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

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Do you think in hindsight -- (inaudible) -- have known?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I mean, Chuck, what I'll -- what I'll say is that if -- it is also possible that had we been told, then you'd be sitting here asking a question about, why were you interfering in a criminal investigation? So, you know, I think it's best right now for us to just see how this whole process unfolded.

With respect to the tax rates, I -- I just want to emphasize: I am open to new ideas. If the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit, encourages growth, I'm not going to just slam the door in their face. I want to hear -- I -- I want to -- I want to hear ideas from everybody.

Q: (Off mic.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well -- look, I believe this is solvable. I think that fair-minded people can come to an agreement that does not cause the economy to go back into recession, that protects middle- class families, that focuses on jobs and growth and reduces our deficit. I'm confident it can be done.

My budget, frankly, does it. I understand that -- I don't expect the Republicans simply to adopt my budget. That's not realistic. So I recognize that we're going to have to compromise. And as I said on election night, compromise is hard. And not everybody gets a hundred percent of what they want, and not everybody's going to be perfectly happy.

But what I will not do is to have a process that is vague, that says we're going to sort of, kind of raise revenue through dynamic scoring or closing loopholes that have not been identified.

And the reason I won't do that is because I don't want to find ourselves in a position six months from now or a year from now where, lo and behold, the only way to close the deficit is to sock it to middle-class families or to burden families that have disabled kids or, you know, have a parent in a nursing home, or suddenly we've got to cut more out of our basic research budget that is the key to growing the economy in the long term.

So that's my concern. I'm less concerned about red lines per se. What I'm concerned about is not finding ourselves in a situation where the wealthy aren't paying more or aren't paying as much they should; middle-class families, one way or another, are making up the difference. That's the kind of status quo that has been going on here too long, and that's exactly what I argued against during this campaign. And if there's -- one thing that I'm pretty confident about is the American people understood what they were getting when they gave me this incredible privilege of being in office for another four years. They want compromise. They wanted action. But they also want to make sure that middle-class folks aren't bearing the entire burden and sacrifice when it comes to some of these big challenges. They expect that folks at the top are doing their fair share as well, and that's going to be my guiding principle during these negotiations but, more importantly, during the next four years of my administration.

Nancy Cordes.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah.

Q: Mr. President, on election night you said that you were looking forward to speaking with Governor Romney, sitting down in the coming weeks to discuss ways that you could work together on this nation's problems. Have you extended that invitation?

Has he accepted? And in what ways do you think you can work together?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, we haven't scheduled something yet. I think everybody forgets that the election was only a week ago. And I know I've forgotten. (Laughter.) I forgot on Wednesday. (Chuckles, laughter.) So you know -- (chuckles) -- I think everybody needs to catch their breath. I -- I'm sure that Governor Romney is spending some time with his family. And my hope is, before the end of the year, though, that we have a chance to -- to sit down and talk.

You know, there -- there are certain aspects of Governor Romney's record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful. And well, to give you one example, I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. And you know, that skill set of trying to figure out how do we make something work better applies to the federal government. There are a lot of ideas that I don't think are partisan ideas but are just smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer-friendly? How can we make sure that, you know, we're consolidating programs that are duplicative? You know, how can we eliminate additional waste?

He -- he presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it'd be interesting to talk to him about something like that. There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear. So you know, I'm not -- I'm not either prejudging what he's interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I've got some specific assignment. But I -- what I want to do is to -- is to get ideas from him and see if -- see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together.

Q: But when it comes to your relationships with Congress, one of the most frequent criticisms we've heard over the past few years from members on both sides is that you haven't done enough to reach out and build relationships.

Are there concrete ways that you plan to approach your relationships with Congress in the second term?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, I think there's no doubt that I can always do better. And so I will, you know, examine ways that I can make sure to communicate my desire to work with everybody, so long as it's advancing the cause of strengthening our middle class and improving our economy.

You know, I've got a lot of good relationships with folks both in the House and the Senate. I have a lot of relationships on both sides of the aisle. It hasn't always manifested itself in the kind of agreements that I'd like to see between Democrats and Republicans, and so I think all of us have responsibilities to see if there are things that we can improve on. And I don't exempt myself from needing to, you know, do some self-reflection and see if I can improve our working relationship.

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