Obama, First Press Conference: Talks Fiscal Cliff, Petraeus & Defends Susan Rice (VIDEO)
President Obama answered questions from the press Wednesday for the first time since his re-election on Nov. 6.
The three topics that dominated the press conference were the looming fiscal cliff, Ambassador Susan Rice and the scandal involving generals David Petraeus and John Allen.
The president said it does not make sense for taxes to be raised now, even if Congress fails to act by Jan. 1.
"Our economy can't afford that right now," Obama said. "Certainly no middle-class family can afford that right now. And nobody in either party says that they want it to happen."
President Obama added that another option will be to pass a law right now that would prevent any tax hike whatsoever on the first $250,000 of everybody's income. Meaning every American, including the wealthiest Americans, get a tax cut. It also means that 98 percent of all Americans and 97 percent of all small businesses won't see their taxes go up a single dime.
The press questioned President Obama on his promise to end the Bush-era tax cuts this year, a promise he failed to keep two years ago.
"Two years ago the economy was in a different situation," the president said. "We were still very much in the early parts of recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"And ultimately, we came together, not only to extend the Bush tax cuts, but also a wide range of policies that were going to be good for the economy at the point -- unemployment insurance extensions, payroll tax extension -- all of which made a difference," he added. "[That] is a part of the reason why what we've seen now is 32 consecutive months of job growth, and over 5 1/2 million jobs created, and the unemployment rate coming down."
The downfall of two of the nation's top generals have captured the public's attention, but the president said he has no evidence that classified information was disclosed in any way that would have a negative impact on national security.
"General Petraeus had an extraordinary career," Obama said. "He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA. We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.
"My main hope right now is -- is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career," he added.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham both said Wednesday that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and that they will do everything to block the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state. However, Obama saw differently.
"For them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous," Obama said.
"But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me. And should I choose -- if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity -- the State Department, then I will nominate her. That's not a determination that I've made yet."
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