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

Darwin's choice

Amazing how he and coasterfan don't bump heads under Obama's desk....

Dr. Information

New blow to Obamacare.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A federal judge granted an injunction Friday that prohibits the government from enforcing the federal health care law's requirement that insurance coverage include access to the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives on almost 200 religious organizations that have filed a class-action lawsuit to block the mandate.

The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti will prevent the government from enforcing the mandate as the religious groups' lawsuit makes its way through the legal system. The lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of 187 ministries that provide their employees with health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the lawsuit, the ministries object to providing four out of 20 Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, which they allege may cause early abortions. The religious groups include Reaching Souls International, which trains pastors and cares for orphans in Africa, India and Cuba, and Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist college.

Just give up liberals. They only are opposed to 4/20 pill forms all being the morning or week after pills. Give it up Obama, you won't win this one.

sugar

Deluded racists, ignorant and union folks all hoping that their run will not end, but as much as this a** has done to fool you into keeping him in power he will stomp on you in the end. Do you think he want's the most ignorant among us to be in positions of import? Oh and by the way all of you new Medicaid recipients, you do know about Estate Recovery don't you?

OSUBuckeye59

Like all Presidents before him, Obama has had his ups and downs. I voted for him the first go-around, but not the 2nd time.

A good Leader he's not. And except for the ACA, a piece of legislation that started out w/good intent but ended up providing a less-than-desirable solution, the GOP has collectively utilized Obama's serious lack of leadership skills to do very well on executing to their single goal of blocking and thwarting anything and everything Obama has attempted to do.

Both sides of the major political party aisle should realize they're looking in a mirror when they point fingers. We get what we elect, so it really should be no surprise the outcome when we continue to elect candidates from both major parties that upon being elected fall in line with their respective major party plank.

Obama and Congress will continue to see no major increase in their approval ratings as long as they continue with their current rhetoric. And "We the People" will only continue suffering the consequences.

Contango

Re: "Obama's serious lack of leadership skills,"

"Politics ain't bean-bag." - Finley Peter Dunne

So he's a victim?

He is NOT a people person.

Rumors have the man sitting at a table at a reception, playing with his IPod or whatever in room full of people with whom he should be schmoozing.

Bill Clinton KNEW how to 'work a room.' He would find people who disagreed with him and engage them.

IMO, Pres. Obama enjoys the role of being POTUS, he just doesn't like the work that comes with the job.

OSUBuckeye59

I did not write Obama is a victim, and did not mean to convey I considered him as such. He's not a Leader, and his lack of leadership is what, IMHO, has hurt him tremendously. Not only has he allowed the GOP to run rough-shod over him, but he can't even seem to lead his own Party.

100% agree Bill Clinton knew how to 'work a room'. Still does. The man is supremely gifted in that regard. And I think you really nail it in your observation that President Obama enjoys all the trappings that come with being the POTUS but doesn't like the strategic and logistical work that comes with the role and must be done to achieve success.

Simple Enough II

When Dealing with Bill Clinton, Keep one hand on your wallet, the other one on your family jewels and leave your wife and daughters at home!

Contango

Re: "Not only has he allowed the GOP to run rough-shod over him,"

Again: Schmoozing.

As a chamber of commerce exec., I used to teach networking and working a room to business people.

Repub leaders say that he never even calls 'em.

Pres. Reagan and Speaker O'Neil were Irish and used that as their commonality to get legislation like the far reaching TRA-86 hashed out.

Darwin's choice

He's a gay marxist, he doesn't need any other skills.

kURTje

He was voted in twice by the populace. The other one before him by the Electoral College. R.B. Hayes was the only other CIC from the E.College. The people spoke.

Contango

"The other one before him by the Electoral College."

If VP Gore woulda won his home state of TN, the results in FL wouldn't have been an issue and he woulda been POTUS-elect.

TN didn't even want him and Pres. Clinton hardly campaigned for him.

Without the Electoral College, only states with large populations would matter.

Only a political dummy would want the Electoral College eliminated.

Dr. Information

kurt falls into this category.

grumpy

Without the EC it wouldn't even be states with large populations, it would simply be urban areas. States would be meaningless, as would anywhere but cities. Presidential elections would center on strictly on urban areas, and urban issues. The rest of the country simply would not matter.

coasterfan

It cost the gov't $10 billion to save GM. But a new study shows that if Obama hadn't saved GM, it would have cost the gov't $39.4 billion and 1.2 million American jobs. Once again, Republicans were wrong, although I'm sure they will continue for all eternity to say that saving GM was the wrong thing to do.

The Big Dog's back

I'm waiting for pooh to give his paid misinformed opinion.

Contango

Re: "It cost the gov't $10 billion to save GM."

And even if GM doesn't legally owe it, as a good faith gesture, the co. should pay it back to the American taxpayers.

And you've purchase how many post-bankruptcy GM and/or Fiat-Chrysler vehicles?

Darwin's choice

You two sucklings are still blowing for Obama? You have to be getting paid, no one can be that stupid!

kURTje

You better run for the CIC in 2016 scrooge....you know all.

rezzy

We all just have to ride this horrible experience out until 2016. It sucks, but we can do this. I voted for this incompetent man in 2008 and regret that decision every single day.

Dr. Information

Let me guess. When the deadline draws near, and the actual people who signed up and paid is drastically lower than expected, who will Obama blame? Bush, Republicans or both?

grumpy

You left out the 1%, the new ones to blame.

Dr. Information

Good call. Throw them in the pot of people to blame as well.

grumpy

Yep Bush and the Repubes are getting old, it will evolve to the teathugs, the banksters, and the 1% for the 2014 election. That will last them till 2016. Then it will be the racists, women haters, and whatever else they can invent to keep from admiting what they themselves have done.

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