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Obama Press Conference Open Thread

I’d expect some olive branch to the right, though on what I don’t really know. There’s really not a whole lot the President can say, other than demanding that Ben Bernanke immediately purchase $2 trillion in Treasury securities and that he would propose an immediate payroll tax holiday in the lame duck session. This model bargain is ludicrous, but probably gives an insight into what the White House is thinking. We’ll see in a few minutes.

Will the President realize he needs people behind him and believing in him rather than holding his base at arm’s length and doing little of tangible value for their lives?

…Obama’s at the podium now. He says that he talked to Boehner and McConnell last night. “Some election nights are more fun than others.” Says that power rests with the people. He’s traveled around the country and did a lot of listening, and “yesterday’s vote confirmed what I heard.” People are deeply frustrated with the pace of economic recovery. They want jobs and better paychecks and a better life for their children. “They don’t expect Washington to solve all their problems, but they do expect that Washington works for them, not against them.”

…OK, I lost a bunch of stuff. Basically, Obama said he’s been all over the country, and the results confirmed that people aren’t seeing the progress right now. And he takes responsibility. Democrats and Republicans have to work together now.

Man asked him, “Is there hope for us returning to civility in our discourse, to a healthy legislative process.” I do believe there’s hope, because I believe in the nation’s resiliency. Hm, he’s running Jon Stewart’s speech. Not Dems or Republicans, but proud Americans. I did like that he said there are two different parties for a reason, and that they have certain principles.

Ben Feller from AP: Was last night a fundamental rejection of your agenda?

Obama: People’s number one concern is the economy. They expressed great frustration about not making enough progress on the economy. “They don’t see it.” They understand that I’m the President and that my core responsibility is that we have an economy that’s growing and jobs are being created. I have direct responsibility for that. Question moving forward is whether Dems and Republicans cam sit together and come up with ideas that address that. He thinks we can.

Mentions ways to work together: energy policy, education policy (potential common ground). There are going to be areas where we disagree. Voters want us to act responsibility, work harder to arrive at consensus, work completely on jobs and the economy. Majority of people going about their business, they want to make sure we’re making progress.

NBC: You’re not second-guessing! Start second-guessing! Are you not getting it?

Obama: I’m doing a whole lot of reflecting. We’re going to have to do a better job on a lot of policies. We made tough decisions in last two years. We had an emergency situation. But with all that stuff coming at folks, a recovery package, what we did for banks and auto companies, people started looking and it felt like government was getting more intrusive. Reason was it was an emergency. People thought it was the agenda and not the response to an emergency. We knew it was a danger but thought it was necessary. Price tags went with that.

Also, when I won election in 2008, we had a prospect that we would change how business is done in Washington. We were in such a hurry to get things done, we didn’t change how it got done. That frustrated people. People don’t want earmarking process. I had to sign bills with earmarks. Opportunity to move forward on that. Cantor wanted moratorium on earmarks, I agree.

NBC: What about policy choices.

Obama: Voters are not satisfied with the outcomes. If we had 5% unemployment and not 9.6% unemployment, things would be better. People think economy isn’t where it needs to be, and they’re right. If Republicans have good ideas, we want to try something. We’re not going to rule out ideas because Democratic or Republican, we want to see what works. I’ll be judged on the bottom line, results.

Q: Repealing health care? Danger?

Obama: I know some Republicans feel strongly about it. This issue will come up. I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that Americans wanted us to re-litigate arguments. On health care, here are some stories of people helped by the law. I’m happy to consider ideas to make health care better. For example the 1099 provision in the bill is too burdensome for small businesses, and counter-productive. If it ends up too much trouble, that’s something we should take a look at. We can tweak and make improvements on the progress we made. But I don’t think people want to see the good things repealed.

Follow-up: One out of two want it repealed.

Obama: Then one out of two think it was right. Let’s talk specifics. Are you for pre-existing conditions? Are you for closing the donut hole? This is now governing. We can make progress and find common ground.

CBS: Republicans focused on spending. Won’t accept a stimulus. Is spending to create jobs is dead, and what else can government do?

Obama: People are concerned about spending and deficits. I have a deficit commission, bipartisan, putting forward ideas. Hopefully they arrive at consensus on programs that don’t work and streamline government. But won’t cut into core investments that grow economy. What are our priorities? What do we care about? That’s going to be a tough debate with tough choices. We had a big deficit that I inherited, recession made it worse. I don’t want to cut back on education, R&D, I want to invest in infrastructure – we’ve had bipartisan agreement about it in the past. China and Korea are outstripping us, making long-term investments. Must distinguish between what adds to growth and our future and what doesn’t. Single most important thing we have to do is to make sure middle-class families don’t see a higher tax burden next year. Should also extend historically extended business provisions. Should extend unemployment insurance. There are things we can do right now to sustain and advance the recovery. Even with intelligent medium-term budget cuts.

CBS: They say that’s wasteful spending it’s DOA.

Obama: True, without Republican support on anything, nothing will get done. But Republicans were told they want to see job growth, hopefully they’ll work together on job growing things that don’t add to the deficit. Example of bonus depreciation for businesses. Not historically a liberal idea, Republicans supported that for a long time. Do we all come to the table with an open mind?

Peter Baker: You said before elections have consequences. Are there areas you would be willing to compromise on?

Obama: I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I’m willing to do so going forward. Example of energy. Lots of GOP members ran against the energy bill. That bill won’t pass. But we should have a better energy policy. Let’s find areas of agreement. We have terrific natural gas resources, for example (fracking!). Electric car development, bipartisan interest in that. Restarting nuclear industry. We were able to increase fuel efficiency standards with cooperation of automakers, and that will move us forward. Some parts have too much disagreement, but let’s not wait, let’s make progress where we agree.

Jake Tapper: Bush tax cuts, willing to compromise? Also, when Bush lost, he said it was a thumpin’. When you call your friends who lost, see 19 state legislatures down, what does it feel like?

Obama: It feels bad. Toughest thing is seeing terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve. People who took tough votes even though they knew it would cause them problems. Courage they showed is something I admire. Sadness and questioning on my part, could I have done something differently. It’s hard and I take responsibility for it. They tell me they don’t have regrets. I hope a lot of them continue public service.

On the tax cuts, my goal is to make sure we don’t have a huge spike in taxes for middle-class families. Would be bad for our economy. Shouldn’t take money out of the system for people likely to spend that money. That’s also why I think unemployment insurance is important. Right thing to do for economy. My goal is to sit down with Boehner, McConnell, Reid and Pelosi in next few weeks. We have to first of all, do no harm. Extend business provisions for investment and middle class relief. Too early to say how it’ll work out. We shouldn’t play brinksmanship.

Q: What about deals on health care? What about the EPA?

Obama: Making sure families have security and a trajectory to lower health care costs are critical for this country. But in this partisan environment, it’s an ugly mess when it comes to process. Really affected the outcome. I regret that we couldn’t have made the process healthier. Outcome was a good one.

On EPA, we should get everyone serious about energy independence, clean air and water, and greenhouse gases into a room. What can we do to solve this problem? EPA is under a court order that says GHGs are a pollutant that falls under their jurisdiction. We shouldn’t ignore the science but find ways to solve these problems, that don’t hurt the economy, but create entirely new industries. Too early to see whether we can make progress. Cap and trade was a means, not an end. I’m looking for other means. I think EPA wants help on this. They want the issue dealt with.

Ed Henry: “Car out of the ditch” story. House districts rejected that message. How will you connect. On policy front, DADT was something you promised to end. What do you tell your base?

Obama: I’ve been a strong believer that if someone is willing to serve, they should not be prevented because of sexual orientation. Overwhelming majority of Americans feel same way. As CiC, I said this needs to be done in an orderly fashion. Worked with military to maintain good order and discipline and change this policy. Pentagon survey comes out December 1. Gates and Mullen will say something about the review. Time to act in the lame duck session to change the policy. Bunch of court cases out there as well. Disruptive to “good order and discipline” if it’s bouncing around in the courts. We have to provide certainty. Shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

On how we move forward. American people understand that we’re still digging our way out of a big mess. They feel like we’re not out of the ditch. They want Dems and Republicans pushing some more to get the car on level ground. We haven’t done enough of that. If you think there was too much rhetoric, at the least we were pushing in opposite directions.

I reject that our policies reversed us. This economy was in a free-fall when I came into office. Economy has stabilized. Hard to argue we’ve gone backwards, you can argue we’re stuck in neutral. It will not be easy. Dems and Republicans have different priorities, and these issues are hard. Republicans said they’re concerned about debt and deficits, but economic growth would fix that, so what are their proposals? I don’t think that tax cuts alone will provide growth. We cut taxes significantly from 2001-2009, saw no expansion. Public wants us to mix and match ideas. There will be time for politics later.

Q: Reset button with business?

Obama: We’ve been asking ourselves this for several months. I needed to find right balance in making sure businesses are treating customers fairly and have rules of the road, but also making clear that the only way America succeeds is through business success. Free market is dynamic and entrepreneurial. Has to be nurtured and cultivated. Battles where business took the message that they were always painted as the bad guy. I have to make clear to biz community that the most important thing we can do is to boost the business sector. We’ve been talking to CEOs constantly. CEOs joining me to Asia, working on opening up markets.

Q: How do you get them off the sidelines?

Obama: I made proposals a couple months ago, in the middle of campaign season. We can talk to businesses about what will help them create more investments. I’ll listen hard to them with Dems and Republicans together, where we receive the same message at the same time.

Reuters: You’re out of touch, how will you change your leadership style?

Obama: Inherent danger in being in the White House bubble. People didn’t complain about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa for a year. They understood that my story was theirs. Values of hard work and responsibility and looking out from one another were the same. Track record has been that when I’m out of here, that’s not an issue. In here, it’s hard not to seem removed. I have to meet responsibilities here, but still have the opportunity to engage with American people on a day-to-day basis. Must give them confidence that I’m listening to them. Letters I read break my heart, but nobody’s filming me reading those letters. More things we can do to make sure I’m getting out of here. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were also standing at this podium two years into their Presidency, getting the same kinds of questions. This is something that every President needs to go through. Responsibilities of the office so enormous. In the rush of activity, we lose track of the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the first place. Not recommending that every President take a shellacking like we did last night. This is a growth process and an evolution, though. More ups and downs to come. But I want to end on this. Getting out of here is good for me too. When I travel around the country, even when it’s tough, I always come away feeling more optimistic about this country. We have good and decent people. They always make me optimistic. Despite scary moments, never doubted that we’ll emerge strong.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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