President Obama Addresses Fiscal Cliff, Petraeus Scandal

The president holds his first news conference since being re-elected to office.
3:00 | 11/14/12

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Transcript for President Obama Addresses Fiscal Cliff, Petraeus Scandal
-- This is an ABC news special report. And good afternoon to you I'm Diane Sawyer here with George Stephanopoulos of ABC news headquarters in new York and we join you at this moment to bring you president Obama's first press conference since his re election. And what a range of questions this is going to be -- -- -- the president can lead as does. Mission and that fiscal -- of tax hikes and spending cuts that hits on January 1 of course reporters gonna present for his bottom line in those negotiations but also. Lots of questions on the sex scandal that has already cost. CIA director General David Petraeus his job and I expect the Ben Ghazi terror attack almost certainly come up as well I want to bring -- ABC's Jonathan Karl right now he's standing by there in the east room job. And tell -- this is the president's first full press conference in more than eight months there a lot of pent up questions from this press corps. Even before you get to the Petraeus saga or those negotiations on Capitol Hill. On Ben Ghazi can be surety expect questions on that. We just heard from John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- capital saying that they want Watergate style hearings on what happened in Nazi. And as we know he has been meeting with. CEO leaders will meet with them this afternoon he's met with union leaders business leaders archives and of course they're ready. That is leading -- to the congressional negotiations which began at the white house on Friday the congressional leaders coming to meet. But the president both sides will be face to face for the first time since the election. It will be interesting to see the dynamic in this room and -- it is the president's first press conference eight days after he won reelection. -- three and a half million votes. It's always interesting to -- -- how he walks in this ladies and gentlemen. The president of the United States. -- -- -- -- -- -- I hear you have some questions -- But. -- let me just make a few remarks at the top and then all -- -- First -- reiterate what I said on Friday. Right now our economy is still recovering from. A very deep and damaging crisis. -- our top priority has to be jobs and growth. We've got to build on the progress that we've made. Because this nation succeeds when we got a growing thriving middle class. And that's the idea of the core of the plan that I talked about on the campaign trail last year. -- manufacturers. And small businesses that create jobs here not overseas. Providing more Americans the chance to -- the skills the businesses are looking for right now. Keeping this country the forefront of research technology and clean energy. Putting people back to work rebuilding our roads our bridges and our schools. And reducing our deficit in the balance and responsible way. Now on this last not. We face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs taxes. And deficits by the end of the year. Both parties voted to set this deadline and I believe -- both parties can work together to make these decisions -- a balanced and responsible way. Yesterday had a chance to meet with -- labor and civic leaders for their input. Today I'm meeting with CEOs of some of America's largest companies. And I'll meet with the leaders of both parties of congress before the week is -- Because there's only one way to solve these challenges and that is to do it together. As I've said before I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas. And I've been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree. On the need for know more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we're -- -- be serious about reducing the deficit. Because when it comes to taxes there are two -- available. Option one if congress fails to act by the end of this year everybody's taxes -- automatically go up. Including the 98% of Americans who make less than 250000. Dollars a year. And the 97% of small businesses who earn less than 250000 -- a year. That doesn't make sense. Our economy can't afford that right now. Certainly no middle class family can afford that right now and nobody in either party says that they wanted to happen. The other option is to pass a law right now that would prevent any tax -- whatsoever on the first 250000. Dollars. Of everybody's income. And by the way that means every American including the wealthiest Americans get a tax cut. It means that 90% of all Americans and 97% of all small businesses. Won't see their taxes go up a single -- The senate has already passed a law like this. Democrats in the house are ready to pass a law like this. And I hope Republicans in the house come on board to. We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy. We should at least do what we agree on. And that's to keep middle class taxes -- And I'll bring everyone and to sign it right away so we can give folks some certainty for the policies. I won't pretend that figuring out everything else will be but I'm confident we can do I know we have to. I note that that's what the American people want us to do. That was the very clear message from the election last week and that was the message of a letter that I received. Over the weekend. Came from a man in Tennessee who began by writing that he didn't vote for which is okay. But. What he said was even though he didn't give me his vote he's giving me his support to move this country for. He said the same to his Republican representatives in Washington. He said that -- back each of us. Regardless of party as long as we work together to make life better for all of us. And he made it clear that if we don't make enough progress will be back in touch. So my hope. He wrote is that we can make progress in light of personal and party principles. Special interest groups and years of business as usual. We've got to work together and put our differences aside. I couldn't say it better myself that's precisely what I intend to do. And -- that open up. For your questions -- start off with Ben -- -- -- -- -- -- Can you assure the American people that there had been no breaches of national security here -- or classified information. In the scandal involving generals Petraeus and Alan. And do you think that US commander in chief and the American people should have been told that the CIA chief was under investigation before the election. Well. I have no evidence. At this point from what I've seen that. Classified information. Was. Disclosed that in any way -- Had negative impact on our national security. Obviously there's an ongoing investigation. I don't want to comment on the specifics of the investigation. The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed. And on the let. Director smaller and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally. I do want to emphasize what I've said before. General Petraeus had an extraordinary career. He served this country with -- great distinction. In Iraq in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA. By his own assessment. He did not meet the standards. That he felt. Were necessary as the director of CIA. With respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with with his family and with his wife and it's on that basis. That he tendered his resignation. And it's on that basis that I accept. But. I want to emphasize that. From my perspective at least he has provided this country an extraordinary service we are safer because of the work that. Dave Petraeus has done and my main hope right now is that. He and his family. Are able to move along. And that this ends up. Being. A single side note on what -- Otherwise been an -- -- court. You know. Again I think you're gonna have to talk to the FBI in terms of what their general protocols are when it comes to. What started off as. A potential criminal investigation. -- one of the challenges here is is that we're not supposed to metal in. You know criminal investigations and that's been our practice. And you know I think that there -- Certain procedures that we'll the FBI -- or DOJ -- when there and involved in these investigations. That's traditionally been how we view things in part because people are innocent until proven guilty and we want to make sure that we don't. Three judge. These kinds of situations. And so. My expectation is that they fall protocols of the errors. That. Just feel which it. Mr. President on the fiscal -- Two years ago sir you said -- you wouldn't extend the bush era tax cuts but at the end of the day you did. So respectfully sir why should the American people and the Republicans believe that you won't -- again this time. Well. Two years ago. The economy was in a different situation. We were still very much in the early parts recovering from. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And ultimately we came together. Not only to extend the bush tax cuts but also a wide range of policies that we're going to be good for the economy and that. Unemployment insurance extensions. Payroll tax extension. All of which made a difference and as part of the reason why what we've seen now is 32 consecutive months of job growth and over five and a half million. Jobs created and -- one -- coming down. But what I said at the time is what I meant. Which is this was a one time proposition. And what I have told. And leaders privately as well as public. Is that we cannot afford to extend the bush tax cuts for the well. What we can't do is make sure that middle class taxes don't go up. And so the most important step we can take right now. Think the foundation for. A deal that helps the economy creates jobs. Gives consumers certainty which means gives businesses confidence that. They're gonna have consumers during the holiday season is if we right away save 90% of Americans are not gonna see their taxes go. 97%. Of small businesses are not gonna see their taxes go if we get better place we are actually removing half of the fiscal -- Half of the danger to our economy is removed by that single step. And what we can -- do -- shape. A process whereby we look at tax reform which I'm very eager to do. I think we can simplify our tax system I think we can make it. More efficient. We can eliminate loopholes and deductions that have a distorting effect on our economy. I believe that we have to. Continue to take a serious look at how we reform our entitlements. Because health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits. So there is a package. To be shaped. And I'm confident that. Parties. Folks of the goodwill in both parties can make that happen. Well what I'm not going to do. Is to extend bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% that we can't afford. And according to economists will have the least positive impact. On our economy. You've said that the wealthiest must Timor would closing loopholes instead of raising rates for them satisfy it. I think that there are loopholes that can be closed and we should look at how we can make the processes. Deductions. The filing process easier simpler. But when it comes to. The top 2%. What I'm not going to do is to. Extend further. A tax cut for folks who don't need it which would cost. Close to a trillion dollars and it's very difficult to see how you make up. That trillion dollars if we're serious about deficit reduction just by closing loopholes and deductions -- of the map tends not to work. And I think it's important to establish. A basic principle that. Was debated extensively during the course of this campaign I mean that there -- be -- -- that this was if there was one thing that everybody understood. Was a big difference between myself mr. Romney. It was when it comes to how we reduce our deficit -- -- for a balanced responsible approach and part of that included making -- -- The wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more. I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate. And the majority of voters agreed -- -- not by the way more voters agreed with me on this issue -- voted for. So we've got a clear majority of the American people who recognizable going to be serious about deficit reduction. Got a der Rebell -- the only question hours. Are we gonna hold the middle class hostage. In order to go ahead. What that hat or can we all step back and say here's something we agree on we don't want middle class taxes to go up. Let's go ahead and lock that in. That will be good for the economy it will be good for consumers it will be good for businesses it takes the edge off the fiscal cliff. And let's also them commit ourselves to. The broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement. Changes and and includes potentially tax reform as well as. I'm want to look at additional work that we can do on the discretionary spending side so. I wanted a big deal I want a comprehensive deal -- want to see if we can. -- at least for the foreseeable future provides certainty to businesses and the American people so that we can focus on job growth. So there were also investing in the things that we need. Right now what I want to make sure this is the taxes on middle class families don't go up and there's a very easy way to do that we could get that done by next week. Where Montenegrin them. Thank you Mr. President bomb on immigration reform of the criticism in the past has been. That you did not put forth. Legislation. With specific ideas and send it up to the hill this time around you have said again that this will be one of the top priorities. On for a second term will -- then send legislation to the hill and exactly what. Do you envision it is broad immigration reform does that include a legalization program. And also what lessons if any. -- Democrats. Learn from this last election and the Latino vote. Well. I think what was incredible incursion was to see. A significant increase in -- to -- It is the fastest growing. Group in the country. And you know historically we've seen is popular vote vote at lower. Rates than the broader population. And that's beginning to change -- start to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation. That I think is going to be powerful and good for the country. And that it is why I'm very confident that we can get immigration reform. Before the election -- -- Given a couple interviews where it predicted that Latino -- was going to be strong and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about. Their position on immigration reform I think we're starting to see that already. I think that's positive -- this is not historically been a partisan issue we've had. President Bush. John McCain and others who support conference of immigration reform in the past so we need to seize the moment and my expectation is that we get a bill. Introduced. And we begin the process. In congress. Very soon after my inauguration. And in fact some conversations I think already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about. What would this look like and what I say conference of immigration reform. Is very similar to the outlines of previous efforts a conference of immigration reform I think it should include. A continuation of the strong border security measures that we've taken because we have to secure -- borders. I think it should contain. Serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring. Undocumented workers and taking advantage of them. And I do think that there should be a pathway. Four legal status for. Those who are living in this country. Are not engaged in criminal activity -- here. Simply to to work it's important for them to pay back taxes it's important -- learn English it's important for them to potentially pay a fine. But to give them the avenue where by. -- Resolve their legal status here in this country I think it's very important. Obviously making -- of it we put in the law. What the first step that we've taken administratively dealing with the DREAM Act it is very important as well. One thing but I'm I'm very clear about is that young people who were brought here through no fault of their own. Who had gone to school here pledge allegiance to our flag wanna serve our military. Want to go to school and contribute to our society. That they should be -- under the cloud of deportation. That we should give them every opportunity. To earn their citizenship and so. You know there are other components to it obviously the business community continues to be concerned about. Getting enough high skilled workers and I am a believer that if you've got -- that Ph.D. in physics her. Computer science. Who wants to stay here sort of business -- we should make it harder for him to stay here we should -- -- Contribute to this aside. I think that. -- agricultural sector obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they've got workforce. That helps deliver food -- tables so they're going to be a bunch of components to it. But. I think. Whatever process we have needs to make sure border security strong needs to deal -- employers effectively needs to provide a pathway. For the undocumented here these -- these deal with the -- kids. And I think that's something that we can get up. Chalked up Christian. On Apollo. Cup -- -- question Jessica's question. On and haven't it would and question about the worst person you're hopeful I don't know you -- I feel like you answer that went completely. Are you withholding judgment on whether you should've known sooner that there was a potential and that's that there was an investigation. Into whether -- CIA director. Potentially there was a national security breach which -- -- -- do you believe you should have known sooner. Where you withholding judgment until the investigation is complete on that front and in the -- to Jessica's question. Tax rates are you is there are no deal at the end of the year if tax rates for the top 2% are the Clinton tax rates period. No if ands or buts in any room negotiating on that specific. Aspect of the -- I am. I am withholding judgment. -- -- respect to how the entire. Process. Surrounding. General Petraeus. Came up. And you know. We don't have all the information yet. But I wanna say that -- a lot of confidence generally in the FBI. And they've got a difficult job. And so I'm gonna wait and see to see -- if there's any other. Well. I mean chuck would all would also -- is that if it is also possible that had we've been told. Then you'd be sitting here asking a question about why we're here in the hearing -- criminal investigation. So -- I think it's best right now for -- -- just. C how this whole process unfold. I would respect to the tax rates I I just want to emphasize. I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts -- some Democrats. Have a great idea for -- raise revenue. And maintain progressivity make sure the middle class is getting hit. Reduces our deficit. He encourages growth. I'm not gonna just slammed the door of their -- I want pure. Idea I -- -- wanna hear ideas from everybody. Well that what. I believe this is all. I think that fair minded people. Can come to an agreement. That does not cause the economy to go back in a recession. That protects middle class families that focuses on jobs and growth and reduces our deficit I'm confident it can be done. My budget frankly -- I understand that. I don't expect the Republicans simply to adopt my but that's not realistic so I recognize that we're gonna have to compromise and as I said on election night. Compromises hard. And not everybody gets a 100% what they want not everybody's going to be perfectly happy. But what -- Will not do. Is to. Have a process. That is -- That says we're gonna sort of kind of raise revenue. Through. Dynamic scoring or. Closing loopholes that have not been identified. And the reason I won't do that is because I don't want -- find ourselves in the position. Six months from -- -- a year from now where won't behold the only way to close -- deficit. Is to sock it to middle class mail us. -- to -- families that have disabled kids or you know have a parent and nursing home or. Some -- we've got to cut more out of our. Basic research budget that is the key to. Growing economy -- News so that's. My concern I'm less concerned about. Red lines -- say what I'm concerned about is not finding ourselves in a situation. Where. The wealthy. Aren't paying more. Or aren't paying as much as they should. Middle class families one way or another are making up the difference. That's the kind of status quo that has been going on here too long and that's exactly what I argued against during this campaign. And if there's one thing but I'm pretty confident about as we heard people understood. What they were getting. When they gave me this incredible privilege of being an office for another four years they want compromise they wanted to action. But they also want to make sure that. Middle class folks are bearing the entire burden and sacrifice. When it comes to some of these big challenges they expect that folks of the top. Are doing their fair share -- well and that's going to be my guiding principle. During these negotiations but more importantly during the next four years my administration. -- -- Mr. President on election night you said that you were looking forward to speaking with governor Romney sitting down in the coming weeks to discuss ways that you could work together. On this nation's problems have you extended that invitation has he accepted and in what ways do you think you can work together. -- we haven't scheduled something yet. I think everybody. Forgets that election was only where people are going. I know I've forgotten I forgot on Wednesday -- So it. I think everybody -- catch their breath I'm sure that governor Romney is spending some time of his family. And my hope -- before the end of the year though that we have a chance to have to sit down and talk. -- -- there there. Are certain aspects of governor Romney's. Record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful. And while to give you one example. I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. And you know that skill set of trying to figure out how -- we make. Something work better applies to the federal government. There are a lot of ideas that I don't think -- partisan news. But are just. Smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer friendly how can we make sure that. There were consolidating. Programs that are duplicative. How can we. Eliminate. Additional ways. -- he -- some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And this would be interesting to talk to him about. Something like that there may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle class families -- I want to -- so. I'm not I'm not. Either pre judging. What he's interest in doing nor -- Is suggesting I've got some specific assignment but I what I -- was -- -- Get ideas from him and see if. See if there's some ways that we can potentially work to get. With congress one of the most frequent. Criticisms we've heard over the past few years from members on both sides is that you haven't done enough to reach out. And build relationships are there concrete ways that you plan to approach your relationships with congress in the second term. It. Look -- I think there's no doubt that I can always do better. And so I will. -- examined. Ways that I can make sure to communicate my desire. To work with everybody. So long as it's advancing the cause of strengthening our middle class and improving -- com. You know I've got a lot of good relationships with folks both in the house and the senate. -- a lot of relationships on both sides of the aisle. It hasn't always manifest itself in. The kind of agreements that I'd like to see between Democrats and Republicans and so. I think all of us have responsible Ecstasy if -- things that we can improve on and I don't exempt myself. Up from. Needing to. You know do some self reflection and see if I can. Improve our working relationship -- -- going to be still some very sharp differences. And as I said during the campaign they're going to be times where there fights and I think those are fights that need to be head. But. What I think they murder people don't wanna see is. A focus on the next election instead of focus on them. And I don't have another election. And -- -- were talking last night about. What. An incredible honor and privilege it is. -- To be put in this position. And -- people all across this country millions of folks who worked so hard to help us get elected but they're also. Millions of people who may not have voted force but are also counting on us. And -- we take that responsibility very seriously I take that responsibility very seriously. And I hope and intend to be. And even better president's second term and I was in the first. Jonathan -- Thank you Mr. President. A Senator John McCain and senator Lindsey Graham -- -- stated they want to have Watergate style hearings on the attack. On the US consulate -- -- and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be secretary of state they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. A senator Graham said he simply doesn't trust. Ambassador rice after what she's had about -- -- like your reaction to that in and would those threats deter you from making nomination. Well first fallen under comment at this point on. Various nominations -- all put forward. To fill up my cabinet for the second term those are things that are still being discussed. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- She has represented the United States and our interest in these. United Nations. With skill. And professionalism. And toughness. And -- As I've said before. She made an appearance. At the request the White House. In which she. Gave her best. Understanding. Of the intelligence that had been provided -- 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. But for them to go after. The UN ambassador. Who had nothing to do -- -- doesn't. And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received. And -- to -- besmirch her reputation. Is outrageous. And. You know. Were after an election. I think it is important. For us to find out exactly what happened in the Gaza and I'm happy to cooperate in any way is 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. Two -- 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 bottom of it. And there needs to be accountability. We've got to bring those who turned out to justice. They won't get a debate for me on that. When they go after the UN. Ambassador. Early because they think she's an easy target. Than they've got a problem. And should I choose. If I think that -- would be the best person to serve America. In the capacity. The State Department that I will nominate and that's not a determination that I made. -- -- -- -- -- -- and -- a very small follow which is. Would you feel you have a mandate not just on taxes on a range of issues. Because of your decisive victory but wants him in Gaza based on what John asked because you -- if they want -- come after me come after me. I wanted to ask what the families of these four Americans were killed Sean Smith's father ray said he believes his -- basically called 911. For help and in get and I know you've said you -- for these four Americans. That's being investigated by the families -- the -- for more than two months so. I would like to for you to address the families if you can. On 9/11 S commander in chief did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives. You know all address the family's. Not through the press all dressed families. Directly and clarity have. And we will provide all the information. That is available about what happened on that -- that's what investigations 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 -- the United States then you don't know. How our Defense Department thinks or State Department -- or CIA things. They're number one priority is obviously protect American lives that's what our -- Now. -- -- won't put forward I will put forward. Every bit of information that we -- I can tell you that immediately upon finding out that. Our folks were in danger. That my orders to my national -- -- do whatever we need to do to make sure -- site. And that's the same more that I would give any time I see Americans are and whether their civilian. Or military. Because that's our normal one hour. It -- respect to them the issue mandate. I've got one man. -- got a mandate. To help middle class families. And families that are working hard to try to get -- -- once that's my man. That's what the American people -- they said. Work really hard to help us. Don't worry about politics. Don't worry about party. Interests don't -- about the special interest. 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 struggle a lot of us. That's my man. I don't presume that because I won election that everybody -- agrees with me on -- -- everything. -- more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach and second terms. We are very cautious about that. On the other hand. I didn't get reelected just. -- -- 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 I am -- that -- the one thing that. I said during the campaign that maybe it's sounds like. A bunch of campaign rhetoric but now that campaigns over under repeated and hopefully -- -- really believe me. When you travel around the country you -- inspired by the grit and resilience. And hard work and decency -- the American people. And it just makes you want to work -- You meet families who wore. Have overcome really tough spots and somehow. Are Macon and -- kids to college and you you meet young people who are doing incredible work and disadvantaged communities. Because they believe -- -- the American ideal and it should be available for everybody and hey did you meet farmers who are help them each other's there are times of drought and you know you meats businesses that kept their doors open during the recession even though. The ordered -- have to take a salary and you when you talk to these folks you say to yourself man. They deserved better government than -- -- get. They they deserve. All of us here in Washington to be thinking every single day how can I make things will better for them. Which -- to say that everything we do is going to be perfect or that -- 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 ways we're seeing it right now. On the Jersey coast in the New York. People are still going through a really tough time the response hasn't been perfect. But. It's been. Aggressive -- 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 number do everything I can make sure does. -- -- Thank you Mr. President. And congratulations by the -- When Chris following bear in my house run for state senate this -- -- and I go -- has never -- -- leave. The -- look in that one time. -- 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. Nuclear program issue. And are we headed toward one on one talks. Well obviously we can all imagine the sooner we're we're go office of fiscal what. If if despite. The election if despite. Dangers of going over the fiscal cliff. And and what that means for our economy. That there's too much. Stubborn us. In congress that we can't even agree on -- middle class families tax cut than. Middle class families are all gonna end up having a big tax -- And that's going to be a pretty rude shock. For them and I suspect we'll have. A big impact on. All -- 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 weeks. Provide. Certainty to middle class families. 98% of families who make less than 250000 dollars a -- nice -- -- small businesses that their taxes -- my book a single -- 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 -- and and willing to make big commitments to make sure the were locking in. The kind of deficit reductions that stabilize our deficit start bringing it down and start bringing down our debt I'm confident we can do. It's the and look I've been living with this for a couple years -- I know the -- pretty well and if it's it really is arithmetic it's not calculus. There are some tough things that have to be done but there -- a way of doing -- that does not hurt middle class families do that does not hurt. Our seniors doesn't hurt families -- disabled kids allows us to continue to invest in those things that make us grow like. Basic -- search and education helping young people Ford going to college. As we've already heard from. Some Republican commentators. A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not gonna break their backs. They'll still be well -- And it will not impinge on business investment. So so we know how to do this is this just a matter of whether or not we come together and go ahead say it. Democrats Republicans were both gonna. Hold hands and do what's right for the American people and and I hope that's what happens -- respect to -- -- 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 gonna let -- get a nuclear weapons. But. I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically. We've imposed tougher 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 well I will try to make it push. In the coming months to see if we can. Open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us -- the international community. To see if we can get this thing -- 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. I won't talk about the details of negotiations but. Ministers say that. We want to get this resolved and we're not going to be constrained by. Diplomatic niceties are protocols are a lot of serious about one result is. They'll be in a position to -- -- Prior just prior to the election there was talk that talks might be imminent that was not -- and it's not. It's not true -- as of today. -- Just gonna -- through a couple others mark -- -- -- -- -- Thank you Mr. President. In his endorsement of view 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 to New York City -- and I I assume see people who are still suffering the effects of hurricane sandy which. Many people say as further evidence of of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do and 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. You know. -- you know mark we can't attribute. Any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increase. Faster than was predicted even ten years ago. We do know that -- -- Ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily. That -- there been an extraordinarily large number. Of severe weather events. Here in North America but also. Around the glow. And I am a firm believer that climate change is real that 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 take 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 -- -- mr. but we haven't done as much as we need to so what I'm gonna 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 it short term progress. In. Reducing. Problems. And then. Working through an education process. That I think is necessary -- discussion conversation. Across the country about what realistically. Can we do long term but to make sure that this is not. Something we're passing on the future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal. I don't know what. What either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point. Because. This is one those issues that's not just a partisan issue but also thinkers the regional differences. There's no doubt that for us to take on climate change and a serious way. Would involve. Making some. Tough political choices. And -- understandably having been murdered people right now have been so focused and we'll continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth. That. If the message is somehow we're gonna ignore jobs and growth. Simply to address climate change I don't think anybody's gonna go for that. I won't -- If on the other hand we can shape an agenda that says. We can. Create jobs advanced growth. And make a serious -- climate change and be an international leader I think that's something that the murder 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. Carter's. Bipartisan support helps move this moves this just before. Idea that that I'm pretty certain up. And what -- were still trying to debate whether we can just make sure the middle class families don't get a tax hike. Let's -- -- all that. That should be easy. This one's heart. But it's important. Because. You're one of things we don't always -- and -- the cost involved. In these natural disasters we. We just put them to office. Is something -- unconnected to her behavior right now and I think what. Based on the evidence we're seeing is is that what we do now is gonna have an impact any cost. Down the road if if if we don't do something about it. All right last question. Mark -- felt some thought. Was -- Thank you Mr. President that the Asad regime is engaged in a brutal crackdown on people. France has recognized the -- coalition. What would it take for the United States do the same. And is there any point at which the United States would consider. Arming the rebels -- You know I was one of the first leaders I've been around the world to say Assad had to go. In response to the incredible -- Tel -- That his government displayed. In the face of what were initially peaceful protest. Obviously the situation serious deteriorating sentiment we have been. Extensively engaged with the international community as well as regional powers to help the opposition. We've committed to. Hundreds of millions 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. The onslaught from this -- We are in in very close contact -- Countries like Turkey and Jordan. That immediately border Syria and have an -- and obviously Israel which is having already. Grave concerns as we do about for example. Movements of chemical weapons that might occur. In such -- 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. And 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 take place with the international community in the opposition. We consider them a legitimate. Represented of the aspirations. The Syrian people. We're not yet prepared to recognize them -- 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 gonna continue to press is making sure -- that opposition is committed to. A democratic. Syria and inclusive Syria. A moderate -- We have seen. Extremist elements insinuate themselves into. The opposition. And one of things that we have to be on guard about particularly when we start talking about arming. Opposition. Figures is that we're not. In directly. Putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans or do Israelis are war. Otherwise engage in and actions that are detrimental to our national security so -- were costly probing and working on that issue. The more engaged -- -- -- more will be in a position to make sure that. That we her -- and the most moderate. Thoughtful. Elements of the opposition that are committed to -- -- Observance of human rights and working cooperatively with us so long. Thank you very much. Community that was a great question. But it would be eight. Horrible precedent for me to answer your question just because you yell that out. So thank you very much does. There you have been -- Reelected president in his first press conference first question was about Petraeus and -- -- that I have no evidence. From what I've seen that classified. Information was disclosed in that. In any way that would have had a negative impact praised the long career of General -- He certainly it also made some news on the tax cuts that he would not agree to extending the tax cuts for the top 2% those earning over 250000 dollars but also them -- -- and said. He wouldn't slammed the door in the face of those who came up. With a new -- said the going over the fiscal -- real possibility. In -- began I was struck by the range of questions the president got over that hour I'm just about every big. Issue out there that's right and in a purely human note. As saying the president announcing him eight days ago the defense the fatigue that -- a campaign makes what's so marked its just worth pointing out. Again he said at one point I don't have another election. And that he wants to be an even better president. Next -- his mandate to help the middle class we should also point out strong defense of the UN ambassador Susan Rice. Some Republican senators -- they would filibuster her appointments and as secretary of state he said. If they have a problem with -- they have a problem with me she -- -- the country the skill professionalism. Toughness and grace that is not the last we're gonna hear. -- that was a passionate and personal defense her and we're so glad you were with us. And it's always great to have you -- -- -- -- a lot more world news tonight I certainly will Throughout the day and I will see you tonight. Until -- Assistant special report from NBC news.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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