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Obama’s most pointed remarks came on Benghazi, where he ripped into Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for attacking Rice, saying that she had nothing to do with the attacks in Libya and her remarks about the attacks were her understanding of the intelligence she was given.
“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody? They should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them,” he said. “But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? And to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
As for his relationship with the Congress, which has often been criticized by Republicans and occasionally by Democrats as well, Obama said he would take a look at how he’s communicating his desire to work with everybody. “There is no doubt that I can always do better,” he said, adding that he hopes to be a better president in his second term than in his first.
He said he would guard against overreaching in a second term but, at the same time, said he didn’t run for office to bask in the glow of re-election.
Obama reiterated his intention to make immigration one of the first orders of business after Inauguration Day. He said he wanted legislation similar to the last effort attempted years ago, with a pathway to legal status for existing illegal immigrants, strong border controls and penalties for employers who exploit illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants would have to pay back taxes and potentially a fine to qualify, Obama said. And he reiterated his demand for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrant children who go to college or join the military.
One agenda item that apparently is on the back burner is climate change. Obama said climate change is real and happening faster than predicted, but he talked of having a conversation with the public and with both parties about what they might be prepared to do. He threw cold water on the idea of enacting a carbon tax anytime soon, noting that Congress can’t even agree at this point on cutting middle-class taxes.
More broadly, he said that the public is understandably more focused on the economy, and new policies on climate change would have to meet the test of helping to grow the economy and create jobs.