Obama: 2014 can be 'breakthrough year for America'

The president gives annual end-of-the-year news conference Friday at the White House in Washington.
Associated Press
Dec 20, 2013

Citing strong progress on the economy, President Barack Obama said at his annual year-end news conference Friday that 2014 "can be a breakthrough year for America" after a long season of recession and slow recovery.

Yet he suggested that given widespread criticism, he may alter the power of the National Security Agency to collect information on Americans.

And when it came to the universally panned roll out of his health care law, Obama conceded that "we screwed it up," and said, "I'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year." It was unclear if he meant to signal high-level personnel changes.

The president praised Congress for a recent, relatively modest budget compromise. "It's probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship. But it's also fair to say we're not condemned to endless gridlock," he said.

He also renewed his long-standing refusal to negotiate concessions with Republicans in exchange for legislation that will be needed in late winter or early spring to raise the nation's debt limit. "It is not something that is a negotiating tool. It's not leverage. It's a responsibility of Congress," he said, although he added that he was willing to discuss other issues separately.

Obama spoke from the White House briefing room podium as he concluded his fifth year as president, his hair far grayer than the day he was first sworn in. He and his family were departing later in the day for their holiday vacation in Hawaii.

The president opened his remarks with an upbeat assessment of the state of the economy and seemed determined not to stray from it.

Asked if this year had been the worst of his presidency so far, he laughed and said, "That's not how I think about it."

Obama's polls are at or near the low point of his tenure in the White House. The rollout of his health care website bombed, and high-visibility parts of his agenda have yet to make it through Congress, including a call for gun safety legislation in the wake of the shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school a year ago and a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws.

"If you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot over the course of my career," he said, and then repeated that the economy was finally showing significant progress.

The president fielded questions a few hours after the government announced the economy grew at a solid 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest pace since late 2011 and significantly higher than previously believed.

Much of the upward revision came from stronger consumer spending at a time when unemployment is at a five-year low of 7 percent. Obama did not mention it, but the stock market is also at or near record levels.

In his review of the year, Obama also noted that U.S. combat troops will finally be withdrawn from Afghanistan during the coming year.

As he has before, he promised to speak in more comprehensive terms in the near future about the future of NSA surveillance programs.

"I have confidence that the NSA is not engaged in domestic surveillance or snooping around," he said. Yet he added, "we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence."

A presidential advisory panel this week recommended sweeping changes to government surveillance, including limiting the bulk collection of Americans' phone records by stripping the NSA of its ability to store the data in its own facilities.

Separately, a federal judge ruled earlier in the week that some of the NSA's activities were likely unconstitutional. Judge Richard Leon called the NSA's operation "Orwellian" in scope and said there was little evidence that its vast trove of data from American users had prevented a terrorist attack.

Obama was challenged on his 6-month-old statement that he and his administration had gotten the balance about right, in terms of the NSA's activities, between concern for terrorism and protection of civil liberties.

He replied that the same assessments are made on a daily basis and noted pointedly that if an attack were to occur, "the question that's coming from you is, 'Mr. President, why did you slip?'"

On a key foreign policy concern, Obama said it would be wrong to impose new sanctions on Iran at a time the United States and other nations are testing an interim accord designed to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. If necessary, "we can pass new sanctions in a day," he said, referring to lawmakers.

As for health care, Obama said that despite the problems, including the rollout of the website, "more than 2 million people have signed up or more" since enrollment began.

"What that means is ... the demand is there and the product is good," he said.

He turned aside a suggestion that the administration has made so many exemptions that it should have simply delayed the requirement for individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty. Several lawmakers have called on him to do that, even some Democrats who voted for the legislation.

Obama faced the type of challenging questions that presidents have long encountered, and he drew laughter with his answer to one of them.

"My New Year's resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps," he said.

Comments

SamAdams

...and he's still lying. The latest government figures, released last week, suggest 500,000 have signed up. There's just a little difference between 500,000 and "more than 2 million" last time I checked. Of course, that inability to do even the most basic math might very well explain a host of other fiscal issues this administration has!

The math between the half a million and the more than seven million necessary by the end of the year for Obamacare to be funded is also pretty stark! Meanwhile, Darwin is right when no matter WHAT numbers you pretend are real, NOBODY'S paid yet! Of course, the smart ones are those who haven't even bothered to sign up...

The sooner this boondoggle crashes and burns, the sooner we can work to repair the damages done to various and sundry agencies as well as a host of individual Americans who were just fine until President I-Know-Better-Than-You intervened!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

More people had their information stolen from Target through voluntary transaction than have signed up to be exposed to the insecure infrastructure that you are "mandated" to use. Also what does "sign up or more" mean? Well considering you are forced to provide information to even get a halfway-accurate quote that's not something you brag about. He may as well just bragged about how many hits the site got as a relevant statistic.

It must be nice to make up statistics and expect people to take them as relevant, accurate, or a sign of how well something does. I am sure North Korea constantly tells its subjects that their internet service is the best. Sure its the only one, is outdated, and heavily censored/regulated by a dictatorship that executes citizens on a regular basis but it's the best! Meanwhile in real life...(and there is an irony in me saying that since a lot of what I do is quite fanciful and fictional in nature!).

The Big Dog's back

Just like we were told by the Repubs that we have "the best healthcare system in the world".

Darwin's choice

Obama a gay marxist? Tell Phil....

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Political BS is not reserved for only one party, Big Dog.
SIGNED UP (or more)
CREATED (or saved)
$X (over ten years)
Middle class
Common sense

And the list goes on and on that I will happily be at your side and point fingers at Republicans if you will also do so at Democrats.

The Big Dog's back

I know sam you get a little challenge after you run out of fingers and toes to count.

coasterfan

Wrong. The website is up and running, and more than 500,000 people have signed up in the past 3 weeks, with tens of thousands of additional people signing up each day for Obamacare. So, yes, the demand IS there, much as conservatives would prefer we believe the opposite.

The policies that were cancelled didn't even meet the minimum requirements for the lowest level policy under the ACA. In other words, they were 'junk policies' that wouldn't begin to provide adequate coverage in the event that a policyholder tried to make a claim.

Obama incorrectly assumed that no one would be stupid enough to keep a crappy policy, if much better coverage became available at the same or lower price. He should have grandfathered those who insisted on keeping their crappy useless policies, because (as Republicans prove every day) there are a lot of people who choose economic paths that are bad for themselves and the country.

Dr. Information

You still don't comprehend signing up vs actually paying. Keep that plan in your online shopping cart without paying is only thing the left have to hang on. Numbers are abysmal. 5 million have lost their plans are the majority of them are now stuck with higher premiums, higher deductibles. Obamacare = failure. Truth and it hurts.

Contango

Re: "Obama incorrectly assumed that no one would be stupid enough to keep a crappy policy,"

So the Messiah is fallable?

Change the rhetoric for the easy consumption of the simple minded useful idiots.

NOPE. He said, keep your policy "PERIOD."

Darwin's choice

You are full of chit.

It's apparent you , just like that lying leader of yours, believe the crap you spew as truth.

And, there is NOT ONE PERSON COVERED !!!!! You MORON!

mikesee

Only if you get ousted!

SamAdams

Some news agency posted on Twitter the open question: What could Obama do to improve his approval ratings.

The most commonly tweeted (and re-tweeted) answer? RESIGN!

Simple Enough II

+1000000000!

thinktwice

He should be locked up for breaking / attempted breaking of the Constitution. If that were you or I, we'd have been locked up the first year of the first term.

2cents

Ironically, I am about done commenting on this president and his Chicago land style of governing along with his appointed whatever, I choose not to call them staff as he just picks those that are extreme liberal and expect the middle class tax payer to fund his welfare laden, class dividing, deadly objectives. May God Help Us All!

Fromthe419

17T in debt and it is not his fault, the current system of monetary policy dictates he must spend more than all of the Presidents before him. Folks, we are looking at a systemic collapse of our monetary policy and it not his fault, it is the fault of the banking system. I don't agree with his policies but coming financial melt down will not be his fault, it is the system that robbed us all dating back to 1971 and the breaking of the Bretton Woods agreement by Nixon.

thinktwice

Obviously you have surrendered to his lying BS. He's clicking off more green stamps than any other Pres. before him. The whole regime he has organized was designed to break America from the inside. He placed pressure on anyone voicing their opinion like a Chicago thug. A real President looks out for what his Country stands for. He doesn't shove his nose in the air ignoring the constitution. He has derailed this Country by misleading the sheep. He will go down as the worst.

coasterfan

More people are on foodstamps today because they lost their job during the Bush Recession of 2007-2008. They still cannot find jobs because of anti-job creation GOP policies (you are aware that they haven't supported any of Obama's jobs programs, right?).

The illogical venom from the Right is breathtaking.

Dr. Information

But wait, you are on here touting how well the economy is and how all these jobs are being created. Can't have it both ways cupcake.

mikesee

-like-

Simple Enough II

Coasterfan, be fair, the Pres Bush warned Congress (controlled by what party) that the housing market was in trouble back in what year? Dodd & Frank with their the subprime market drove the economy over the cliff. Those 2 idiots refused to accept cold hard factual numbers, their egos got in the way, just like this idiot in Washington.

The Big Dog's back

Dodd & Frank? More GOP gibberish.

Darwin's choice

Full of Chit still!

Keep trying.

toredown11

Ah yes, how I long for the good old days when a Republican held the presidency...

Let's see, beginning in the spring of 2001 we had George Bush and his administration completely ignore the C.I.A.'s analysis that the threats from Bin Laden were a real danger leading up to the August 2001 presidential daily brief that was headlined “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”, which was also ignored. That led to the worst terrorist attack on U.S soil, killing approximately 3000 Americans. That can't be Bush's fault, though.

Of course, 9/11 led to the war in Afghanistan. We went there to destroy Al Qaeda and bring Bin Laden to justice. Okay, so that didn't go so well, but Bush had bigger fish to fry: an aggressive war waged against a non-threat and which even some of his own advisers admit was illegal (in fact, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president). More than 100,000 people died following the 2003 invasion of Iraq; of that number, 4,486 were members of the US military. I guess that's okay, though, because Bush and Cheney knew what was best for us.

All the while, our fearless leader was cutting taxes for the rich and spending, spending, spending. Economy too strong? Cut taxes. Economy too weak? Cut taxes. Stock market falling? Cut dividend taxes. Investment weak? Cut capital gains taxes. I remember so fondly how all of that wealth accumulated by the richest Americans trickled right into my wallet. Unfortunately, it trickled into my OTHER wallet, the one I lost sometime during 2001. Sure, the increase in jobs during President Bush's two terms were the second smallest increase for a complete presidency since the Depression, but we were coming off from the largest increase for a presidency since the Depression during Bill Clinton's years, so it all evens out, right?

And who could forget that fun little waterfront vacation stop in New Orleans that is known as Hurricane Katrina? Well, maybe New Orleans didn't consider it much of a vacation with all the deaths and all, but Georgie was on vacation when it started (in fact, he was our most vacationing president, taking 1,020 days during his 2,920 days in office), and he did fly over the devastation (he apparently didn't want to get his cowboy boots wet), so we'll call it a little fly-over vacation extension. No, Bush wouldn't let a little natural disaster that wiped out the 46th largest city in the union get his spirits down. "You're doing a great job, Bownie!" is what he had to say to his beleaguered FEMA director Michael Brown just ten days before Brown resigned in disgrace. George sure did have a way of finding a ray of light on a cloudy day.

Let's skip through the Libby/Plame affair (you know, where Cheney's Chief of Staff outed a covert CIA agent in retaliation for her husband writing an op-ed in the New York Times debunking Bush's 2003 State of the Union address), the patient neglect at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Abu Ghraib, water-boarding and other forms of torture, the K Street lobbyists, the US Attorney firings (for not trying to aggressively prosecute Democrats enough), the Cheney Energy Task Force, the loss of the U.S. reputation globally, Bush lying about firing Rumsfeld before the November 2006 election and finally, "Mission Accomplished".

Meanwhile, Bush keeps cutting taxes for the rich and spending, spending, spending. In fact, by now Bush has not only run through the $128 billion surplus that Clinton left him, but he's racking up record deficits. Still, he's a Republican so he's got to know what he's doing.

I guess that brings us to the crown jewel of George W. Bush's presidency: the tanking of the U.S. economy which led to the near collapse of the world economy...also known as the Great Recession. I'll never forget the pleasant memories I have of getting a phone call from my boss to let me know that I was no longer employed because after the banking collapse, my company's bank was basically pulling our line of credit and we had to cut over half of our staff. Then there's the year I got to spend looking for a job while my wife supported me until I finally was able to land a job just above minimum wage. I got to burn through all of my savings, worry nightly if I was going to be able to send my child to college, sell things that were near and dear to my family and eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly because it was tough to eat AND pay our bills, but I know that none of that was no fault of our president because he was a God-fearing Christian that hated homosexuals and loved country music.

I'm so glad that I've finally come around to see President Obama as the socialist, Constitution-hating, un-American, anti-Christian foreigner that he is. Sure, I found a good paying job back in my real profession since he's been in office, but I'm sure that's only because Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin were praying for me. And yes, our family's health insurance costs less through the Obamacare exchange than what we paid through my wife's employer, but I'm sure that's just a ploy to suck me into his web of liberalism. And my payments, as well as everyone else's health insurance payments through Obamacare, will go directly to private insurance companies, but I'm sure that it's got to be socialism because that's what Fox News tells me. And how dare Obama want equal pay for equal work, let alone fair wages? Doesn't he know that corporations have got to keep making record profits year after year on the backs of the middle class so that a little bit can trickle down to us mere workers? I mean, how else will they buy the elections?

Ah yes, the good old days...

Contango

Re: "when a Republican held the presidency..."

Obfuscation and deflection.

coasterfan

Not at all. Everything he said is true, and it's important for people to know what happened to America the last time a Republican was in the Oval Office. We are still recovering from the disaster of 2000-2008...

Contango

Re: "the disaster of...2008..."

The Fed, with the BEST economic forecasting tools in the world didn't see this black swan event coming.

You continue to confirm that Democrat political rhetoric is obviously easy for the simpleminded to swallow.

The topic is the PRESENT incompetent in the WH.

The Big Dog's back

Baloney pooh.

Darwin's choice

And again.....

Contango

Re: "I'm so glad that I've finally come around to see President Obama as the socialist, Constitution-hating, un-American, anti-Christian foreigner that he is."

There have been approx. fourteen Presidential directed procedural changes to a Congressionally legislated program popularly known as Obama☭are.

Is this a nation of laws or executive diktats?

"Hundreds of thousands of people whose health plans are being canceled because their coverage doesn’t meet Obamacare rules will be exempt next year from the U.S. mandate that all Americans carry medical insurance."

- Bloomberg, Dec. 20.

The Incompetent-in-Chief is just makin' this sh*t up as he goes along.

Whataway to run a country!

Pages