President Obama Talks Terror, Congress at Year-End News Conference

The president fielded questions from reporters before leaving for vacation with his family.
55:34 | 12/18/15

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for President Obama Talks Terror, Congress at Year-End News Conference
This is an ABC news. Now reported. George Stephanopoulos. And we're coming in the air right now because President Obama is about to hold his final press conference of the year from the White House. It's an annual tradition president takes questions for about an hour before heading to Hawaii with a Stanley for chris' vacation. On the way this year he'll stop in California for a private meeting tonight. With families of the San Bernardino victims that terror attack in the wake of the ice is directed massacre in Paris. Has put national security and the war against ice is right at the top of the country's concerns and transformed the race hasn't seen President Obama. It's also put him on the defensive as this year comes to a close a majority of Americans now disapprove of how he's handling his job that's dropped five points since the Paris attacks. I want to bring our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl and John the president on a pretty concerted campaign over the last two weeks to convince the country he's got a strategy and it's working. Sure as and he needs to as you point out of majority of the American public now has lost faith in his ability to handle this threat in fact Georgia to look at our poll this week. Barely a third of of of voters say that they approve mishandling of the threat from crisis. And today in an interview his former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his micromanagement of the Pentagon on this. Was dangerous. That becomes the third former Defense Secretary for President Obama chosen by President Obama. Who have come out to question his strategy in dealing with the terror threat. So I expect he will try to be reassuring on that score. You'll also of course but how does it debt a debt that domestic agenda and his plans for what will be his last year in office. As you know last year it very tough time to get anything done. Especially when dealing with a congress is controlled by the other party. Although some more John than more executive actions are growing on gun control. Yes these guys working up sometime in the next few weeks we are told. He will come out with steps that he believes he can take without com. Congress to deal with the gun threat but even on that he faces a problem with the American public in our poll for the first time since 1994. We saw that a majority of voters say they don't approve of the idea of banning assault weapons. Really quite extraordinary given the sustained campaign that the White House has done to try to get more gun control legislation. And then also by chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross and are moving now in the wake of this new arrest of accomplices she's been here comes the president of the Tibet. Good afternoon error by. Clearly this is not be most important events taking place in the White House today there is a screening of Star Wars or. Gold star families and children coming out soul. All try to be relatively suspect. Let me say a few words about beer behind us and your head. And the Baltic people. As I look back on this year. One thing I see if there's so much are steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big tangible ways. Or early actions to rescue the economy set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job. On record with thirteen point seven million new jobs in that time. The unemployment rate has been cut in half. Down to 5%. And most importantly wages were faster than any time since the recovery began so old quarts of this year a lot of the decisions that we made early on. Have paid off. Here's a steady implementation of the Affordable Care Act helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10%. For the first time since records were kept on that. Doctor prices have grown of their lowest level in five decades. Seventeen million more Americans have gained coverage and we now know that six million people have signed up. Through health care dot gov for coverage beginning on January 1 six thousands on Tuesday along. New customers are up 13 over last year. And the more who sign up the stronger system becomes and that's good news for every American an order us to worry about being just one illness or accident. Away from financial hardship. On climate. Early investment in clean energy ignited a clean energy. Industry boom. Our actions today help reduce or carbon emissions. Brought China to the table and last week in Paris nearly 200 nations fortunate historic agreement. That was only possible because there leadership. Around the world from reaching the deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. To reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba for concluding it landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers American businesses. Are operating on a level playing field and that we rather than China or other countries are setting rules for global trade. We have shown what is possible when America leaves. And after decades dedicated advocacy. Marriage equality became reality in all fifty states. So I just want to point out. Said it. The beginning of this year that interest and stuff happens in the fourth quarter and we are only halfway through. I do want to thank congress for ending the year on a high note I got to sign. An education bill. Eight. Fix some of the challenges that we had No Child Left Behind and promises to invest more in high quality early childhood education. We signed a transportation bill although not as robust as I think he. Still allows states and local governments. Plan and actually. Get moving when people back to work rebuilding our roads our bridges. We got XM bank back to work supporting American exports and today they passed a bipartisan budget deal. I'm not wild about everything in it. I'm sure that's true for everybody but it is a budget that as insisted. Invests in our military. Middle class without ideological divisions that what. Weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters. It's part of an agreement. That will permanently extend tax credits to 2.4 million working families. It includes some long sought wins like strengthening America's leadership at the IMF. And because it eliminates the possible it was shut down for the first time. Or for the first nine months of next year congress and have a long runway to get some important things done on behalf of the American people. Now there's still a lot of work to do. For example. There's still a lot more the congress can do to promote job growth and increase wages in this country. I still want to work with congress both Democrats and Republicans to a former criminal justice system. And earlier today I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society and other. Step forward and upholding our fundamental ideals of justice after us. And of course our most important job is to keep Americans safe. Had a lot say about that this week but let me reiterate. The United States continues to lead a global coalition our mission to destroy axle. Missiles already lost about 40% of the populated areas it wants control in Iraq and it's losing territory in Syria. As we keep up the pressure. Our air campaign will continue to hit sisal harder than ever. Taking out their leaders commanders and their forces. Were stepping up our support for partners on the ground as they push Beisel back. Our men and women in uniform and carrying out their mission when trademark professionalism courage. And this holiday season all of us are united in our gratitude for their service and we are thankful to their families as well because there's so. Those war actually deport. Squeezing Russell's heart its core in Syria and Iraq will make it harder. For them to pump their terror propaganda for the rest of the world. The same time as we know from December Dino world visit with them legislators today. We have to make vigilant here Paul. Or counterterrorism. Intelligence homeland security and law enforcement communities are working 24/7. To protect our homeland and all of us can do our part by staying vigilant. Saying something if we see something that is suspicious. By refusing to be terrorized. And by staying united as one American family. In short for all very real progress America's made over the past seven years we still have some unfinished business and I plan on doing everything I can which. Every minute of every day that I have left as president to deliver on behalf the American people. At stake in this office I've never been more optimistic. About a year ahead that I am right now and 4060 and I'm gonna leave. All on the field so with that let me take some questions I'll start with Roberta are granted a work. This present your house. Check earlier this week. There's no yeah. Art. Similar. I. And some lawmakers Thursday that you government should review social media. I don't find. Well revert you're actually wife that. It is very difficult. For us to detect. Lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife in this case. Because. Despite the incredible vigilance. And professionalism. Or law enforcement homeland for its. It's not that different from us trying to detect the next match you. You don't always see if they're not always communicating publicly and if you're not. Catching what they say publicly. Then it becomes a challenge. We are continuing to work. At every level. To make sure that. There's no slip. Between. Information sharing among agencies. Were continuing to strengthen our information sharing where foreign countries and because in part of the tragedy in Paris I think you're saying much greater cooperation. From. Our European partners on these issues. But this is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had waited. Organization like al-Qaeda that. Involved. Highly trained operatives who were walking as cells or as a network. Here essentially you have myself tried to encourage or induce somebody who. You may be. Parade through this kind of propaganda. And it becomes more difficult to to see. It does mean that they're less likely to be able to carry out large complex attacks. As we saw on Samberg do you know obviously you can still. Do enormous damage. The issue of reviewing social media. For those who are obtaining visas I think may have gotten global world. Because there there may be. It's important to distinguish between. Post battle of public social media on a FaceBook page. Vs private communications. Through various. Social media or apps. And our. Law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly mom. Public pools and that is part these are review process. That. That people are investigated. What individuals have said publicly. And question about any statements that they may be made. But if you have. A private communications between. Two individuals. That's harder to discern by definition and one of things will be doing isn't engaging with. The high tech community to find out how we can in an appropriate way. Do a better job if we have eight lead. To be able to. Trac suspected terrorists. But we're gonna have to recognize that. No government is gonna have the capacity to lead every single person's tax forty emails or. Social media if if it's not posted publicly. And they're going to be. Feasibility issues that are. That are probably insurmountable. At some level and video raises questions about our values. May keep in mind it was only. A couple of years ago where we're having a major debate about whether the government was becoming too much like Big Brother. And overall I think we've struck the right balance and protecting civil liberties and making sure that. US citizens' privacy is preserved that we are. Making sure that there's oversight to what our intelligence agencies do. But. You know we're gonna have to continue to balance our needs for security where. People's legitimate concerns about privacy and because the Internet is global and communications systems. Our global. You know the values that we. Apply here often times or ones that. Folks who were finally come into the country. Are also. Benefiting from because they're using the same technologies but this is precisely why were working very hard to bring law enforcement intelligence and high tech companies together because we're gonna have to really review what we can do both technically. As well as consistent with our laws and our values in order to. Try to discern. More rapidly some of the potential threats that maybe up. David Jackson. A gitmo question. Congressman pretty they're not. Prisoners United States trial. Some people think you already have these or transfer those present at close gitmo itself next year. My question is do you believe you have that heart and unwilling. While first of all. We've been working systematically to another example persistence. He and reducing the population. We have a review process of those who were eligible for transfer. We locate in countries that have accepted some v.s they detainees. They monitor them. And it's been determined that. Make. Can be transfer. And my expectations by their early. Buyers early next year we should have reduce that population below hunt. And we will continue. Continue to steadily chip away at. The numbers in Guantanamo there's gonna come to a point where war we have your reduce Sobel population people who pose a significant threat. But for various reasons. It's difficult for us to try them and article three court some of those folks are going through military commission process. But. That there there's going to be a challenge there now. At that stage. Presenting a plan to congress about how we can close Guantanamo. I'm not going to. Automatically assume that congress says no. I'm not being quarry David I think it's fair to say that there's going to be significant resistance from some quarters. Two that but I think we can make a very strong argument that does make sense for us. To be spending. An extra. 102030500. Million dollars a billion dollars. To have a. A secure setting for. 506070. People and we will wait until congress. As. Definitively. Said no to a well thought out. Plan would numbers attached to it before. We. Say anything definitive about. My executive. Authority. I think it's. Far preferable. If I can get stuff done with congress. David as as a certain you know and I think you've seen me on on a whole bunch issues like immigration. I'm not gonna. I'm not gonna be forward leaning on what I can do. Without congress before attest to what I can do what got us never wants a while will surprise you. Patents and and this may be one of those places because I think we can make a really strong argument. Once upon a mall continues to be one of the key magnets. For Jihad. Your first question earlier about how do they propaganda lies and convince. If somebody here in the United States who may not have a criminal record or history of terrorist activity to start. Shooting. This is part of what they feed. This notion. Gross injustice that America's not living up through its professed ideals. We know that we see that Internet traffic we see you. How Guantanamo has been used. To create this mythology that. America's at war with Islam and you know for us to close it is part of our counterterrorism strategy. That is supported by our military our diplomatic and our intelligence teams. So when you combine that with the fact that it's really expensive. In that we are. Well essentially at this point detaining a handful. People. And each person is costing. Several million dollars. To detain when there are more efficient ways of doing it. I think we can make a strong argument I I I'm I'm but I'll take off all take your your point that. It'll be an uphill battle. Every battle I've had with the congress over the last five years has been a film. But we keep on surprising them by actually gets stuck on an immigration sometimes sometimes that may prove necessary but here we try not to get out ahead of ourselves on. Julie thanks. Still. And Barack. Having gone. In the Middle East in terms of trying to push dictators out. Would you advise future presidents to call for a portrait leaders to back down he did and just physically carry at this point busier than. Bashar Asad presidency we'll outlast us. You know. There's been a lot of revisionist history sometimes by the same people. Making different arguments depending on the situation. So. Maybe it's useful to us for us to go back over some of these issues. We did not oppose Hosni Mubarak. Millions of egyptians did because of their dissatisfaction. With the corruption and authoritarianism. The merging we had a working relationship with before we didn't trigger the Arab Spring. And the notion that some the US. Was in a position to pull the strings. A country. That is the largest in the Arab world I deguzman's is mistaken. What is true is that at the point at which the choice becomes. Mowing down millions of people. Or trying to find some transition. We believed I would still argue that it was more sensible for us to find a peaceful transition. To the Egyptian situation. We respect to Libya. In Libya is. Served a alternative version. Syria in some ways. Because by the time the court the international coalition. Interceded in Syria. Chaos and RD broken out. You already had. The makings of a civil war you had a dictator who was. Threatening and was in position to carry out. The wholesale slaughter of large numbers of people. And we worked under UN. Mandate. Where they coalition of folks. In order to try to avert. It. Big humanitarian catastrophe. That would not have been good for us those who now argue in retrospect we should left Qaddafi in there. Seem to forget that. He had already lost would just miss the Syrian control of this country and we could have instead of what we have oblivion now we could've had another Syria and Libya. The problem with Libya was the fact that. There was a failure. On the part of the entire international community and I think that the United States has some accountability for. Not moving swiftly enough and underestimating the need to rebuild. Government there quickly. And as a consequence you now have a very bad situation. And as far as Syria goes. I think it is entirely right and proper for the United States of America to speak out on behalf of its values. And when you have. An authoritarian leader that is. Killing. Hundreds of thousands of his own people. The notion that we would just stand by and say nothing. Is contrary to who we are and that does not serve it's because at that point. Us being in collusion with that kind of governments. Would make us even more of a target for. Terrorist activity would. Style. The reason that side has been a problem in Syria is because. That is a majority. Sunni country. And he had lost. This space that he had early on took execute an inclusive transition peaceful transition he chose instead. To slaughter people and once that happened. The idea of that a minority population there could somehow. Crush. Tens of millions of people. Who oppose. Is. Not feasible it's not plausible. Even if you were. Being. Cold Biden hard hearted about. Human told there it just one happen. And as a consequence. Our view has been that you cannot bring. Peace to Syria you cannot get an end to the civil war. Unless you have a government that as it is recognized as legitimate by a majority of that country. It will not happen and this is the argument that I have had repeatedly what mr. proved. Dating five years ago. At which time. The his suggestion as I gather some Republicans are now suggesting. Was it also it's not so bad let him just be as brutal and repressive as he can but at least till Q border. Does it look the problem is. That. The history of trying to keep order when. It's. Large majority of the country has turned against you is not good. And it five years later. I was right. So we now have an opportunity there. And John Kerry is meeting as we speak with Syria and Turkey on and the gulf countries and other parties were entrusted. We now have an opportunity. Not to turn that back the clock. It's going to be very difficult completely. Overcome the devastation that's happens here are ready. But to find a political transition. That. Maintains the Syrian state that. Recognizes. Their. A bunch of stakeholders inside a soon. And hopefully. To. Initiate. A cease fire that won't be perfect but allows all the parties term. What should be our number one focus in that is destroying. Dash. And its allies. In the region. And that is going to be a difficult process it's going to be a painstaking process but there is no short cut to. And that's not based on. Some idealism on my part that's are hard headed calculation about what's been your record to get the job. Power. Here. I think that aside. Is going to have to. Leave in order for the country. To stop the bloodletting and four. All the parties involved to be able to. Move forward. In a nonsectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country now is there a way of us constructing a bridge. Creating a political transition. That. Allows those who were allied with us out right now. Allows the Russians was real audience to. Ensure that their equities are respected. Minorities. Like the yellow lights I'm not. Crushed. Or retribution is not the order of the day I think that's going to be very important as well and and that's what makes this so difficult. You'll sadly. Had Assad made. A decision earlier that he was not more important. Personally that his entire country. That kind of political transition would have been much easier it's a lot harder now. By John Kerry's been doing some excellent work and moving that process forward and I do a thing. That you've seen from the Russians. A recognition that after a couple of months. They're not really moving the needle that much in this fight. Sizable performance of Syria. And of course that's what I suggest what. Because. There's only so much bombing you can do. When and an entire country is outraged. And believes that. It's ruler does represent. Sure wolf and. Speaker Paul Ryan. Today I. Home. Can't seem more ambitious next year. Do things like completing. Well first of all. It's important give some credit where credit dispute John Boehner. Did a fair ever. To. All of us including. Speaker. By working with us to agree on top line budget for an. That was the basis for subsequent negotiations. He was able to do that because he was going out the door and was then given I think a little more. Room to maneuver than he previously had. Having said that. I also want to give speaker Ryan credit called both him and commitment follows rules Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for. The orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget. The way congress'. Historically typically supposed to work and then we've gotten kind of used. Oh. Last minute crises and shut down threats and so forth and does this is a messy process that doesn't satisfy or body completely but it's more typical of American democracy. And I think that speaker line deserves a role in that I will say that in his interactions with me. He has been professional he has reached out. To tell me what he can do and what he. Cannot do. I think it's. Good working relationship we recognize that we disagree on a whole bunch about other stuff and I have fundamentally different visions for where we want to move the country but. Perhaps because even before he was elected he had worked on Capitol Hill I think he is respectful of the process. And respectful of how. Legislation walks so. Kudos to him as well as all the leaders and appropriators were involved in this process. Now he just. Want to repeat because sometimes we take for granted. What's happened. I said. Early on in this process that I wasn't gonna sign. A budget that. That did not relieve sequester this artificial. Austerity that was making it difficult for us to invest in things like education and our military. And ice that I would not accept a lot of ideological riders there were. Attached to a big budget deal. And we met our goals and because. Some terrific negotiations by. The Democrats up on Capitol Hill and I think some pretty good work by our legislative steps here we're going to be able to fund. Environmental protection. We're going to be able to make sure that. We're investing in things like early childhood education and making college more affordable. We're going to be able to implement the key here clean power plant rule. We're gonna be able to continue to invest and clean energy. That's per song innovation. We're gonna be able to make sure that our military. Gets the equipment and training. That it needs in order to be effective in fighting. Iceland. That threats around the world so. It was. It was a good one and there are some things in their that I don't like but. That's the nature of legislation and compromise and I think the system worked that. Gives me. It's some optimism that next year on the narrow set of issues. We can get some more work not as David said it's election and obviously a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over the shoulders worrying about primary. Trying to position themselves. Relative to the presidential candidates. So that makes it harder. But I think they're going to be a handful of various where we can make real progress one of them your dimensions. Trans Pacific partnership. Which now has been out congress has had a chance to review. And it meets the bar that I said. It is consistent look what I promise which is the most pro labor. Pro environment progressive. Trade deal in history. Eliminates. Just about every terror on American manufacturing goods in countries that up until this point have charged that tax essentially on. Anything that American workers American business is selling these areas it brings those taxes down to zero. On basically all American. Manufactured products a huge win for agriculture because now. You know the people in Japan are going to be in a better position to enjoy American beef. American port which up until this point. Even though we're much more efficient producers as. Been tagged with a tax that makes. You know our products uncompetitive in Japanese markets so there's a big deal I think speaker Ryan. What would like to try to get it done. And they're both proponents and opponents of this in both democratic and Republican. Parties and so it's going to be an interest in. Situation where we're gonna have to stitch together the same kinda bipartisan effort in order for us to get it up. A second area that I think is possible is. Criminal justice reform. There has been sincere. A serious. Negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans. To create a criminal justice system that. Is more fair. More evenhanded more proportionate. And is smarter about how we reduce crime. And I've really been impressed by the dedication. Or group. Democrats and Republicans some of them the most Liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans coming together. Saying this is the right thing to do we've got a good bill and the senate. That. Passed would bipartisan support out of committee my hope is that that gets to the floor. And that we compare it up with a good bill out of the house and and this is an area where you potentially. Can see. It's save money. Reduce recidivism. You make sure that people who make a mistake on nonviolent crimes. Have to pay the price have to serve time but. Are released him in a reasonable fashion that they have more support so that they're less likely to go back into the criminal system. Subsequently. And that's an area where I think we maybe able to make a big difference so those are just two examples. We'll keep on looking for a number examples like Brad. And and wherever there's an opportune them and take him. Phillips growth though brother. It's one thing. Rightly. Tires said it was. Potentially a turning point for the world this book deal that was that is not a legally binding documents a bunch of congress pretty much completely. You're at this point that's a Republican president might take front and White House could stop the deal in its tracks and Eileen. And considering that possibility. You more interest in campaigning. Democratic nominees fit that take. I think this burrows going to be campaign for democratic nominee. Even without that there are. And I am very confident. We're gonna have a a terrific democratic nominee. And most photos are guys kimono. Somebody you recognize your Rendell reimburses turn. I'm very ago. OK but I still here. They're supplement. I think we will have a strong democratic nominee I think that democratic nominee will win I think I will have a double. Critics success and I will campaign very hard to make that happen parole variety of reasons because. Their farm more likely to share my fundamental vision about where America should go. But having except that what I think. People should also feel good about. Is that. The agreement struck in Paris. Although not legally binding when it comes to. The targets that have been set. Does. Create this architecture. In which all around the world. Countries are saying this is where we're ball. We're going to be chasing after this clean energy future. This is how we're going to meet our goals were gonna. Double down on solar power we're gonna double down on when power we're gonna. Invest. More heavily in in in biofuels were gonna figure out battery technologies. And what you saw on this budget. Which. I think was really significant was an extension. The solar. Tax credits and when tax credits that we had. Helped really boost early on in my administration and that was altered and wind power increasing threefold. Solar power increasing by twenty fold. Those tax credits are now going to be extended. 45. To seven years. And as a consequence. That combination a market signals means that the private sector is gonna start investing much more heavily they know this is common. And it's not just coming here it's coming around the world. We now have a global marketplace. For clean energy that is. Stable and accelerating. Over the course of the next decade. That then creates. A different dynamic. That is independent. What congress does but also helps to shape what congress does because the more people that are now getting jobs in solar. Installation and production the more that. You have. Companies. Who are. Seeing how American innovation and sell products. In clean energy all across the Asia Pacific. In Europe Africa. Suddenly there's a big monetary incentive to have getting this right. And and that's been the history. Environmental progress in this country and now we've exported around the world every time we've made a decision. You know what we're gonna have cleaner. The predictions were everything would fall apart. And lo and behold. Turns up the American immigration makes getting clean air a lot less expensive than people expected that happens a lot faster and expect. When we made a decision. That we were gonna double fuel efficiency standards on cars. For myself there's gonna ruin the American auto industry of America office has been pulled from the last couple years. Acid rain. When George H. W. Bush instituted. A system to charge for. The the emissions the work causing acid rain or basic way you can do that that's gonna ruin business and it turned out it was smoother faster quicker. Better. And acid rain. Folks who were born out. Some are you reporters are getting younger and were armed and older may not remember but that was a big deal about it most folks Noory remembered anymore. Because a got salt. And there's no reason why the same won't happen here now do I think that there's going to be a lot of noise and campaigning. Next year about how organized. Stop. If Paris in its tracks. There'll proview lot of noise like that do I actually think that. Two years from now three years from now. Even Republican. Members of congress in order insert that's the Smart thing to do. I don't think they will keep in mind but right now. The American. Republican Party is the only major party. I can think of it did. Advanced world. That. Effectively denies foreign object emits an outline. That. Many of the key. Signatories. To this deal. The architects of this deal come from Centre right government's. Even the far right parties and many of these countries. That they may not like immigrants for example but very. Admit besides he tells us we get designer mark partridge. So. My senses is that. You know this is something that. Made. The advantage in terms short term politics in the Republican primary it's not something. Is going to be a winner. For Republicans law. Leadership it's embarrassing to you that's the other party. Tonight's climate change dogs because first of all. For as long remember that part of that's second of all that didn't stop us from. Being the key leader in getting this done. I mean this is something I've been working on now for. 56 years. When it when I went to cope and later. Essentially engage them. 24 hours of diplomacy. Salvage from a pretty chaotic. Process. The basic principle that all countries had to participate Vick we could have a rigid division between developed countries and developing countries when it came to solving this problem. That was the initial foundation. For us then. Working with other countries culminating in. The joint announcement with China bring him in India bringing in Brazil and the other big emerging countries. Working with the Europeans and getting this done this would not have happened without. American leadership. And by the way the same is true for. The Iran nuclear deal the same is true for the trans Pacific partnership. The same is true for stamping out a bola. Something you're ghost mayor or call from last year's. Which was. The potential into the world. Yell all at each juncture. What we've said is is that. American strength. And American. Exceptional ism. Is not just a matter of us bombing somebody. More often it's a matter of us convening. Setting the agenda. Pointing. Other nations. In a direction that's good for everybody. And good for you as centrists. Engaging in painstaking diplomacy leading by example. And you know sometimes the results don't come. Overnight there'll come the following day. But. May come and and this year what you really saw was that steady. Persistent leadership. On all on many initiatives that I began. When I first. Came in office. All right I've got. Who run. And despite that's okay. I think this 5%. What legislation and supporting that mitnick. Country and it went back to you. Issue that is why. Well. We're gonna defeat ices. And we're going to do so by systematically. Squeezing them. Cutting off their supply lines cutting off their financing. Taking out their leadership taking out their forces. Taking out their infrastructure. We're gonna do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty. Sometimes need capacity building need our assistance need our training. But we're seeing steadily progress. In many of these areas. And so they're going to be on the run now they are gonna continue to be dangerous so so let me just be very clear. Because. Whenever I saved that we have made progress in can squeezing. The territory that they control or. You know made real inroads against them. What people will say as well if something happens around the world then obviously that must not be true. But in any battle in any fight. Even as you make progress. They're still dangerous involved and I souls capacity. Both to infiltrate. Western countries. With people who traveled to Syria or travel to Iraq. And the savvy -- of their social media of their ability to. Recruit. Disaffected. Individuals. Who may be. French war. British or even US citizens will continue to make them dangerous for quite some time but but but what we've wolf systematically go after them now. In order for us. To stamp them out thoroughly. We have to eliminate. Lawless areas. In which they cannot still won't. So we can we can disable them weaken. Dismantle. Much of their infrastructure. Greatly reduce the threat that they pose to. The United States our allies and our neighbors. But in the same way that al-Qaeda. Is pinned down and as much more difficulty carrying out. Any significant attacks because of how we've systematically dismantle them they still pose a threat they're still. Operatives who are interested in carrying out terrorist attacks. Because. They still operate in areas. Between packed Pakistan and Afghanistan or. More prominently right now in Yemen that are hard to reach. Our our long term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don't have any safe. And in order for us to do that in Syria. There has to be an end to the civil. And there has to be an actual government. That has a police capacity in the structure in. These areas that currently. Our god. And it is my firm belief and the belief. The experts in this administration that so long as outside is there. We cannot achieve that kind of stability. Inside officer. And. God I think the history over the last. Several years. Indicates is much. So that's gonna continue to be. A top priority for us moving aggressively on the military truck in not letting I shall take a breath. And and and pounding away at them. When our special forces and our air strikes and training and advising workers who can go after them. But. We also to keep very aggressive on this diplomatic track in order for us to bring countries together right. Ever voted oh on pro does football right I answer the question I'm hopeful. 000. Right an April what I said was is that I strongly support the senate legislation that sort of been put forward I'm hopeful that the house. Can come up wary of legislation. That follows the same principles which is to make sure that were doing. Sentencing reform. But were also doing a better job in terms. You know reducing recidivism and providing support for ex offenders. And if we can get those two bills together in a conference that I'm. Somewhat optimistic the Romeo make a difference now keep in mind April when you use the term mass incarceration. Statistically. The overwhelming majority of people who were incarcerated. Are in state. Prisons and state facilities for state crimes. We can only focus on federal law and federal forms and so they're still going to be. A large. Population. Individuals were incarcerated even for nonviolent drug crimes because. This is a trend that started in. The late eighties and nineties and accelerated. The state levels but. If we can shoals that the federal. There we can be Smart on crime more cost effective. More just more proportionate. Then we can set a trend for other states. To follow as well and that's our hope this is not going to be assignments reversed overnight. So just to go back to my general principle April if it took. Twenty years. For us to get to the point we are now. And Obi. Forty years probably before we've worse we reversed some of these major tracks. Okay her body I gotta get to Star Wars. I. President Obama heading back to star were strewn at the White House wrapping up. His final press conference of 2015 relax present Obama. Saying he's never far more optimistic about a year ahead saying we are making progress in the fight. Against nicest and we will defeat them some president's words also laying out his legislative agenda for the nature sing us a progress. I'm trade in criminal justice among other matters want to bring our chief investigative correspondent. Brian Ross Brian the president also reaffirmed this idea that he sees no specific and credible threat to the United States before this Christmas holiday said the same thing. For Thanksgiving but the first question got the press conference heading up. Exactly that's the question now for flexes a federal authorities in what happened in San Bernardino. Here's Syed Farooq and planning for at least four years to carry out an attack he was never picked up on any FBI hired national intelligence radar at all. And carried out that the president committed mash usually see all the time also Jon Karl. At the White House prison also optimistic about his legislative agenda. Despite some real opposition the congress thing helps make some progress and criminal justice reform and. In training. Day he said he's never been more optimistic about a year ahead. Idea is right now he said he's gonna leave it all on the field. Those specific issues the really tough one is that big trans Pacific trade deal that has incredible opposition in congress. Not just from Republicans but from democratic leaders but he expressed optimism because Paul Ryan. Supports that idea and he thinks it will work with them on that he also George it was interesting had. Positive words to say about all the outgoing former speaker of the house John Boehner. And about Paul Ryan saying that he has a good relationship at all Ryan. That he deals with the administrator forward way all of the disagree on the vast majority of things feels he's able to work for them. And John real quickly on one time audition closing one time on the presidency held congress passes something. They certainly did keep his options open for doing something that is out. Yeah I read that as saying he's going to try something he owns almost certainly fail. And then he will do it on a zone. Okay John Carter drive much we return that to our regular programs before a complete wrap up with the day's events on world news. And ABC news will be out in force for Saturday's democratic debate up in New Hampshire David Muir and Martha Raddatz moderates are like our special coverage starting at 8 eastern. And we'll have a special edition of this week Sunday morning live from Manchester. And our guests can include Donald Trump Chris Christie and Bernie Sanders a lot going on up in New Hampshire this weekend we look forward to covering it for now. Have a great afternoon. This has been a special. For me.

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

{"duration":"55:34","description":"The president fielded questions from reporters before leaving for vacation with his family.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Politics","id":"35849055","title":"President Obama Talks Terror, Congress at Year-End News Conference","url":"/Politics/video/president-obama-talks-terror-congress-year-end-news-35849055"}