President Barack Obama, marking the first 100 days of his second term, answered questions Tuesday in his first press conference since March 1.
SYRIA AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS - Obama said if the U.S. establishes that Syria used chemical weapons, it would be a “game changer” and the U.S. would consider options that they might not otherwise have used.
“Clearly that would be an escalation, in our view, and a threat to the security of the international community, our allies and the United States and that means that some options that we might otherwise not exercise but we would consider. “ - Obama on whether Syria is found to have used chemical weapons
BENGHAZI - Obama said he is unfamiliar with Benghazi survivors being blocked from telling their stories.
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS - He said the FBI “performed its duties” and Homeland Security did what it was supposed to. The investigation is still underway and Obama will look at the findings and then see if there are protocols that could be in place to avoid this happening again.
On the suspects: “All of this has to be done in our context of our laws, due process.”
Obama spoke with Russian President Vladmir Putin who is committed to working with the administration to deal with counterterrorism issues.
Obama said one of the things he is most proud of is the American people’s “sense of resilience and toughness.” He added, ” we are not going to be intimidated, we are going to live our lives.”
SEQUESTER - Obama wants Congress to work with him on a “broader deal” than short-term fixes like the recent FAA bill that put air traffic controllers back to work after furloughs delayed travelers.
GUANTANAMO BAY - He will continue to push for the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison, saying it is “not in the best interest of the American people” to “keep 100 individuals in no man’s land.” He said the individuals must be allowed to be tried in court. His team is currently reviewing what is being done in Guantanamo Bay.
OBAMACARE - A huge chunk of Obamacare has already been implemented and 85 to 90 percent of Americans who have insurance are already experiencing the Affordable Care Act.
IMMIGRATION REFORM –Obama said he is “impressed” by the work done by the Senate Gang of Eight. It’s not the bill he would’ve written, but it does meet his basic criteria: border control, cracking down on employers who are trying to game the system, making legal immigration more effective and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people. If the House bill does not meet those criteria, then he will not support it.
MEXICO & COSTA RICA TRIP - Obama said the trip will focus on economics and not just security.
“We spend so much time on security issues…that sometimes I think we forget that [Mexico] is a massive trading partner responsible for huge amounts of commerce and huge amount of jobs on both sides of the border. “
Obama said he will speak to the Mexican president on ways of continuing to crack down on transnational drug cartel and how Mexican authorities can effectively work with each other to control this issue. He also plans to meet with the president of Costa Rica and other Central American presidents.
JASON COLLINS ADMITTING HE IS GAY –Obama said Collins, the first NBA player to reveal he’s gay while still active, seems like a “terrific man” and he told him that he “couldn’t have been prouder of him” for coming out. He added that the LGBT community deserves “full equality not just partial equality.”
-Story and photo by Colette Luke, Medill News Service