Today President Obama gave his first White House news conference since March, addressing his plan to prevent the fiscal cliff and reassuring Republicans that he is willing and ready to work across party lines.
During the presser, he spoke assertively while defending Susan Rice, the UN Ambassador projected to become one of his Cabinet members in 2013, and opened up on climate change, an issue that was overlooked during the presidential debates and campaign.
Obama began the press conference by talking about the sex scandal that has forced General David Petreaus to resign from his position as the director of the CIA. Gen. Petreaus had an extraordinary career, he said. By his own assessment he did not meet the standards that he felt necessary to lead the CIA.
Obama also made it clear that he does not want to extend the Bush Tax cuts for high-income earners making over $250,000 a year.
CNN's Jessica Yellin challenged the President on this claim, stating that he also promised not to extend the Bush Tax Cuts in 2010, however he backtracked on his word. "Why should the American people and Republicans believe you won't recant on your statement about not extending the Bush Tax cuts again?" she asked.
He explained that two years ago, the American economy was in a different situation. "This was a one-time proposition," he declared. "I told leaders that we can't afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but we can ensure that the taxes on the middle class do not go up," affirmed the POTUS.
He continued by stressing that we need to simplify our tax code and emphasized that he is not going to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent.
In a follow up question about his execution plan to garner revenue from taxes on millionaires, Obama said that there are loopholes that could be closed, and that the filing process needs to be easier and simpler.
"I'm not going to extend further the cuts for high-income people. The math tends not to work," he said stressing that it will not help balance the deficit. We have a clear majority that the American people recognize: "can we all step back and say, here's something we agree on, we don't want taxes to go up on the middle class?"
Obama also stated that he is open to changing government entitlement programs, without specifying which ones.
"I want a big deal, I want a comprehensive deal," he said. "We could get that done by next week."
The next press question addressed the issue of immigration reform and the large turnout from Latino voters last week.
"It was encouraging to see a significant increase in Latino turnout. You are starting to see a sense of empowerment," said Obama. "I am very confident that we will get immigration reform done. This has not historically been a partisan issue. My expectation is that we get a bill introduce and begin the process in Congress soon after my inauguration."
"It should contain penalties for companies taking advantage of undocumented workers while also addressing ways to secure our borders," he continued.
Obama also talked about the Dream Act, legislation he's pushed to give qualified young undocumented students a pathway to go to college and become productive members of our society. We need "to give them the avenue to help them secure their status. "Young people who are brought here on no fault of their own and want to contribute to our society should not be seized and be deported," he declared.
Chuck Todd of MSNBC followed up with a question on General Petraeus and the tax rate question to which the president replied,
"I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding General Petreaus came up," said Obama, refraining from providing details or his opinion on how the case was handled.
He also stated, "I am open to new ideas" with respect to the tax cuts and raise revenue, encouraging growth. "I believe this is solvable."
Surprisingly, Obama praised his political foe Mitt Romney when asked if he will work with him as he promised on election night.
"I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. That skill set of how to get something to work better applies to the government," said Obama about Romney.
He also acknowledged his own shortcomings, stating:
"There's no doubt that I can always do better. I will examine ways to communicate my desire to work with everybody."
"I hope and intend to be an even better president than I was in the first [term]."
Tension arose when the President was asked to acknowledge GOP attacks on Susan Rice, which were made earlier today by Senator John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham.
"For them to go after the U.N. ambassador … and to besmirch her reputation, it's outrageous," said Obama, backing Rice, a strong candidate to become the Secretary of State. "When they go after the UN ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."
His tough talk continued: "I've got one mandate: I've got a mandate to help middle class families and families trying to get into the middle class."
"I didn't get reelected just to bask in reelection, I got reelected to do work."
The President was also asked to address the issue of climate change, in which he asserted, "I am a firm believer that climate change is real and that it is impacted by human events." He continued saying that the federal government can make a difference.
"We're seeing that go on now at the Jersey Shore and the East Coast. We can't attribute any particular weather event to climate change, but we do know that the temperature is increasing and that the ice is melting. What can we do to reduce carbons and have a national conversation to make changes to help prevent it/reserve the effects," Obama said.
Obama's back like he never left, and he sure ain't scared to put his foot down!