Wearing a bright purple tie, Obama basked at this afternoon’s press conference, held shortly before his scheduled departure to Hawaii.
Talking about today’s bipartisan Senate vote for the ratification of the New START treaty, Obama said that it sent a “powerful signal to the world,” and thanked Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. John Kerry (D, Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) for their “outstanding work” on the treaty. The president mentioned he had just spoken to Lugar on the phone, telling him how much he “appreciated” his help and support and recalling a trip the two had taken to Russia during Obama’s first year as senator. Obama added that the New START treaty was the “most significant arms control agreement in two decades.”
Talking about the lame duck session, Obama noted the legislative successes: the new START treaty, DADT repeal, the food safety and 9/11 first responders bills, and the tax compromise. “[It’s] fair to say this has been the most productive post election period we’ve had in decades,” the president commented, adding that while the midterm elections had been a “shellacking,” the lame duck session had become a “victory” for the American people.
But Obama also remarked that he was “very disappointed” Congress had failed to pass the DREAM Act, saying that his administration would continue to push for the legislation. Talking about GOP opposition to DREAM, Obama speculated that “some of them [Republicans], in their heart of hearts, know that it’s the right thing to do.”
Obama also expressed concern about the long-term budget and the upcoming budget battle. He said that the tax cut debate will continue over the next two years.
And while the president predicted that there will be “tough fights” ahead, he sees the last few weeks as proof that “gridlock” is not the only option. “If we can sustain that spirit . . . American people will be better for it,” the president said.
Speaking about newly empowered GOP, Obama remarked that “Republicans recognize that with greater power comes greater responsibility.”
Asked about the often-used car in the ditch analogy, Obama said that the “car [the economy in the analogy] is on level ground.” He spoke about a new direction for the government’s economic focus: “We now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth,” and education, innovation, and R & D.
“[The] private sector will be the driving force [of the economy],” the president added.
During the press conference, senior White House adviser David Axelrod and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stood on the side, looking on. The pair, when not eyeing Obama, was in good spirits, chuckling and smiling.
The auditorium was only about sixty percent full, with numerous empty chairs, most likely because the White House press corps was given short notice about the briefing.