In an interview with Morning Joe, President Barack Obama spoke out on the Benghazi attacks and said his first task as a second-term president will be reducing the deficit and paying off the country’s $16 trillion in debt.
“Anytime a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans who were serving our country get killed, we have to figure out what happened and fix it,” he said, speaking with Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in New Hampshire. “But I do take offense with some suggestion that in any way, we haven’t tried to make sure that the American people knew as the information was coming in what we believed.”
He also pledged to bring accountability to the government if the response was mishandled.
“If we find out we that there was a big breakdown, and somebody didn’t do their job, they’ll be held accountable,” he said, before taking responsibility for the event. “Ultimately, as commander-in-chief, I’m responsible, and I don’t shy away from that responsibility. My No. 1 responsibility is to go after the folks who did this, and we’re going to make sure we get them.”
The president laid out a plan to manage the debt and deficit, particularly through healthcare reform.
“There’s no doubt that our first order of business is going to be to get our deficits and debt under control,” he said. “There’s a forcing mechanism. You know, the Bush tax cuts end at the end of the year. We know that we’ve got the sequester looming.”
The sequester — which the president frankly said “will not happen” in the last debate last week — would indiscriminately implement cuts of $109 billion to be divided equally between defense and non-defense spending. Speaking on Morning Joe, Obama likened the trigger mechanism to “taking a machete to something, as opposed to a scalpel,” but said it would motivate Congress to compromise.
In addition to raising revenue through tax hikes on the wealthy, the president said that further healthcare reform, particularly with Medicaid and Medicare, is key to reducing the deficit.
“If we’re spending 17% of our GDP on health care, and every other country is spending 11%, and their outcomes are better, that difference is 6%, that’s our deficit and our debt,” he said. “Now, I stole a whole bunch of ideas from a Massachusetts governor that I think over time is going to save us money, and you know, part — the $716 billion dollars that Governor Romney suggests that I stole from Medicare is actually money that we are saving in the system, and extending the life of Medicare.”
Obama suggested that once the debt is dealt with, he would be able to shrink government and create jobs through infrastructure projects, like building roads.
“I truly believe that if we can get the deficit and debt issue solved, which I believe we can get done in the lame duck, or in the immediate aftermath, of the lame duck, then that clears away a lot of the ideological underbrush,” he said.