President Barack Obama did something on Tuesday that he rarely does: Benefiting from the fact that Congress is out of town, making it difficult for legislators scattered about the country to retort, the President spoke with reporters.
The Presidential press conference lasted only about 45 minutes and was apparently lacking in any agenda-driven goal, though it did occur on the 100th day of the second term of the Obama Administration. That it was a milestone day for the President’s second term was not lost on reporters in attendance, many of whom focused on Obama’s inability to achieve campaign goals — some of which were set during his first term.
Here are some highlights from the event.
More talk about “red lines.”
The President told assembled reporters that recent reports that the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians could be a game changer because it means the regime has crossed a “red line.” But the President said that he wants to know more before doing anything drastic.
“What we have now is evidence that chemical weapons have been used,” Obama said. He went on to suggest that the next step is U.S. intelligence to determine “how they were used, when they were used [or] who used them.”
If definitive evidence is found that the weapons have been used against civilians in the country, American military intervention could be in the cards.
Federal officials did everything perfectly with regard to Boston bombings.
There has been a great deal of criticism recently about the possible intelligence failings that could have enabled the Boston terrorists as well as how government responded to the attacks. The President refutes any claim that government failed at any level with regard to the tragedy.
“What we saw in Boston was State, local, Federal officials, every agency rallying around a city that had been attacked, identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined,” Obama said Tuesday. “We now have one individual deceased one in custody. Charges have been brought.”
In response to claims made by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that intelligence failures enabled the bombers, Obama said: “They not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother.”
But no red flags were observed, the President contended, so the real question is “was there something that happened that triggered radicalization and an actual decision by the brother to engage in the attack.”
“Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated.”
Asked whether the Obama Administration has “any juice” left to accomplish some of the goals he touted during the Presidential campaign, Obama channeled Mark Twain.
“Maybe I should just pack up and go home,” Obama sarcastically responded. “Golly. You know, I think it’s a little, as Mark Twain said, you know, ‘Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated’ at this point.”
Conservative media outlets all over the Internet promptly fantasized about the President packing up and calling it quits.
Not surprised Gitmo is a problem and still committed to closing it.
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said of hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay. “Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”
The President said that there is no reason for legislative hurdles to closing the military prison.
“The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity — even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al-Qaida, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that’s contrary to who we are. It’s contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop,” he said.
Republicans protecting the wealthy are responsible for sequestration.
The President told reporters that sequestration is “damaging our economy” and “hurting our people” and refuted the idea that his Administration has exaggerated the impact for political purposes.
“You will recall that, you know, even as recently as my campaign, Republicans were saying, ‘Sequester is terrible. This is a disaster. It’s going to ruin our military. It’s going to be disastrous for the economy. We’ve got to do something about it,'” he said. “Then, when it was determined that doing something about it might mean that we close some tax loopholes for the wealthy and the well connected, suddenly, ‘Well, you know what? We’ll take the sequester.’ And the notion was somehow that we had exaggerated the effects of the sequester. Remember? The President’s, you know, ‘crying wolf. He’s Chicken Little. The sequester? No problem.'”
Gang of 8 immigration reform legislation is good.
The proposal is “not the bill I would have written… but it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start,” Obama said of the bipartisan immigration plan that has many conservatives questioning the agendas of Republicans involved in creating it.
Obamacare is already helping you.
The President said that, even if they don’t realize it, Americans with health insurance are already benefiting from his healthcare overhaul.
“The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, has now been with us for three years. It’s gone through Supreme Court tests. It’s gone through efforts to repeal. A huge chunk of it has already been implemented. And for the 85, 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, even if they don’t know it,” he said. “Their insurance is more secure. Insurance companies can’t drop them for bad reasons. Their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they’re 26 years old. They’re getting free preventive care. There are a whole host of benefits. For the average American out there, the 85, 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened. And their only impact is their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before.”
The President didn’t address the widely held notion that further implementation of Obamacare is going to cause major problems at all levels of government and for health insurance providers. He also said nothing of the expected premium hikes that are slated to hit American wallets next year.