President Obama smacked his lips repeatedly and declared his love for Slurpees in a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday that highlighted his charisma and unwillingness to compromise.
The fact that he even held the conference was ridiculous, but he was asked some tough questions and fielded many of them well. Ultimately, however, he refused to budge on a number of key issues that will face the next Congress.
Obama stated bluntly that he had failed on earmark reform, at the expense of shoving through his policy agenda. When asked how it felt that his party was routed in the House and governorships, and in many state-level races, he said coarsely, "It hurts."
But he dodged a question about Republicans winning last night because of health care, saying that the election was not a referendum on the bill. When asked about fiscal reform, he defaulted to his stock answer that his "deficit commission" would answer it.
Spending bills are passed by Congress, not by Obama's deficit commission, and it's been reported again and again that the Republicans on that commission have no voice whatsoever. Their report is an easy way for the President to simply kick the ball down the field and shirk responsibility.
That said, Obama did approach things like his failure to address the economy in a straightforward way.
"I think that there is no doubt that people's number one concern is the economy. What they were expressing [last night] was great frustration about was that we have not made much progress on the economy. But people across America are not feeling that progress," said Obama. "They understand that I'm the President of the United States, and that my core responsibility is making sure that we've got an economy that's growing."
Shortly after that, however, he defaulted into a blame-everyone mode.
"I've got to do a better job just like everyone else does," he said, implying that the rest of Washington was to blame as much as he was.
NBC News White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie stole the show with the second question, where she asked Obama if he thought that voters last night believe he just "wasn't getting it."
"I think that the other thing that happened was that when I won election in 2008, one of the reasons I think that people were excited about the campaign was the prospect that we would change how business is done in Washington," said Obama. "We were in such a hurry to get things done, we didn't change how things got done, and that frustrated people."
It seemed to mirror the frustration of the White House press core, which asked him again and again whether he thought the elections were a referendum on his policies, his party, and his personality. In Obama's defense, there was really no good way to get out of those types of questions — short of publicly flogging himself — so his standard list of excuses did him just fine.
Obama also nailed the nature of the independent vote this cycle, which flipped back to Republicans after turning out for Obama just two years ago.
"I dont think people carry around with them a fixed ideology. They just want to make sure that we're making progress. And that's going to be my next priority in the next couple of years," said Obama.
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