Obama Talks Policy, From Pakistan to Tax Plan

By MichaelJames

Mar 29, 2009 12:06pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports:

President Obama sat down Friday for a 30-minute interview at the White House with Bob Schieffer for CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

AFGHANISTAN: ‘AMERICA’S WAR’

Following Friday’s announcement, Schieffer noted that Afghanistan is the President’s war now.

“I think it’s America’s war,” Obama answered, “and it’s the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks on 3,000 Americans who were just going about their daily round. And– the focus over the last seven years I think has been lost. What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to — root out their networks, their bases. We are gonna make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies’ interests around the world.”

President Obama said he is “under no illusions” that the war was going to be hard.

“What I will say to the American public is that — you know, we now have resourced properly this strategy. It’s not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources,” Obama cautioned, saying that the law of diminishing returns might apply to troop levels, “What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always results in– an improved situation.”

PAKISTAN: NO U.S. TROOPS

President Obama indicated that the U.S. will consult with the Pakistani government before going after terrorist safe havens in Pakistan – and that that effort not involve, right now, putting U.S. troops on the ground in Pakistan.

“Our plan does not– change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government. We need to work with them and through them to deal with al Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable. And we have to recognize that part of our task in working with Pakistan is not just military. It’s also our capacity to build their capacity through civilian interventions, through development– through aid assistance.

IRAQ: NOT SPEEDING UP WITHDRAWAL

When asked if he would consider speeding up the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, if things are going well enough in the country, Obama said no, that there was still work to be done for the U.S. in Iraq.

“I think the plan that we put forward in Iraq is the right one, which is let’s– have a very gradual withdrawal schedule through the national elections in Iraq. There’s still work to be done on the political side– to resolve differences between the various sectarian groups around issues like oil– around issues like provincial elections.”

MEXICO

Obama indicated that the administration is considering putting U.S. troops on the Mexican border to quell violence in the area.

“Obviously there have been calls to increase– National Guard troops on the borders. That’s something that– we are considering. But we wanna first see whether some of the steps that we’ve taken can help quell some of the violence. And we wanna make sure that– we are con– consulting as effectively as we can with the Mexican government in moving this strategy forward.”

With 90 percent of the guns flowing into Mexico coming from the United States, Obama was asked if he’d reinstate the ban on assault weapons, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested this week.

“I think the main thing we need is better enforcement. And so– this week we put forward a comprehensive initiative to assist those– border regions that are being threatened by– by these drug cartels– to provide assistance to the Mexican government to make sure that on our side of the border we’ve got more personnel, more surveillance equipment.”

AUTO AID

On Monday, Obama was scheduled to announce his plan to aid the ailing auto industry at the White House.

“They’re not quite there yet,” Obama said of the auto companies. “What we’re trying to let them know is that we want to have a successful auto industry, U.S. auto industry. We think we can have a successful U.S. auto industry. But it’s got to be one that’s realistically designed to weather this storm and to emerge– at the other end– much more– lean, mean, and competitive than it currently is.”

Obama said there is going to have to be a “set of sacrifices from all parties involved” to take serious restructuring steps.

TAX CUTS

Obama said that even though his middle-class tax cut proposal would not be included in the budget – it was cut in negotiations on Capitol Hill – he would be looking for other ways to pass middle-class tax cuts beyond the two years already allotted in the stimulus package.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. What I’ve also said, though, is we’ve gotta pay for it. Now, in my original budget we had a way of paying for it. And some of the proposals that we have made, members of Congress have said, ‘Well, we’re not quite comfortable with that.’ So what’ve I’ve said is– if you don’t wanna pay for it in those ways, let’s find another way to pay for it. I think it’s still the right thing to do. And– I’m gonna be pushing as hard as I can to get it done in this budget. If it’s not done in this budget then I’m gonna keep on pushing for it next year and the year afterwards.”

MEETINGS WITH CEOs

Obama gave a recap of his meeting with bank CEOs at the White House on Friday. He said that the bankers recognized that everybody needs to make sacrifices and that he expects to see some restraint.
“Another way of putting it, as I said– to those folks– let me help you– help me help you. I– it’s very difficult for me as president to call on the American people to make sacrifices to help shore up the financial system if there’s no sense of mutual obligation and– and mutual help."

STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS

Obama was asked if he’s lost friends since being President.

“I don’t think I’ve lost any friends. But I’m sure I’ve strained some friendships,” Obama said. “This is an invigorating job. In some ways, I feel incredibly fortunate to be in this job at a time where the presidency really matters. You know, I’m– this is not a caretaker presidency right now. Every decision we’re making counts.”

–Sunlen Miller

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