On Tuesday, President Obama held the 16th "full" White House press conference of his presidency. That's right Obama goes golfing more than six times for every press conference he gives.
This was the first scheduled, solo news conference for Obama since March. The last time Obama saw fit to allow the White House press corps an opportunity to formally ask him questions on U.S. soil was his "hastily-announced" appearance in the White House briefing room on June 8, 2012, during which he infamously said "the private sector is doing fine."
During today's press conference Obama was asked about climate change, Gen. David Petraeus, the fiscal cliff, immigration reform, Iran, A mandate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Gov. Mitt Romney and Syria.
Obama was the most obstreperous responding to a question from Jonathan Karl, Senior Political Correspondent for ABC News, about whether statements from senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham that they would do everything in their power to block Ambassador Rice from becoming Secretary of State.
As I am sure you will recall, on this year's anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on America, we suffered a terrorist assault which resulted in the murder of four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. For days we saw riotous Muslim mobs, first in Egypt, then Tunisia, Yemen and Sudan attack U.S. embassies espousing hate for American values and belief. The hateful Muslim mobs multiplied throughout the Muslim world, even in countries not considered Muslim, such as Britain and Australia.
It got worse as al Qaeda went on the offensive. Al Qaeda attacked the American-lead multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai. They also attacked a U.S. Marine base in Southern Afghanistan in an effort to kill Britain's Prince Harry and inflicting the worse loss of air power on the Marine Corps since Vietnam.
Against this backdrop, which was clear to the foreign press, CNN and even a member in good standing of the biased so-called fact-checking wing of the Democrats' party, Ambassador Rice went on news show after news show and misled the American people. Rice claimed the vicious attack in Benghazi was unplanned and provoked only by a silly anti-Islam video.
Nevertheless, Obama strongly defended Rice's so-called honor:
"But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, and professionalism, and toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.
If Senator McCain and Senator Graham, and others want to go after somebody? They should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? And to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
I wish folks would go after Obama on this as well as Rice. There is plenty of blame to go around, even enough for Hillary. But Obama won't address what actually happened in Benghazi, he is stonewalling -- saying his regime is still "investigating" what happened there two months ago.
On the fiscal cliff, CNN chief White House correspondent Jessia Yellin reminded Obama that two years ago, he said he wouldn’t extend the Bush-era tax cuts, but at the end of the day, he did. Yellin asked why people and the Republicans should believe that Obama won’t cave again this time.
In response, Obama said two years ago was different, his cave two years ago was a one-time proposition. We'll see. Obama claimed that if he gets his tax on those individuals who earn $200,000 and couples who earn $250,000 we would be half way to solving the fiscal cliff. I don't see how that computes and he didn't explain it.
Obama also managed to work in two of his campaign catch phrases which infuriate me -- balanced and fair share. "Balanced" is Obamacrat code for higher taxes. And Obama's so-called balanced approached is skewed.
James Pethokoukis, at the AEI Enterprise blog, writes that Obama’s new ‘balanced’ debt plan is 73% tax hikes:
"President Obama’s opening bid in budget talks with congressional Republicans is a reheating of his 80-page deficit reduction package from September 2011. The president calls it a balanced plan.
[. . .]
Of the supposed savings, then, $1.6 trillion comes from tax hikes and $577 billion comes from spending cuts, not counting saved interest. So 73% of the savings comes from taxes, 27% from spending cuts. That’s $3 of tax hikes for every $1 of spending cuts."
Obama's use of fair share is likewise misleading at best. How is it fair to make one percent of taxpayers, who already pay more than 35 percent of all income taxes, pay even more?
In response to a subsequent followup, Obama again shook up Wall Street by saying going off the fiscal cliff is imaginable:
"Well obviously, we can all imagine a scenario where we go off the fiscal -- fiscal cliff. If -- if despite the election, if despite the dangers of going over the fiscal cliff and -- and what that means for our economy, that there’s too much stubbornness in Congress that we can’t even agree on giving middle-class families a tax cut, then middle-class families are all going to end up having a big tax hike. And that’s going to be a pretty rude shock for them, and I suspect will have a big impact on the holiday shopping season, which in turn will have an impact on business planning and hiring and we can go back into a recession."
At investors Business Daily, Andrew Malcolm writes that Obama's biggest challenge in avoiding the fiscal cliff isn't the Republicans, but his own hard-core left-wing supporters:
Two days after the election, Obama's favorite economist, Paul Krugman, set the tone for the intransigent left in a column titled: "Let's not make a deal." Boiled down, his advice to Obama was this: Don't give in to any Republican demands, even if doing so would "inflict damage on a still-shaky economy." After all, Obama would be better positioned to "weather any blowback from economic troubles."
Krugman's advice may be disturbingly cold and calculating, but he has plenty of company on the left.
Robert Kuttner, co-founder of the liberal American Prospect magazine, suggests Obama should just sit it out, let all the Bush tax cuts expire, the automatic spending cuts kick in and expect public pressure to force Republicans to give in entirely.
The left-wing Daily Kos called any kind of "grand bargain" between Obama and the GOP a "Great Betrayal."
And several Democratic lawmakers have suggested that the correct approach would be to let the country go over the fiscal cliff, since that will only strengthen Obama's position. "It's a hand Democrats are looking forward to playing," according to the liberal Huffington Post "news" site.
Unfortunately, Obama's idea of compromise is to tell his adversaries to do it his way.
Telemundo national correspondent, Lori Montenegro, asked Obama whether immigration reform would include a legalization program. In response, Obama took a victory lap touting a significant increase in the Latino vote. Obama falsely claimed immigration reform has "not historically been a partisan issue." It might have been a nonpartisan issue back in 2006, but not since.
In a web-exclusive commentary, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, a commentator generally regarded as being politically liberal, laid the blame on the Democrats [the original link no longer works, but I found Elanor Clift's piece posted at Hispanic News.]:
A compromise fashioned by Republicans Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Mel Martinez of Florida had toughened the earned citizenship portion of the Kennedy-McCain bill and made it more palatable to Republicans yet still acceptable to Kennedy.
But according to the recollections of those close to the principal figures, a battle ensued over how many amendments the Republicans would entertain, and Democrats feared that the GOP would use the amendments to strip away the progressive elements of the bill. Kennedy argued that he and McCain had the votes to defeat any troublesome amendments.
This is the U.S. Senate, Kennedy reportedly argued. The leadership has to allow for amendments. But the Democrats were dubious. They’d been burned before. And it didn’t take much persuading when New York Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer reportedly made the case that the failure to get a bill would be good for the Democrats. As the head of the Democratic campaign committee, Schumer is focused on getting his party back into power in November.
Despite the Democrarts' strident attempt to rewrite the history, of the Senate's great immigration reform compromise was killed at the behest of the Democratic campaign committee chair Schumer. Schumer and the Democrats turned their backs on the proposed compromise for crass political advantage. It doesn't get much more partisan than that.
Obama actually did finally lay out what he wants in immigration reform:
- Continuation of strong border security measures.
- Serious penalties for companies that purposely hire undocumented workers.
- A pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country and are not engaged in criminal activity.
- Requirement to learn English.
- Requirement that illegals potentially pay a fine.
- Legalization of Obama's extra-legal immunity scheme for certain "younger" illegal aliens.
It is too early to tell if the Republicans feel they can again trust the likes of Schumer enough to engage in another meaningful compromise on immigration with the Democrats.
Ed Henry, of Fox News, asked Obama whether he thought he had a mandate. In reply Obama claimed a very limited mandate:
"I’ve got one mandate: I’ve got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that have been working hard to try to get into the middle class. That’s my mandate."
That will of course be used to try and obtain some of the higher taxes he seemingly constantly seeks.
Gov. Mitt Romney
Nancy Cordes, CBS News correspondent, asked Obama whether had spoken to Gov. Romney, and scheduled a time to sit down and discuss the issues of the day with him.
Instead of just leaving it alone with his, "we haven’t scheduled something yet," Obama went on in a failed attempt at magnanimity:
"You know, there -- there’re certain aspects of Governor Romney’s record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful. And, well, to give you one example, I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. And, you know, that skill set of trying to figure out how do we make something work better applies to the federal government."
Obama continued rambling on about consolidating programs that are duplicative and eliminating waste. This of course did little other than to remind us all of his obviously broken promise to "go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely."
New York Times reporter Mark Landler asked Obama about climate change. In response Obama offered the following sound bites:
- We can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change.
- We know the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even ten years ago.
- We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting, faster than was predicted even five years ago.
- We do know that there have there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.
- And I am a firm believer that climate change is real. That it is impacted by human behavior, and carbon emissions.
- I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.
I'll deal with Obama's versions of the facts on another day. But I can't sum up a response to Obama's climate change nothing burger any better than Slate's Will Oremus who offered this interpretation:
1. Climate change is real.
2. We have an obligation to future generations to do something about it.
3. Doing something about it will require tough political choices.
4. I'm not willing to push for those tough political choices.
Chicago Tribune White House correspondent Christi Parsons asked whether Obama was preparing a final diplomatic push here to resolve Iran's nuclear program and whether we are headed toward one-on-one talks with Iran.
In response Obama actually sounded tough, at least at first:
"I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign, and I'm now clear after the campaign, we're not gonna let Iran get a nuclear weapon."
But I think there is still a window of time for us it resolve this diplomatically. ... There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Obama also suggested there would be no one on one talks with Iran:
"I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community to see if we can get this thing resolved."
Reuters reporter Mark Felsenthal asked whether the U.S. would intervene in Syria. Obama was unclear and would not go beyond talking about how we are engaged:
"We have been extensively engaged with the international community as well as regional powers to help the opposition."
Ben Feller of the Associated Press asked whether there had been any breaches of national security or classified information in the scandal involving Generals Petraeus. Feller got stonewalled. Obama denied that he has "no evidence at this point from what I’ve seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security."
So in a 50-odd minute press conference, Obama was able to take only ten questions. From those ten questions we learned little. It could all be summed up briefly as I won, let's compromise and do things my way. Just further confirmation that we spent billions of dollars and more than a year on a campaign to maintain the status quo.
If you were unable to watch the speech the press conference I encourage you to read it, listen to it or watch it. Don't let others decide what you think, decide yourself. Reading summaries, excerpts and critiques lets others do the thinking for you. Snippets can't help you grasp the import, which you should have especially if you want to disagree in a knowledgeable manner.