President Obama, Washington Press Corps Gather for a Game of Slow Pitch Softball
President Barack Obama opened his first press conference in eight months, noting that America remains in a difficult economy. After reiterating his campaign boilerplate language regarding jobs and education, the president noted that he had met with "civic leaders" before he meets with business leaders later today. Those "civic leaders" included union heads and the leader of far-left MoveOn.org.
The president stated that no one in either party wants the nation to go over the "fiscal cliff." He said that he was open to compromises and new ideas.
The first press question asked Obama for assurances that there have been no national security breaches in the affair that ended Gen. David Petraeus' career at the CIA and threatens Gen. John Allen, commander of US forces in Afghanistan. Obama said that he had "no evidence" of any breaches of security (whoops, here it is), and lauded Petraeus' service while noting that Petraeus admitted that he did not meet up to his own standard of conduct. Obama said that he hoped Petraeus' family could "move on" from the affair.
Calling on reporters from a prepared list, Obama then called on CNN's Jessica Yellin, who asked him why he shouldn't be expected to "cave" on the "Bush tax cuts" again as he did two years ago. Obama's pro forma answer -- we were in a worse economic way then than we are now -- suggested that both the reporters' names and their questions were handed to the president ahead of the press conference. Obama said that America cannot afford to extend the tax cuts that he extended just two years ago. At that time, Obama joined a consensus that allowing those tax cuts to expire would be bad for the economy. It's acceptable now, because...? Because he says so. The president based his argument for allowing the tax cuts to expire, and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, on his re-election. The same electorate, though, returned Republicans who ran against his tax policies.
The third pre-approved question regarded immigration reform, as a reporter asked if he would send legislation to Congress that includes a path to citizenship, as he failed to do in his first term. Obama hailed Latino turnout as "powerful and good for the country." He said he is confident that Washington can "get immigration reform done." He said that he expects to get a bill introduced, and hailed some Republicans who have been warm to the idea of "comprehensive immigration reform." He said it should include "strong" border security as well as severe penalties for companies that hire illegal aliens, along with a pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens who are already here.
Obama then called on Chuck Todd of left-leaning NBC, who asked whether the president should've known sooner about Petraeus' affair. Todd also asked the president for clarity on his tax rate stance. Obama replied that he is withholding judgement on how the Petraeus situation "came up" before allowing that he has "a lot of confidence in the FBI." On tax rates, Obama said that he is "open to ideas" as long as they raise revenue, maintain the tax code's "progressivity," and reduce the deficit. The president then went on a tangent about how he would not support a policy that ends up burdening the middle class or people with special needs kids to close the deficit. No one is actually offering such a proposal. It must have come from the army of straw men this president routinely slays with his mighty wit.
The fourth question went to Nancy Cordes of CBS, who asked when President Obama would meet with Mitt Romney to discuss ways of moving the country forward. The president promised such a meeting, but he has not even met with his own jobs council in nearly a year. Obama complemented Romney on how he saved the Olympics, even allowing that that skill-set translates well into running the federal government. Obama would never have said such a thing before Nov. 6. At that point, Romney was a felon vulture capitalist who had idled while a man's wife died. Cordes followed up, asking why Obama has not reached out to build relationships with Congress. The question gave Obama the opportunity to look humble by declaring that "I can always do better," an opportunity that he took full advantage of. He struck a humble note when he said that he hoped he would be a better president in his second term than he was in his first. It's sort of like that Beatles song, I guess: He admits he'll get better because he can't get any worse.