Today, President Obama held his first press conference in five months. It was a bizarre mix of softball questions from his press sycophants, false righteous indignation from the president over his administration’s Benghazi failures and lies, and an oddly blustery position shift on tax hikes as opposed to tax loopholes.
Obama opened his press conference with his usual patter about class warfare and the fiscal cliff, insisting on raising taxes first and foremost. Then a reporter asked him about whether he knew about the Petraeus investigation – or whether he should have known. “I have no evidence at this point that classified information was disclosed … there’s an ongoing investigation, and I don’t want to comment on the specifics of that investigation.” Obama then threw the ball to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Obama did say that “by his own assessment, he did not meet the standards” he needed to as director of the CIA. “It’s on that basis that I accepted [his resignation],” Obama added.
“We’re not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that’s been our practice,” said Obama, ignoring his long history of meddling in criminal investigations including Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Trayvon Martin.
Jessica Yellin of CNN asked Obama why the American people should believe him when he said he would raise taxes, if he allowed the Bush tax cuts to be extended during his first term. This was a real softball; Obama answered that the economy is doing better now, so we can somehow afford tax increases. “What I said at the time is what I meant, which is this is a one time proposition. What I have told leaders privately as well as publicly is that we cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. What we can do is make sure that middle class taxes don’t go up. The most important step we can take right now and the foundation for a deal that helps the economy … is if we right away say 98% of Americans are not going to see their taxes go up.” That, said Obama, would “remove half the fiscal cliff.” He added later that it would “take the edge off the fiscal cliff.”
Which is nonsense. The small businesses to be taxed are the job creators; those making more than $200,000 per year as individuals are hardly millionaires, but they are job creators.
Obama stated that he would not allow closing tax loopholes to replace increasing tax rates. He wants tax rates increased. He will stop at nothing less.
The next question was on immigration reform. Obama never sent an immigration to Capitol Hill during his first term. “My expectation is that we get a bill introduced, and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration,” said Obama. Obama said that comprehensive immigration reform would look a lot like President Bush’s efforts at comprehensive immigration reform. Which, of course, begs the question as to why he didn’t do anything like that in his first term.
Chuck Todd of NBC asked whether Obama was withholding judgment on whether he should have been informed sooner about the Petraeus investigation. Obama took his cue; he said he was “withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding General Petraeus came up. We don’t have all the information yet … It is also possible that had we been told, you’d be sitting here asking why were you involved in the criminal investigation.”
Obama then added that he was “open to new ideas … I want to hear ideas from everybody. I believe this is solvable. I think fairminded people can come to an agreement that does not cause the economy to go back into recession.” But he shied away from drawing any red lines on tax rates. “I’m less concerned about red lines per se,” he said.
The next question was about working with Gov. Romney. Obama said they hadn’t scheduled anything yet. “I think everybody needs to catch their breath,” Obama stated.
Finally, a media member asked a real question: Republican Senators are threatening to hold up the nomination of Ambassador Susan Rice for Secretary of State. And they want to investigate Benghazi.
Obama defended Rice, pulling the righteous indignation card: “She has done exemplary work … skill, professionalism, toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me … but for them to go after the UN Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi … to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
Then Obama said that it was time to investigate Benghazi, since the election is over. “We’re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways Congress wants.”
Now the floodgates were open. A reporter asked if Obama could address the families of those killed in Benghazi: did Obama issue any orders to try to protect their lives. Obama said, “I’ll address the families not through the press … we will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day … If people don’t think we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of folks I sent there, and who were carrying out missions on behalf of the United States, then you don’t know how our Defense Department thinks or our State Department thinks or our CIA thinks.”
Obama then added, “Immediately upon finding out our folks were in danger, my order to my national security was to do anything they needed to do to keep Americans safe.”
This is vile demagoguery. Rice lied to the American people repeatedly; attacking what she did is not “outrageous.” It is rational. As for Obama’s action, he should be held responsible. His answers are completely empty. He has given no – repeat no – information about his actions the night of September 11. And he expects Americans to be okay with that. As for Obama’s failure to provide information, his line here is telling: now that the election is over, he’ll start to give information. But only when he feels like it. And not when asked by the press.
Obama then flirted with a reporter, who said she’d never seen him lose. It was a metaphor for the entire press conference. No president has never received cover from the press as Obama has. No wonder he won re-election. He’s never met a tough questioner. They’re too busy kissing his ass.