President Barack Obama said Tuesday that last week – when he won historic victories on trade, health care and gay rights – was “gratifying,” but he stopped short of calling it his “best week ever,” as some pundits have.
“In terms of my best week … now my best week I will tell you was marrying Michelle, that was a really good week. Malia and Sasha being born – excellent weeks,” Obama said during a joint news conference with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. “I’ve had some good weeks in my life, and I am blessed to have had those,” he added, making a reference to a basketball game where he once scored 27 points.
The president was asked how he intended to spend the political “capital” he has gained recently, and Obama responded by saying the list was “long.” Among his priorities are the new rule to expand overtime pay his administration rolled out Tuesday, as well as the “possibility of bipartisan legislation around the criminal justice system.”
“We’ve seen some really interesting leadership from some unlikely Republican legislators, very serious … about making progress there,” the president said, which could have been a veiled reference to 2016 Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, but Obama neglected to mention anymore by name.
Obama praised the success of his bitterly fought trade deal and the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court upheld for the second time last week in a 6-3 decision. When it comes to his signature health care legislation, commonly known as Obamacare, the president said, “The results speak for themselves.”
“It worked better and cost less than even supporters anticipated,” Obama said, and he then proceeded to call out governors in red states who still refuse to expand Medicaid subsidies in their states.
While acknowledging that his presidency has had its “ups and downs” the president said he has told his team that “we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make as long as I have the privilege of holding this office.” He called his recent string of victories a “culmination” of the work his White House has been doing since he took office in 2009.
He also spoke on more personal terms about the impact of his eulogy in Charleston, South Carolina, for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the reaction to the Supreme Court decision affirming same-sex marriage. The president said his remarks in the South Carolina city, still reeling from the recent massacre of Pinckney and eight other people at a historically black church, were “heartfelt.”
“It wasn’t a celebration. I think it was a reflection on the consistent challenge of race in this country and how we can find a path towards a better way,” he said. Obama also reiterated his praise for the people of Charleston and for South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for taking a stand against the Confederate flag.
Speaking of flags, the president also took a moment to comment on “how good the White House looked in rainbow colors,” a symbol of the LGBT community. The White House made the gesture the same evening the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. The president said security prevented him from sneaking a peek at the revelers but that for the people who gathered at the White House “to feel whole and to feel accepted and to feel that they had a right to love – that was pretty cool, that was a good thing.”
“That was a moment worth savoring,” he added.
The president appeared to be in good spirits, as he is enjoying a bump in the polls and a spate of good press. He joked that he would “love” to do more press conferences but that his press team is “always holding me back.”
Obama quipped: “I want to talk to you guys every day!”