tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera October 2, 2015 4:00pm-4:31pm EDT
we don't need and spending we do. we can revisit the history of how that happened. i have some rather grim memories of it. but the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need. that didn't happen. so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster. it's a time to undo them. if we don't we'll have to fund our priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006. >> our economy has grown by 12%. new threats have emerges.
new opportunities have appeared. we can't fund our country the way we did ten years ago because we have greater demands with an aging population, with kids who need schools and with roads that need to be fixed. with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands. and we can't cut our way to prosperity. other countries have tried it and it has not worked. we have grown faster than they have, because we did not pursue these blind unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth. and by the way, because we have grown faster than them, we have brought our deficits down faster than they have. i want to repeat this, because the public apparently never believes it, since i took office, we cut our deficits by
two-thirds. the deficit has not been going up. it has been coming down, precipitously. we have cut our deficits by two-thirds. they are below the deficits for the past 40 years. so the bottom line is congress has to do its job. it can't flirt with another shut down. it should pass a serious budget. and if they do, and get rid of some of these mineless cuts, even though we are prudent about maintaining the spending that we need, but not spending we don't need and it's not working, their own nonpartisan budget office estimates that we will add an extra half million jobs to our economy next year alone. we can immediately put half a million more people back to work. if we just have a more sensible budget. and in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want. we have to work together, even
if we disagree in order to do the people's business. at some point, we have to want to govern and not just play politics or play to various political bases. at some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads and keep our kids learning and keep our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters. that is congress' most basic job. that is what our government is supposed to do. serve the american people. so with that, let me take some questions and i will start with julie pace of a.p. hang in there, kids! >> it will be over soon. thank you, mr. president. there have been several developments in syria that i wanted to ask you about, starting with russia's involvement. you met with president putin earlier this week and i wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in syria. if russia is targeting groups beyond the islamic state, including u.s. aligned groups, does the u.s. mill tear vi --
military have an obligation to protect them? and on the situation in syria more broadly, there's failures in the u.s. train and equip program. do you think that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other actions. would you in particular be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which your former secretary of state are now calling for and other presidential candidates? >> well, first and foremost, let's understand what's happening in syria and how we got here. what started off as peaceful protests against assad, the president evolved into a civil war because assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality, and so this is not a conflict between the united states and any party in syria. this is a conflict between the syrian people and a brutal,
ruthless dictator. point number two is that the reason assad is still in power is because russia and iran have supported him. throughout this process. and in that sense, what russia is doing now, is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past. they are just more overt about it. they have been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the syrian population. and they have been dropping bombs indiscriminantly and more concerned with power than the state of his country. in my conversations with president putin, i was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in syria is
to have a political transition that is inclusive, that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive and the only way to accomplish that is for mr. assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of syrians. this is not a judgment i'm making. it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of syrians make. and i said to mr. putin that i would be prepared to work with him, if he's willing to broker with his partners, mr. assad and iran a political transition. we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution, but that a military solution alone, an attempt by russia and iran to problem up assad and try to pacify 9
population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire. and it won't work. and they will be there for a while, if they don't take a different course. i also said to him that it is true that the united states and russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying isis, but what was very clear and regardless of what mr. putin said, was that he doesn't distinguish between isil and a moderate sunni opposition that wants to see mr. assad go. from their perspective, they are all terrorists and that's a recipe for disaster and it's one that i reject. so where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about
deconfliction so we are not seeing u.s. and american fire fights in the air, but beyond that, we're very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is assad and the brutality that he's inflicted on the syrian people and that it has to stop. and in order for it to stop, we're prepared to work with all the parties concerned, but we are not going to cooperate with a russian campaign so simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with mr. assad's behavior. keep in mind also from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in syria is one that if we're ever going to have to have a political transition, we need, and the
russian policy is driving those folks under ground or creating a situation in which they are decapacitated and it's only strengthening isil and that's not good for anybody. in terms of our support of opposition groups inside of syria, i made very clear early on that the united states couldn't impose a military solution on syria either, but that it was in our interests to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of syria because eventually syria will fall. the assad regime will fall. and we have to have somebody that we are working with, that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country. and so we will continue to support them.
the training and equip program was a specific initiative by the defense department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on isil in the eastern portion of the country, and i'm the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, julie and i think that the department of defense would say the same thing. and part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on isil, the response we would get back is, how can we focus on isil, when every single day, we're having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime? and so it's been hard to get them to reprioritize looking east when they've got bombs coming at them from the west. so what we're doing with the train and equipment is looking at where we have had success.
for example, working with some of the kurdish community in the east that pushed isil out, seeing if we can build on that, but what we're also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that rightly believes in the absence of some change in government inside of syria, we're going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbo charge isil recruitment and jihadist recruitment and we will continue to have problems. now, last point i just want to make about this, because, you know, sometimes the conversation here in the bellway -- beltway differs from the conversation internationally. mr. putin had to go into syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client,
mr. assad, was crumbling and it was insufficient for them to send them arms and money. now he's got to put in his own claims and his -- planes and his own pilots. and the notion that he put forward a plan and that now the international community sees that as viable because there's a vacuum there, i didn't see after he made that speech in the united nations suddenly the 60 nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him. iran and assad make up mr. putin's coalition at the moment. the rest of the world makes up ours. so i don't think people are fooled by the current strategy. it does not mean that we could not see mr. putin begin to
recognize that it is in their interests to broker a political settlement, and as i said in new york, we're prepared to work with the russians and the iranians as well as our partners, who are part of the anti-isil coalition to come up with that political transition. and nobody pretends that it will be easy, but i think it is still possible and so we will maintain lines of communication, but we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there's not a recognition that there's got to be a change in government. we are not going to go back to the status quo ante. and the kinds of air strikes against moderate opposition that russia is engaging in, it will move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we all should be looking for.
>> do you have anyone -- [ inaudible question ] >> julie, throughout this process, i think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer. right? whether it's we should have sent, you know, more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay or if i had taken that shot even after assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded or the assad regime would have folded and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful syria. this is a hugely difficult complexed problem, and, you
know, i would have hoped we would have learned that from afghanistan and iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people, and have given the afghan people and the iraqi people an opportunity for democracy, but it's still hard, as we saw this week in afghanistan. that's not by virtue of a lack of the effort on our part or a lack of equipment. we still have 10,000 folks in afghanistan. we are still spending billions of dollars supporting that government and it's still tough! so when i make a decision about the level of military involvement that we are prepared to engage in, in syria, i have to make a judgment based on once we start something, we've got to finish it. and we've got to do it well. and do we, in fact, have the
resources and the capacity to make a serious impact, understanding that we still have to go after isil in iraq and we still have the support the training of an iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived that we still have business to do in afghanistan. and so i push and have consistently over the last four or five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move syria in a better direction. i am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we're seeing and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political
problems among our allies in europe and the heart breaking images of children drowned, trying to escape war. and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region. but what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years, is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of u.s. military engagement will solve the problem, and we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or drawing -- finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can't -- we can't sustain.
so -- and when i hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions or trying to downpay the challenges involved in the situation -- you know, what i would like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it? and typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo. so these are hard challenges. they are ones that we are going to continue to pursue. the top line message i want everyone to understand is we will continue to go after isil. we will continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.
we reject russia's theory that everybody opposed to assad is a terrorist. we think that is self-defeating. it will get them into a quagmire. it will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters. we will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure on refugees. we are working with the turks and others to see what we can do along the border, to make things safer for people. but ultimately, we are going to have to find a way for a political transition if we are going to solve syria. okay? john carl. >> thank you, mr. president. >> yeah. >> back in july, you said the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night. >> yeah. >> so in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get congress to act or to do something about this gun
violence problem? and i have to get you to respond to something that jeb bush just said and to be fair to governor bush, i want to read it directly. >> okay. >> asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in oregon, he said, look, stuff happens. there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something, and it's not always the right thing to do. how would you react to governor bush? >> i don't even think i have to react to that one. [ chuckles ] i think the american people should hear that and make their own judgments based on the fact that every couple of months we have a mass shooting. and in terms of -- and they can decide whether they consider that stuff happening. and in terms of what i can do,
i have asked my team, as i have in the past, to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place? but as i said last night, this will not change until the politics changes and the behavior of elected officials changes. and so the main thing i'm going to do is i'm going to talk about this on a regular basis. and i will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making. the reason that congress does not support even the modest gun
safety laws that we proposed after sandy hook, is not because the majority of the american people don't support it. i mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate. here you've got majority of the american people think it's the right thing to do. background checks, other common sense steps that would maybe save some lives. couldn't even get a full vote. and why is that? it's because of politics. it's because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear, and in fairness, it's not just in the republican party, although the republican party is just uniformly opposed to
all gun safety laws. and unless we change that political dynamic, we are not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem. for example, you will hear people talk about the problem is not guns. it's mental illness. well, if you talked to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world. tens of millions of angry young men. most of them don't shoot. it doesn't help us just to identify -- and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters. so we can't sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this. the own thing we can do -- the only thing we can do is make sure that they don't have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.
and if we are going to do something about that, the politics has to change. the politics has to change and the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as those on the other side, who are absolutists who think that any gun safety measures are assault on freedom or communistic or a plot by me to take over and stay in power for ever or something. i mean, there are all kinds of crack pot conspiracy theories that float around there, some of which by the way are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion. so we've got to change -- we've got to change the politics of this and that requires people to feel not just feel deeply because i get a lot of letters
after this happens. do something! well, okay, here's what you need to do. you have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue. and if they are not, even if they are great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles, you got to vote against them and let them know precisely where you are voting against them. and you just have to, for a while, be a single issue voter because that's what's happening on the other side and that will take some time. i mean, the n.r. ax -- n.r.a. has had a good start. you know, they have been at this a long time. they have perfected what they do. you've got to give them credit. they are very effective. they don't represent the majority of the american people, but they know how to stir up fear. they know how to stir up their base. they know how to raise money. they know how to scare politicians. they know how to organize
campaigns. and the american people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency, if we are actually going to stop this, which isn't to say stopping all violence. we are not going to stop all violence. violence exists around the world, sadly. part of an original sin. but our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places. that by the way have the same levels of violence. it's just you can't kill as many people when you don't have easy arccoses to -- easy access to these kinds of weapons. and i'm deeply saddened about what happened yesterday but arne is going back to chicago. let's not forget this is happening every single day.
for forgotten neighborhoods around the country. every single day. kids are just running for their lives trying to get to school. broderick, we were down in new orleans, sitting down with a group of young men when we were talking about katrina and i've got two young men next to me, bowe of them have been shot multiple times. they were barely 20. we have to make a decision, if we think that is normal, then we have to open it. i don't -- own it. i don't think it's normal. i think it's abnormal. i can't do it by myself. the main thing i will do is talk about it and hope that over time, i'm changing enough minds along with other leaders around the country that we start finally seeing some
action. i don't think it will happen overnight. cheryl both. >> thank you, mr. president. to go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won't sign another short-term c.r. but as you know, yesterday secretary lou announced that the government's borrowing authority would run out around november 5th. would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps? and also, does the speaker's race complicate these negotiations. >> i'm sure the speaker's race complicates these negotiations. that was a rhetorical question. [ laughter ] it will complicate the negotiations but when it comes to the debt ceiling, we're not going back there. maybe it's been a while, so let me just refresh everybody's memory. raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more
more. it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred. it is the way for the united states to maintain its good credit rating. the full faith and credit of the united states. historically, we do not mess with it. if it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy, and could put our financial system in the kind of tail spin that we saw back in 2007, 2008. it's just a bad thing to do. so we're not going to negotiate on that. it has to get done in the next five weeks. so even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for ten weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five. you've got a shorter timetable to get that done.
but here's the bottom line, mitch mcconnell, john john boehner, nancy pelosi and harry reid, we have spoke tone try -- spoken to try to reach a budget agreement. i think there's a path to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly fund our defense and our nondefense needs. >> and we can do that in short