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Tag Archives: Press Conference

Obama Won’t Rule Out Attack if Congress Votes “No”

President Obama today refused to rule out attacking Syria anyway even if Congress fails to support him, though he will address the nation Tuesday from the White House to try to build support for his decision and put pressure on Congress to approve it.

Obama, who spoke during a press conference at the conclusion of the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, hinted at a possible justification for acting unilaterally by noting that his decision to put the matter before Congress was not just motivated by a desire for Congressional approval, but to prompt debate about the issue and make sure the American people fully understand why he wants to bomb Syria.

Asserting the critical need to uphold the principle of preventing the use of chemical weapons in the world, Obama said he wanted to make “sure that the American people understand it is important before I take action.”

Obama said Americans need to hash this out because the threat posed by chemical weapons is the type America will be facing in coming years. “I think it’s the right thing to do,” Obama said of the decision to prompt a debate in Congress. “I think it’s good for our democracy.”

But the president also suggested he might be constrained from acting without Congress, noting that part of the reason he sought a vote was that he “could not honestly claim” the situation “was a direct or imminent threat to the United States” that would force him to move quickly without Congress. And in contrast to Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi was about to crush his opposition, the U.S. response to the Syrian chemical weapons attacks could wait a bit.

Obama repeatedly suggested that with polls showing a strike against Syria unpopular, lawmakers might want to consider acting against the will of their constituents. He argued that action to prevent the genocide in Rwanda – the lack of which is widely lamented – would “probably wouldn’t poll very well” if it were at issue today. He even noted that helping the British during the German Blitz was not popular either with the public or Congress.

The president, who has frequently referred to the need for international approval before moving militarily, sought to justify his decision to ignore the United Nations this time by charging that the UN was failing to abide by its own rules by not seeking to enforce the international ban on chemical weapons.

Obama: “I am Not a Dictator”

President Obama today said he “not a dictator” and cannot hold congressional leaders in town to try to strike a deal on the sequester.

Obama spoke at an unannounced press conference in the White House briefing, where he sought to portray frustration after a White House meeting this morning with Congressional leaders from both Parties failed to result in a deal on the sequester, which begins at Midnight tonight.

House Speaker John Boehner said after the session that Republicans aren’t budging from their insistence that a deal to avert the sequester not raise taxes.

But Obama made clear that the White House strategy is to allow the cuts to begin to take place and hope that the pain they cause eventually forces Republicans to cry uncle.

My hope is that after some reflection, after members of Congress start hearing from constituents who are being negatively impacted, as we start seeing the impact that the sequester is having, that they step back and say, “All right, is there a way for us to move forward on a package of entitlement reforms, tax reform, not raising tax rates, identifying programs that don’t work, coming up with a plan that’s comprehensive and that makes sense.” And it may take a couple of weeks, it may take months.

The president made clear he will use the sequester to blame the GOP and the sequester for the lousy state of the economy, having them stand in for his old, outdated whipping horse, George W. Bush.

“Every time that we get a piece of economic news over the next month, six months . . . we’ll know that news could have been better, he said

Obama also walked back some of the crisis he has sought to apply to sequester. It’s not gong to be an apocalypse, as some people have said,” he said “It’s just dumb.” Some believe it was Obama who did the most to portray the sequester as apocalyptic.

Meanwhile, Obama, who less than a year ago was “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage, today fervently defended his decision to join a Supreme Court case that could overturn a California law barring same-sex marriage. “We cannot discriminate against same-sex couple when it comes to marriage,” Obama asserted.