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

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And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.

But we haven't done as much as we need to. So what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

I don't know what -- what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because, you know, this is one of those issues that's not just a partisan issue. I also think there's -- there are regional differences. There's no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices, and you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that.

I won't go for that.

If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.

So you know, you can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this -- moves this agenda forward.

Q: It sounds like you're saying, though -- (off mic) -- probably still short of a consensus on some kind of -- (off mic).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I -- that I'm pretty certain of. And look, we're -- we're still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don't get a tax hike. Let's see if we can resolve that. That should be easy. This one's hard. But it's important because, you know, one of the things that we don't always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters. We'd -- we just put them off as -- as something that's unconnected to our behavior right now, and I think what, based on the evidence, we're seeing is -- is that what we do now is going to have an impact and a cost down the road if -- if -- if we don't do something about it.

All right. Last question, Mark Felsenthal. Where's Mark?

Q: Thank you. Mr. President, the Assad regime is engaged in a brutal crackdown on its people. France has recognized the opposition coalition.

What would it take for the United States to do the same, and is there any point at which the United States would consider arming the rebels?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I was one of the first leaders, I think, around the world to say Assad had to go in response to the incredible brutality that his government displayed in the face of what were initially peaceful protests.

Obviously the situation in Syria's deteriorated since then. We have been extensively engaged with the international community as well as regional powers to help the opposition. You know, we've committed hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to help folks both inside of Syria and outside of Syria. We are constantly consulting with the opposition on how they can get organized so that they're not splintered and divided in the face of the onslaught from the Assad regime.

We are in -- in very close contact with countries like Turkey and Jordan that immediately border Syria and have an impact, and obviously Israel, which is having already grave concerns as we do about, for example, movements of chemical weapons that might occur in such a chaotic atmosphere and that could have an impact not just within Syria but on the region as a whole.

I'm encouraged to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group that may have more cohesion than they've had in the past. We're going to be talking to them. My envoys are going to be traveling to, you know, various meetings that are going to be taking place with the international community and the opposition.

We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people. We're not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile.

But we do think that it is a broad-based, representative group. One of the questions that we're going to continue to press is making sure that that opposition is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria.

We have seen extremist elements insinuate themselves into the opposition. And you know, one of the things that we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we're not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm or do Israelis harm or otherwise engage in -- in actions that are detrimental to our national security. So we -- we're constantly probing and working on that issue. The more engaged we are, the more we'll be in a position to make sure that -- that we are encouraging the most moderate, thoughtful elements of the opposition that are committed to inclusion, observance of human rights and working cooperatively with us over the long term. All right?

Q: (Off mic.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.

Q: (Off mic) -- on the spending side -- (off mic) -- on the taxing side. On the -- on the spending, the 1.2 trillion (dollar) figure -- is that something that you could see having a short-term postponement? Or -- because earlier today you said -- (off mic).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That was a great question, but it would be a horrible precedent for me to answer your question just because you yelled it out. (Laughter.) So thank you very much, guys.

Transcript provided by Federal News Service

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