President Obama's First Re-Election Press Conference (Transcript)

VIDEO: The president holds his first news conference since being re-elected to office.
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The following is the transcript from President Obama's November 14 press conference at the White House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat.

I hear you have some questions for me -- (laughter) -- but let -- let me just make a few remarks at the top and then I'll open it up.

First of all, I want to reiterate what I said on Friday. Right now our economy is still recovering from a very deep and damaging crisis, so our top priority has to be jobs and growth. We've got to build on the progress that we've made because this nation succeeds when we've got a growing, thriving middle class. And that's the idea at the core of the plan that I talked about on the campaign trail over the last year -- rewarding manufacturers and small businesses that create jobs here, not overseas; providing more Americans the chance to earn (sic) the skills that businesses are looking for right now; keeping this country at the forefront of research, technology and clean energy; putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools; and reducing our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.

Now, on this last item, we face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. Both parties voted to set this deadline and I believe that both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way.

Yesterday I had a chance to meet with labor and civic leaders for their input. Today I'm meeting with CEOs of some of America's largest companies. And I'll meet with leaders of both parties of Congress before the week is out because there's only one way to solve these challenges, and that is to do it together.

As I've said before, I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas. And I've been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree on the need for more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we're going to be serious about reducing the deficit because when it comes to taxes, there are two pathways available.

Option one, if Congress fails to act by the end of this year, everybody's taxes will automatically go up, including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and the 97 percent of small businesses who earn less than $250,000 a year. That doesn't make sense. Our economy can't afford that right now. Certainly no middle-class family can afford that right now.

And nobody in either party says that they want it to happen. The other option is to pass a law right now that would prevent any tax hike whatsoever on the first $250,000 of everybody's income. And by the way, that means every American, including the wealthiest Americans, get a tax cut. It means that 98 percent of all Americans and 97 percent of all small businesses won't see their taxes go up a single dime.

The Senate has already passed a law like this. Democrats in the House are ready to pass a law like this. And I hope Republicans in the House come on board too. We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy. We should at least do what we agree on, and that's to keep middle-class taxes lower. And I'll bring everyone in to sign it right away so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season.

I won't pretend that figuring out everything else will be easy, but I'm confident we can do it and I know we have to. I know that that's what the American people want us to do. That was a very clear message from the election last week. And that was the message of a letter that I received over the weekend. It came from a man in Tennessee who began by writing that he didn't vote for me, which is OK.

But what he said was even though he didn't give me his vote, he's giving me his support to move this country forward. And he said the same to his Republican representatives in Washington. He said that he'll back each of us, regardless of party, as long as we work together to make life better for all of us. And he made it clear that if we don't make enough progress, he'll be back in touch.

So my hope, he wrote, is that we can make progress in light of personal and party principles, special interest groups and years of business as usual. We've got to work together and put our differences aside. I couldn't say it better myself. That's precisely what I intend to do. And with that, let me open it up for your questions.

And I'm going to start off with Ben Feller of AP.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Can you assure the American people that there have been no breaches of national security or classified information in the scandal involving Generals Petraeus and Allen? And do you think that you, as commander in chief, and the American people should have been told that the CIA chief was under investigation before the election?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security. Obviously, there's an ongoing investigation. I don't want to comment on the specifics of the investigation. The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed. And you know, I'm going to let Director Mueller and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally.

I do want to emphasize what I've said before. General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.

He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA.

By his own assessment, he did not meet the standards that he felt were necessary as the director of CIA with respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with with his family and with his wife. And it's on that basis that he tendered his resignation, and it's on that basis that I accepted it. But I want to emphasize that, from my perspective at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service. We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done. And my main hope right now is -- is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.

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