Obama meets the press

Updated
 

President Obama’s latest press conference covered quite a bit of ground, and if you missed it, the video is worth your time. But if you don’t have 48 minutes, let me highlight a few things for you.

* Syria: Obama said, “[W]hat we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened…. I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts. That’s what the American people would expect. And if we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do.”

* Benghazi: Fox News’ Ed Henry pushed a strange far-right theory about State Department employees having been “blocked from coming forward” on Benghazi. The president said he had no idea what Henry was talking about, and for good reason – the theory has been “discredited.”

* Boston: Asked if Americans “should be worried when they go to big public events,” Obama said, “We’re not going be intimidated. We are going to live our lives.”

* Congress: Asked if he has “the juice” to get bills passed by Congress, the president said rumors of his demise have been “a little exaggerated.” Pressed further by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, Obama said something I hope Beltway pundits heard clearly: “Jonathan you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities, and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job. Members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.”

* Guantanamo Bay: The president was asked about the hunger strike among detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and his response was arguably the most newsworthy element of the entire press conference:

“I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo. I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.

“Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it. And despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo, who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country, I’m gonna go back at this. I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m gonna reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people.

“And it’s not sustainable. I mean, 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, and we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these trans-national terrorist networks. […]

“I don’t want these individuals to die. 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?”

* Affordable Care Act: Asked about implementing the health care law, Obama said “every government program that’s ever been set up” faces challenges, “but if we stay with it, and we understand what are long- term objective is, which is making sure that in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt if they get sick, and that we would rather have people getting regular check-ups than going to the emergency room because they don’t have health care, if we keep that in mind, then we’re gonna be able to drive down costs. We’re going to be able to improve efficiencies in the system. We’re going to be able to see people benefit from better health care, and that will save the country money as a whole over the long term.”

* Immigration: Obama said he’s been “impressed by the work that was done by the Gang of Eight in the Senate,” but kept his comments brief, probably because the Gang of Eight asked him not to invest too much in this.

* Jason Collins: Obama said, “I had the chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man. And, you know, I told him I couldn’t be prouder. You know, one of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality, not just partial equality, not just tolerance, but a recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.”

For the record, there were no questions about jobs.

Barack Obama

Obama meets the press

Updated