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


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Christi was there in -- when I was running for state Senate, so --

Q: That's right. I was.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- Christi and I go back a ways.

Q: I've never seen you lose.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Inaudible) -- that's --

Q: I wasn't looking that one time.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There you go. (Laughter.)

Q: One quick follow-up, and then I want to ask you about Iran. I just want to make sure I understood what you said. Can you envision any scenario in which we do go off the fiscal cliff at the end of the year?

And on Iran, are you preparing a final diplomatic push here to resolve the nuclear program issue, and are we headed toward one-one- one talks?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, obviously we can all imagine a scenario where we go off the fiscal -- fiscal cliff. If -- if despite the election, if despite the dangers of going over the fiscal cliff and -- and what that means for our economy, that there's too much stubbornness in Congress that we can't even agree on giving middle- class families a tax cut, then middle-class families are all going to end up having a big tax hike.

And that's going to be a pretty rude shock for them and I suspect will have a big impact on the holiday shopping season, which in turn will have an impact on business planning and hiring, and we can go back into a recession. It would be a bad thing. It is not necessary.

So I want to repeat, step number one that we can take in the next couple of weeks: Provide certainty to middle-class families -- 98 percent of families who make less than $250,000 a year, 97 percent of small businesses -- that their taxes will not go up a single dime next year. Give them that certainty right now. We can get that done. We can then set up a structure whereby we are dealing with tax reform, closing deductions, closing loopholes, simplifying, dealing with entitlements. And I'm ready to -- and -- and willing to make big commitments to make sure that we're locking in the kind of deficit reductions that stabilize our deficit, start bringing it down, start bringing down our debt. I'm confident we can do it.

It's -- and look, I've been living with this for a couple of years now. I know the math pretty well. And it -- it -- it's -- it really is arithmetic; it's not calculus. There are some tough things that have to be done, but there's a way of doing this that does not hurt middle-class families, that does not hurt our seniors, doesn't hurt families with disabled kids, allows us to continue to invest in those things that make us grow like basic research and education, helping young people afford going to college.

As we've already heard from some Republican commentators, a modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs. They'll still be wealthy. And it will not impinge on business investment. So -- so we know how to do this. This is just a matter of -- of whether or not we come together and go ahead and say, Democrats and Republicans, we're both going to hold hands and do what's right for the American people. And I hope that's what happens.

With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem. I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign and I'm now clear after the campaign -- we're not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon. But I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically. We've imposed the toughest sanctions in history. It is having an impact on Iran's economy.

There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon. And so yes, I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us but the international community, to see if we can get this thing resolved. I can't promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through, but that would be very much the preferable option.

Q: And the -- (inaudible) -- conversation picked up?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I won't talk about the details of negotiations, but I think it's fair to say that we want to get this resolved and we're not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols. If Iran is serious about wanting to resolve this, they'll be in a position to resolve it.

Q: At one point just prior to the election, there was talk that talks might be imminent --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That was -- that was not true, and it's not -- it's not true as -- as of today, OK?

Just going to knock through a couple of others. Mark Landers (sp)? Where's Mark? There he is, right in front of me.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you're going up to New York City, where you're going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, as you know, Mark (sp), we can't attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily -- there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

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