Obama: Open to New Ideas


President Obama spoke at the first White House press conference since last week's elections, in which he discussed various issues including the "fiscal cliff," tax cuts and reform, as well as national security issues relating ...

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The White House held it’s first press conference since President Barack Obama secured his second term in office.  He discussed a variety of issues, both domestic and international, as well as the economy and climate change.  The priorities the President emphasized are jobs and the economy

The major issues covered during the press conference are highlighted below.  
“Fiscal Cliff” and Tax Cuts:
While the president said he is “open to new ideas” he rejected the suggestion that the fiscal cliff could be avoided by closing “vague” loopholes, and without raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.  Step one, the president said, is to “provide certainty” to the middle class that their taxes “won’t go up a single dime next year.”  Following that, he is ready to commit to structuring the tax reform by closing specific loopholes and ending entitlements.  
"But when it comes to the top 2 percent, what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars. And it's very difficult to see how you make up that trillion dollars, if we're serious about deficit reduction, just by closing loopholes and deductions," the president said.
Immigration reform has proven to be elusive during the president's first time, but now he insists it is time to "seize the moment," and implement realistic reform.  The president's emphasized the need to make it easier for non-Americans studying within the country on a student visa to stay here and contribute to our economic development.  The president anticipated successful immigration reform to be set in place shortly after his inauguration, which would include strong border controls, stricter penalties for companies hiring undocumented workers as well as establishing a clear path for immigrants currently in the country to obtain a legal status that would require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes and learn english, while protecting young immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents.
“Young people who came here through no fault of their own, they should not be under the cloud of deportation,” Obama said, who last week scored an unprecedented level of votes among the hispanic population.
CIA Sex Scandal and National Security Leaks:
The president said that the country is safer thanks to the work done by CIA director David Patraeus, and that his relationship with biographer, Paula Broadwell has not resulted in a threat to national security.  Patraeus is scheduled to testify on the Sept. 11 attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which was also a critical issue discussed during the conference.
Cabinet Nominations:
The president refused to specifically discuss his intentions for replacing open cabinet positions of Secretary of State and Defense.  However, the president responded to criticisms of the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who he says provided her best assessment of the Benghazi attacks based on the intelligence she was provided.  He said Rice had nothing to do with what happened in Libya, and criticisms of her, included those made by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) are “outrageous,”  and that she is being considered an “easy target” for political fallout.  
Rice has served in her position as ambassador with “skill, professionalism, toughness and grace,” and that her work has been “exemplary,” according to the President, who did not entirely discount her as a possible replacement for the cabinet position left open by the retiring Hillary Clinton.
Benghazi Sept. 11 Attacks:
President Obama insisted that the number one priority of his administration is to protect Americans, both civilian and military.  In that regard, immediately upon finding out about the safety threat at the embassy, he ordered his national security team to do whatever was needed to be done to make sure the situation was safe.  
The president said there needs to be accountability for what happened at the embassy, and justice needs to be carried out.  The White House has turned over all the information they had prior to the attack to aid the investigation that has been ongoing for the past two months.  The president also said he would address the families of the victims of that attack directly, and "not through the press."
Syrian Civil War:
The president reconfirmed that he was the first to say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “had to go,” and that the United States is "actively engaged with the opposition," and has provided consultants to help them organize against al-Assad.  
In terms of arming the opposition, Obama said his administration is cautious in putting weapons in the hands of folks that could put Americans in harm, or could be detrimental to national security.  The United States is in close contact with Turkey, Jordan and Israel, and is concerned with implementing a "moderate" democracy in the country now ravaged by civil war.
Iranian Nuclear Development:
President Obama, who says current sanctions on Iran -- the toughest in history -- have been effective, and have caused a noticeable impact on the Iranian economy, believes there is still a window of time for diplomatic resolution to the nuclear problem.  The United States “won’t let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” but Iran may be able to develop “peaceful nuclear power while meeting their international obligations.”  
Obama said he will “make a push” to open up a dialogue between Iran and the international community, but this dialogue “won’t be constrained by diplomatic niceties.”
Climate Change:
Though the president said that individual weather events cannot be attributed to climate change, he believes that climate change is real, and connected to human behavior, and there is an “obligation to future generations to do something about it.”  
The president will be touring New York City tomorrow to survey the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and he acknowledged the cost of large scale natural disasters, admitting that, while we’ve doubled clean energy output and reformed carbon emission standards, “we haven’t done as much as we need to.”  
The work that needs to be done to counteract climate change is “hard, but important,” and over the next several months he will be having wide-ranging conversations with scientists, engineers and politicians to work through short term solutions in reducing carbon and developing an education process that will serve as a realistic long-term solution to the problem.  
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