President Obama gave his first press conference since he clinched his re-election, where reporters continually brought back the discussion to the looming "fiscal cliff," prodding the president to draw a firm line in the sand on raising tax revenue.
The president reiterated the core of his campaign message anchored on jobs and tax relief for the middle class while asking the wealthiest of Americans to pay their “fair share.”
"We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy," the president said.
He maintained that he is "open to compromise" and "new ideas," but dismissed the Republican approach of solely raising revenue through closing loopholes and deductions within the tax code.
"When it comes to the top 2%, what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars," he said. "It's very difficult to see how you make up that trillion dollars, if we're serious about deficit reduction, just by closing loopholes in deductions. You know, the math tends not to work."
Pressed by a reporter on how the public could trust him after he had extended the Bush-era tax cuts two years ago, the president said that was an exception.
"Two years ago, the economy was in a different situation," Obama said. "What I said at the time is what I meant, which is, this was a one-time proposition.”
The president's tenor took a heated turn when asked about the pointed attacks leveled by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on how U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and the administration responded to the September 2012 consulate attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham should go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said. “But when they go after the U.N Ambassador? Especially because they think she is an easy target? Then they’ve got a problem with me.”
The president also addressed immigration, climate change, and the scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen during the wide-ranging press conference.