President Obama just wrapped up his first press conference since being re-elected for a second term last week and the first he’s given since August. He opened with remarks about the economy as the fiscal cliff looms, but addressed a variety of topics.
“There’s only one way to solve these challenges and that is to do it together,” Obama said. “We’ve got to work out our differences.”
Despite calling for compromise and cooperation, Obama made it clear it’s either raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year or go over the fiscal cliff by raising taxes on everyone. When asked if closing loopholes to bring in more revenue instead of raising rates on the top 2 percent would satisfy him, he said no.
“When it comes to the top 2 percent, what I’m not going to do is to extend further a tax cut to folks who don’t need it,” Obama said, adding that the tax code can be simplified. “If we’re going to be serious about deficit reduction, we have to take a balanced approach.”
In 2010, President Obama extended the Bush Tax Cuts with an expiration of January 1, 2013, turning them into the Obama-Bush tax cuts, and said it was a one-time proposition. Today, he reaffirmed that position.
“Are we going to hold the Middle Class hostage?” Obama said. “I’m not going to extend Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent.”
Moving forward, Obama plans to work with Republicans, Democrats and even Mitt Romney to solve economic problems, but conceded the process won’t necessarily come easily.
“I am open to new ideas,” he said. ‘There are going to be times when there are fights and think those are fights to be had.”
Moving onto the David Petraeus affair and Benghazi, Obama remained vague in his answers.
The Obama administration has received much criticism in the past two months for not sending help to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans who waited four 7 hours before being brutally murdered. Obama went to sleep on 9/11 not knowing what the outcome of the attack was but today said he did “everything he could” to send help and to protect Americans serving overseas.
When asked specifically by an Associated Press reporter whether the American people should have been told General Petraeus was under investigation by the FBI before the election, Obama dodged on details.
“I don’t want to comment on an ongoing investigation” Obama said while he praised Petraeus’ long career of service. “I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding General Petraeus came up. We don’t have all of the information yet….I think it’s best to see how the entire process unfolded.”
There has been much speculation this week about UN Ambassador Susan Rice replacing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early next year. Republican Senators McCain and Graham have made it clear they aren’t interested in promoting her due to false statements she made in regards to a YouTube video being the cause of the 9/11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Obama offered a full defense of Rice, said she was sent on the Sunday shows on behalf of the White House to simply present intelligence that had been given to her and that she had “nothing to do with Benghazi.”
“I’m not going to comment on various nominations I’ll put forward to fill my cabinet,” Obama said. “Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work…she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence provided to her.”
He also drew a line in the sand.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” he said. “But to go after the UN Ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi.”
If Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi, why was she chosen to present information about Benghazi to the American people?
In addition to national security and the economy, Obama addressed climate change and immigration reform. He plans to take aggressive steps in the next few months on both issues.
“There is no doubt I can always do better,” he said. “I hope and intend to be a better [in second term] President than I was in the first.”