A defiant President Obama walked into the East Room of the White House Wednesday to speak to the press after historic wins for Republicans in the midterm elections on Tuesday.
Prior to his arrival, White House reporters buzzed about what word the president would use to describe the Republican victory – recalling his 2010 press conference in which he described Democrats losses as a “shellacking.”
But Obama had little patience for such questions, flashing an annoyed glance when asked to opine about the political meaning of his party’s losses in the Senate and sighing audibly when asked if he would build relationships with members of Congress.
Instead he suggested that Republicans weren’t elected by the entire country, but rather a third of the electorate – reminding them that his electoral mandate from 2012 was actually bigger then theirs.
“I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody, not just from a particular state or a particular district,” he said. “And they want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done.”
Obama refused to acknowledge that his policies were repudiated in the election or were to blame for Democratic losses.
“The principles that we’re fighting for, the things that motivate me every single day and motivate my staff every day — those things aren’t going to change,” he said.
Obama warned Republicans that would continue to use his executive authority to act on his own and veto legislation.
“Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like.”
Obama grinned and jockeyed with reporters asking questions trying to lighten the mood, but came off combative and impatient.
“I missed you guys. I haven’t done this in a while,” he said, prior to calling on Fox News reporter Ed Henry although he convinced few in the room that it was actually the case.
“If you do miss us, allow me to humbly suggest we do this every week,” quipped CBS reporter Major Garrett.
When asked to react to his status as a “lame duck” by CNN’s Jim Acosta, Obama pointed out that “that’s the label that you guys apply.”
After he was asked about specific policy proposals by Republicans, Obama appeared annoyed at the idea that he was expected to respond to them directly.
“I’d rather hear it from them than from you,” pointing out that he would meet with Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner on Friday. “I’d rather hear from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner what ideas they’d like to pursue, and we’ll have a conversation with them on that.”
But when he wasn’t tangling with reporters on specifics, Obama’s answers became retrospective and reflective.
“There are times where you’re a politician and you’re disappointed with election results,” he admitted. “But maybe I’m just getting older — I don’t know. It doesn’t make me mopey.”