Obama vows to be better president in second term


In his first press conference since his re-election, Barack Obama yesterday promised to be a more effective president.

Asked how he could improve relations with Congress, he predicted: “There are going to be fights and those are fights that need to be had.” But, he added, that the American people did not want to see politicians focused on the next election. “I don’t have a next election . . . I hope and intend to be an even better president in the second term than I was in the first.”

Mr Obama was confrontational when asked about comments by Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham that they would hold “Watergate-style hearings” about the death of four Americans in Benghazi last September 11th if the president nominates his UN ambassador, Susan Rice, to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Ms Rice has been pilloried by the right for saying the attack in Libya was a spontaneous demonstration rather than a terrorist strike.

Ms Rice “has done exemplary work” said Mr Obama. She had spoken based on the intelligence information provided to her at the time. “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” he continued. “But for them to go after the UN ambassador . . . to besmirch her reputation is outrageous . . . When they go after the UN ambassador because they think she’s an easy target, then they have a problem with me. If she’s the best person to serve America in the state department, then I will nominate her.”

Regarding the scandal involving four-star generals David Petraeus and John Allen and their involvement with younger, married women, Mr Obama said he had “no evidence at this point that classified information was disclosed that would impact national security”.

He praised Gen Petraeus for having served “with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA”. He hoped that “this personal matter that is now dealing with” will “end up being a side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career”.

Bush-era tax cuts

Mr Obama is devoting much of this week to discussions with leaders from trade unions, business, banking and Congress about taxation, government spending and entitlements. He repeated several times in less than an hour that Congress could immediately make Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000 (€196,000) a year permanent, giving “98 per cent of all Americans and 97 per cent of all businesses” certainty for the holiday season. “We should not hold the middle class hostage” while negotiating over taxation of the wealthy, he said.

Asked whether he would cave in, as he did in 2010 and 2011, and allow tax cuts to be extended for the wealthy too, Mr Obama said that had been “a one-time proposition. What I am not going to do is extend further a tax cut for folks that don’t need it.”

Voters had understood that this was a basic difference between himself and Mitt Romney during the campaign.

After praising the “empowerment” of Latino voters in the election, Mr Obama said he was “very confident we can get immigration reform done”. And he added that he would introduce a Bill in Congress soon following his inauguration.