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

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There are probably going to be still some very sharp differences. And as I said during the campaign, there are going to be times where there are fights. And I think those are fights that need to be had. But what I think the American people don't want to see is a focus on the next election instead of a focus on them. And I don't have another election.

And you know, Michelle and I were talking last night about, you know, what an incredible honor and privilege it is to be put in this position. And there are people all across this country, millions of folks who've worked so hard to help us get elected. But there are also millions of people who may not have voted for us but are also counting on us.

And you know, we take that responsibility very seriously.

I take that responsibility very seriously. And I hope and intend to be an even better president in the second term than I was in the first.

Jonathan Karl.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be secretary of state, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. As Senator Graham said, he simply doesn't trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I'd like your reaction to that. And would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I'm not going to comment at this point on various nominations that I'll put forward to fill out my Cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed.

But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and 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. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.

And you know, 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 that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have, and we will continue to provide information. And we've got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress.

And I don't think there's any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that's a problem. And we've got to get to the bottom of it, and there needs to be accountability. We've got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won't get any debate from me on that.

But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me. And should I choose -- if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity -- the State Department, then I will nominate her. That's not a determination that I've made yet.

Yeah. Ed Henry.

Q: I want to take Chuck's lead and just ask a very small follow- up, which is whether you feel you have a mandate, not just on taxes, but on a range of issues, because of your decisive victory. But I want to stay on Benghazi, based on what John (sp) asked, because you said, if they want to come after me, come after me. I wanted to ask about the families of these four Americans who were killed. Sean Smith's father, Ray, said he believes his so basically called 911 for help, and they didn't get it. And I know you've said you grieve for these four Americans, that it's being investigated. But the families have been waiting for more than two months.

So I would like to -- for you to address the families, if you can: On 9/11, as commander in chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ed, you know, I'll address the families not through the press. I'll address the families directly, as I already have. And we will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day. That's what the investigation is for. But as I said repeatedly, if people don't think that we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of folks who 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. Their number one priority is obviously to protect American lives. That's what our job is.

Now --

Q: (Off mic.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Ed, what -- I'll put forward -- I will put forward every bit of information that we have. I can tell you that immediately upon finding out that our folks were in danger, that my orders to my National Security team were do whatever we need to do to make sure they're safe. And that's the same order that I would give anytime that I see Americans are in danger, whether they're civilian or military, because that's our number one priority.

With respect to the issue of mandate, I've got one mandate. I've got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class. That's my mandate. That's what the American people said. They said, work really hard to help us.

Don't worry about the politics of it. Don't worry about the party interests. Don't worry about the special interests. Just work really hard to see if you can help us get ahead, because we're working really hard out here and we're still struggling, a lot of us. That's my mandate.

I don't presume that because I won an election, that everybody suddenly agrees with me on any -- everything. I'm more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms. We are very cautious about that.

On the other hand, I didn't get re-elected just to bask in re- election. I got elected to do work on behalf of American families and small businesses all across the country who are still recovering from a really bad recession but are hopeful about the future. And -- and I am too.

The one thing that, you know, I said during the campaign that maybe sounds like a bunch of campaign rhetoric but now that the campaign's over I'm going to repeat it, and hopefully you guys will really believe me -- when you travel around the country, you are inspired by the grit and resilience and hard work and decency of the American people. And it just makes you want to work harder. You know, you meet families who are -- you know, have overcome really tough odds and somehow are making it and sending their kids to college. And you -- you meet young people who are doing incredible work in disadvantaged communities because they believe in, you know, the American ideal and it should be available for everybody. And yeah, you meet farmers who are helping each other's -- during times of drought, and you know, you meet businesses that kept their doors open during the recession even though the owner didn't have to take a salary.

And you -- when you talk to these folks, you say to yourself, man, they deserve a better government than they've been getting. They -- they deserve all of us here in Washington to be thinking every single day, how can I make things a little better for them? Which isn't to say that everything we do is going to be perfect or that there aren't just going to be some big, tough challenges that we have to grapple with.

But I do know the federal government can make a difference. We -- we're seeing it right now on the Jersey coast and in New York. People are still going through a really tough time. The response hasn't been perfect. But it's been aggressive and strong and fast and robust. And a lot of people have been helped because of it. And that's a pretty good metaphor for how I want the federal government to operate generally, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure it does.

Christi Parsons. Hey.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President, and congratulations, by the way.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thanks.

Q: One quick follow-up --

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