The State of the Obama Presidency, Winning Back Independents, and Hu On Human Rights: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 1/20/2011

Jan 20, 2011 3:26pm

TAPPER:  Where does President Obama think the state of his presidency is?  Obviously — there have been changes, we have a new chief of staff, you're leaving, you have a Republican Congress.  Tell us about – something about what he — how he sees this — not the state of the union, but the state of his leadership —

GIBBS:  Well, Jake, I don't know that he spends a lot of time separating the state of the country and where he is in his presidency, because his task is — the task that he has before him and the task that he'll bring to the next two years is helping our economy continue to recover after the massive job loss and downturn of what happened as a result of the financial calamities that peaked in September of 2008.

I don't — I don't — I don't think the president — obviously there are aides inside of here and outside of here that spend time worrying about the president's political standing.  I don't think the president  spends a whole lot of time thinking through and worrying about sort of where he is in his presidency.

Obviously there's a lot on his plate and a lot that has to be done to continue that recovery — to put the pieces in place to see us be able to compete with the rest of the world, to attract the type of jobs that we know are necessary to continue our important economic growth.  I think that's what the president's focused on each and every day.

TAPPER: Your polling numbers have improved slightly, but the standing of the president among that key group of independent voters is still not where you want it to be.  What is President Obama presumably – I don't mean it to sound purely like a political question, but obviously for him to get support for his policies, for him to get reelected to continue to pursue what you think is — thinks is the best path for this country, he needs to get reelected and he needs to win those independents back.  What is he going to do to win those independents back?

GIBBS:  Look, I will say this, Jake.  I think if you — if you look at any series of public polling that we've all churned through in the last week or so, I think it's — I think the message that we saw come through and what you heard us say a lot during the lame duck I think is manifested itself in some of these recent numbers.  And that is that the American people would like to see Democrats and Republicans sit down at a table, be it here, be it there, and work through important solutions to the problems that face the American people.  That's — I think that's what we did in large measure during the lame duck.

I think with strong bipartisan votes we were — we were able to see an agreement that didn't raise taxes on middle-class families, that protected our country from deployed nuclear weapons, a whole host of things that were tremendously important.  And I think that's — I think that's what the president wants to continue to do.

And, look, I think what — it's that old adage that I think — you know, if the president — the president is not going to be worried about his political standing.  That will certainly — a lot of that stuff takes care of itself if you make good decisions on behalf of the American people.  And I think that's what he's done for the last two years.

TAPPER:  And if I could just follow up on your comments about President Hu's remarks on human rights.  Those are words.  And while it's a shift, they are still just words.  Is there any indication from President Hu that he will be taking any actions regarding the Falun Gong, regarding Tibet, regarding the jail of a Nobel Peace Prize winner?

GIBBS:  That's — well, Dick, look, that's — you — that's why you heard me say at the beginning of this that while that admission is an important one, the president will continue to in meetings with President Hu and our administration will continue in meetings with Chinese officials, press the case for tangible action and resolve on human rights. The president, I think, was pretty forward-leaning when it came to Liu Xiaobo and the awarding of the Nobel prize, and what happened  when China would not release him in order to go get that Nobel prize.

TAPPER:  That's the first I've heard that name in three days.  I mean –

GIBBS:  Well, the president — the president talked directly to President Hu about that.

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