2013
Immigration - The president talked a lot without saying very much, which was probably politically shrewd. The more he inserts himself into that legislative effort, the less likely passage becomes. When President Obama doesn't have a filibuster-proof Senate majority and Speaker Pelosi, he's not very good at getting much of anything done.Jason Collins - In recent weeks, the president has said he didn't have enough information to comment on the Gosnell trial. Today, he told Fox News' Ed Henry that he wasn't aware of the latest developments on Benghazi. He also noted that his administration needs to "investigate" further on Syrian chemical weapons and US intelligence failures leading up to the Boston bombings. But, interestingly, he was deeply informed about NBA center Jason Collins, who just came out as gay. Obama was so eager to discuss the subject that he actually returned to the podium after wrapping up the press conference to address this pressing national matter. I understand that the the first active "big four" sport athlete to come out is a newsworthy story. Why we need to hear from the president about it is less understandable. That Obama was more prepared to talk about this situation than Benghazi or Gosnell is a reflection of his priorities.