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

KnuckleDragger

Wow! That's quite the rant from a derriere sniffing Obama sycophant. Let me begin with the Bin Laden charge. Rewind to 1996, when Maj Gen Erwa of Sudan met with CIA operatives and offered to hand Bin Laden over to the US and Clinton declined opting instead to suggest that Sudan just expel him since the even the Saudis wouldn't take him. I guess he was too busy spreading his seed in a certain interns oral cavity.

As far as your comment about corporations making record profits, well take a look at the statistics, they must love Obama because the rich have gotten richer under Obama than under the previous 3 Presidents combined. Yup, looks like Obama is a man of action. He is nothing but a blowhard. No matter, he'll keep talking and the dwindling numbers of his supporters will keep lapping it up.

coasterfan

I think conservatives here should stop, take a deep breath, get their heads out of Fox and the vitriolic right-wing radio. The main goal of those entities is to garner high ratings, in order to bring in more revenue, not to present anything resembling the truth. Presenting a fair and balanced view is not a priority, because that would hurt ratings. Fox has more viewers when a Democrat is in office, plain and simply.

I suggest reading "The Center Holds" by Jonathan Alter. It's a mostly unbiased view of the Obama campaign during 2011-2012, and points out several mistakes Obama made, but also pulls back the cover on a litany of unscrupulous things done by the GOP. The main thrust of the book is that America is basically a Centrist nation. I like it because, unlike Fox, it points out the faults of both parties.

Darwin's choice

Time for you to get your head out from under obamas desk.

wasthere

It's amazing how most people that try to defend Obama always go directly to the old Bush stories. You do realize that Obama was elected twice so that he could correct all the "wrongs" that Bush committed don't you? You all seem to forget the promises he made while running for that office. You have to have some sort of people skills to work with whatever congress and Senate you have. He has none.

Contango

Re: "You all seem to forget the promises he made while running for that office."

Even before: After he was elected a U.S. Senator, he PROMISED the people of IL that he would serve out his term.

Tim Russert:

"Before you go, you know there's been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your full six-year term as U.S. senator from Illinois?"

SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: "Absolutely."

("Meet The Press," Nov. 7, 2004)

coasterfan

You do know that Obama was elected twice because a majority of Americans reject Republican policies, right? You do know that Obama was re-elected on a pro-Obamacare platform, right? He's not a perfect president, but is certainly a far, far, far better option than anything the GOP offers. Anyone want to return to 2008? Cricket...cricket....

2cents

"What good fortune for governments that the people do not think."

- Adolf Hitler

Darwin's choice

"he's not a perfect president.."

Actually, he is perfect, a perfect FAILURE !!!

SamAdams

I'm not going to argue with your condemnation of the Bush administration because you make some valid points. The fact you've neglected to mention Clinton's role in the Bin Laden mess or Bush I's role in Iraq or...well, none of that mitigates Bush II's mistakes (whether they were true errors or intentional on his part).

By the same token, though, how does wrongdoing by Bush, Carter, Reagan, Roosevelt, Nixon, Johnson, etc. and so on somehow excuse the fact that Obama is repeating some of their most egregious acts and has managed to come up with a few that are even WORSE on his own? That's like excusing the woman who beats the crap out of her kid because the woman down the street used a 2 x 4 when she beat HERS. But how, pray tell, are you going to excuse Obama as he continues to work towards KILLING the kid he's mercilessly beating, eh?

Darwin's choice

Toredown.....you want some cheese with that whine?

Dr. Information

I think he'd prefer Tux Medicated Pads.

Contango

Pres. Obama, Dec. 20, 2013:

"Well, there's no doubt that when it came to the health care rollout, even though I was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience,"

Pres. Obama, Nov. 14, 2013:

"I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, 'Boy, this is going to be great,'"

"I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opened if I thought it wasn't going to work."

So, he met with the advisors responsible, but he still didn’t know?

A lie or just plain incompetence?

You decide.

Contango

Pres. Obama:

"If you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot over the course of my career,"

"The president’s overall approval rating stands at 43 percent, while disapproval is at 55 percent."

"Obama ends his fifth year in office with lower approval ratings than almost all other recent two-term presidents. At this point in 2005, for example, former president George W. Bush was at 47 percent positive, 52 percent negative"

- Washington Post, Dec. 16.

So according to Pres. Obama's own ego, he's doin' a great job.

thinktwice

His entire 8 years will be known as the "Obamatrain". Those who voted for and got the free ticket will feel that sudden halt and derailment of your free ride once he's out. All aboard? Only the blind!

coasterfan

Enjoy your delusions, thinktwice... No Republican would ever get voted into office on a platform of taking away health insurance from millions of Americans. Why are Republicans ALWAYS on the wrong side of every social reform in America?

wasthere

Yep, it's far easier to elect someone that runs on lies and it's easy to deceive libs. Make them a few promises that intelligent folks know he can't keep and the libs fall in line. His ratings prove what a leader he is.

Contango

Re: "No Republican would ever get voted into office on a platform of taking away health insurance from millions of Americans."

Seems like the Incompetent-in-Chief is helping to get millions of policies cancelled on his own without Repub help.

It's ABSOLUTE insanity that you even attempt to defend 14 changes to Obam☭are without Congressional approval.

thinktwice

Oh I'm not delusional the least bit. YOU "coasterfan" obviously like the upside down-winding paths of uncertainty that this administration has brought along. You know you can't wait for legalized marijuana and probably a special little Obamapill most likely in the works to be administered to his followers for when reality hits. Stay drunk in confusion and Merry Christmas coasterfan.

Darwin's choice

Your incredible stupidity, and blind allegience is alarming.

When the alien's come,I'll make sure your first to be fed to them.

toredown11

I'm trying to join in the Obama bashing with all of my new friends, but I'm having a hard time coming up with viable points to show that he's a no good, country-hating Commie. I want to talk about all of the damage he's done, but it seems like the GOP's inaugural night vow to deny Obama any successes has meant that he hasn't been able to enact most of the things that he promised to do when he was elected.

Well, there's the stimulus package that was responsible for saving and creating 2.5 million jobs, kept the unemployment rate from rising to 12 percent and helped grow the economy by as much as 3.8 percent after the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, but we won't mention that. A lot of money went to keep a roof over the heads of 1.2 million people, but they were probably just give-me-something-for-nothing liberals that lost their jobs because they were lazy and it had nothing to do the Bush economic collapse, right? It also kept 7 million Americans from falling below the poverty line, but what is a country without a robust poor population? Damn Obama. The stimulus also revitalized clean energy in this country, accounting for 13.2 percent of the domestically produced electricity in 2012 and surpassing energy production from nuclear power, but I should probably just focus ALL of my scorn on the one failed project: Solyndra. Sure, most of the green investments have been very successful, but wait...wait...SOLYNDRA.

And then there's the lame-brain idea that every American in supposedly the richest country in the world should have access to affordable health care. Where is this guy from, Mars? Oh, that's right, I'm supposed to say that he's really from Kenya. I want to bash him for the unsuccessful rollout and the fact that some people weren't allowed to keep their junk policies, but when doing my research I keep coming across the fact that the House voted 46 times to repeal or defund Obamacare. Do I bring up the fact that all the Republicans did was try to undermine the law or do I just keep calling Obama a liar? I'll stick with calling him a liar because who knows how successful the law could be if he had just had some help from lawmakers instead of obstructionism.

I'll complain about his presidential appointments here. Oh wait, out of the 168 appointment filibusters during the history of this country, 82 of them have been served up by the Republicans while Obama was in office. Maybe I should just leave that out.

Well, he should have fixed the economy by now, right? Where are the jobs bills? Oops, sorry - the Republicans have blocked every one of them. At least the Republicans have brought up their own jobs bills, haven't they? Oh no, they haven't...not one. Don't we have agencies that are supposed to help the struggling employees? Oh wait, the Republicans have tried to filibuster the National Labor Relations Board out of existence (it is part of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and is responsible for investigating and ruling on disputes over fair labor practices). At least there is a newly formed agency to help protect citizens from the fraud that caused the financial crisis and led to so many Americans losing everything. Uh-oh, Republicans have refused to hold a vote on the appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray, though he’s been widely praised by even Republicans, as CFPB director until huge changes are made to the agency that would take away its ability to function as designed.

This is much harder than I thought. It is only Saturday, maybe I'll hassle some minimum wage employees at the mall and come up with some other ideas to bash Obama tomorrow. I haven't even brought up the fact that this congress was been the least productive congress in the history of our country - that's got to be Obama's fault!

Dr. Information

Need a tissue now? Feel better?

sugar

lol, good one

coasterfan

That is probably the biggest takeaway from the Obama years. Republicans are unwilling to admit that any of the many things he has accomplished actually happened. :)

Contango

Re: "many things he has accomplished actually happened,"

And you erroneously continue to fail to credit the Fed, which has done the majority, if not all of the economic heavy lifting.

Darwin's choice

The list for his blatant lies far excedes his (failures)accomplishments.

The Big Dog's back

Heck Coaster, the right wingnuts still haven't come to terms that 2001-2009 happened. They think Obama was President when 9/11 happened. They think Obama was President when the Great Recession of 2007-08 happened.

Dr. Information

Every time a liberal responds all they can say is Bush and 2008. Moron's is 2014, talk present time, quit living in the past.

Contango

Re: 'At least the Republicans have brought up their own jobs bills, haven't they? Oh no, they haven't...not one."

Let's just conveniently forget the bipartisan "Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act."

Get out of the Democrat echo chamber once in a while and get some fresh air.

thinktwice

I stopped at the name "toredown" and realized this was obviously an Obamalover and didn't bother to read the inebriated rant that followed.

thinktwice

I stopped at the first line reading "toredown" and realized this was obviously an Obamalover and didn't bother to read the inebriated rant that followed.

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