tv CNN Newsroom CNN December 20, 2013 11:00am-1:01pm PST
good the economy is, better than expected economic numbers coming out this morning. talking about how the affordable care act, there are problems with the website, but ultimately, it's going to be a plus. and talking about how he's going to take the reforms recommended about the national security agency security programs very seriously. the challenge for him is not to be knocked off message. not to engage. you might remember during his first year when he engaged in that very last question in a press conference about his friends, henry lewis gates arrested in cambridge and he said the police acted stupidly. threw his administration off message for at least three our nor days. that's the thing the president is going to try to avoid doing so he can focus like a laser on his message. >> he's got his work cut out for him in the next minute or so, we expect he'll be walking out. the new cnn folnumbers show his job approval number down at 41%. 56% disapproval. how sensitive are they at the white house to this collapse in
january, a year ago, it was what, 55%, his job approval number. >> that's right, wolf. white house officials will insist they don't pay attention to polls, but certainly, in the next breath, they'll also point out there is some evidence that perhaps he has bottomed out in the polls. you know that's certainly something they are paying attention to and that they are sensitive to, and also that threatens the president's age a agenda. that's really the issue there. i think for the administration, when you look at some of the priorities the president has put forward, it's fascinating. he talks about his agenda perhaps being immigration reform, which would be a huge legacy item. the other issue he's pushing on the economy and climate change are things he may circumvent congress on. when you're talking about polls, i think that's one question, wolf, but the other question has to do with history, with his legacy. he may be able to rebound in the polls. i think the expectation is that while that's something he will be able to do, the question is
what will he be able to do in terms of rebounding in history? how can he make a mark in his second term? this is a key moment for that. it's going to be much harder for him to try to do something that really sumcements his legacy ine second term than to rebound in the polls. we talk about polls and that's very important, but i also think white house officials and the president are focused on something much larger and arguably much more difficult for him. >> stand by for a moment. i want to bring in dana bash. you have been speaking to democrats, republicans, members of the house, the senate. is there any one thing they're looking for the president to say at this news conference now before he gets out of washington, heads over on his vacation to hawaii? is there something that unites all factions up on capitol hill that they would like to hear from the president other than merry christmas and happy new year? >> you know, i have been talking to members of congress, specifically the senate, which is in still this week. they just left a few hours ago.
what i heard to a person is the fact that despite some skirmishes over what we talked about a little while ago, the fact there's a problem with procedure in the senate, big picture, they feel that this budget agreement that they got passed through the house last week, the senate today, the agreement that they got, ironically, out of the government shutdown, is that they hope the beginning of a new sense of compromise, a new sense of working together. but to a person, every senator, even and especially those in the president's own party insist that the president has to continue to get in the game on that. that they can only do so much here in congress, and that certainly the president started the year trying to establish, i don't even want to say reestablish, but establish a relationship that he was really lacking with members of congress, that he's got to continue to do that because leadership from the presidency, no matter who the president is, to establish that kind of relationship and bipartisan shp is absolutely essential.
>> jake tapper is watching. there's going to be, i suspect, several foreign policy national security questions thrown to the president in this news conference. iran, a move by some senators, republicans and democrats, to intensify sanctions assuming this deal with iran doesn't get off the ground. syria, afghanistan, a subject you know well. the president has to make a big decision in 2014, whether to keep thousands of troops there for the next decade at a cost of billions of dollars to the u.s. taxpayers. >> very difficult issues and every one poses complicated questions. especially right now, most pressing for the president is iran just because there's such pressure, bipartisan pressure from the senate to increase the tensions. the sanctions. there is not support, necessarily, even from democrats on capitol hill, for the process that has been laid out for easing the sanctions in exchange for iran giving up some of their nuclear weapon program or at
least some of the enrichment program. so that's going to be difficult for the president. he said he's going to veto legislation if it comes to his desk that would increase sanctions. >> because he's afraid that could derail the entire interim agreement that's supposed to test iranian nuclear tensions over the next six months. he's afraid if congress were to pass legislation, that wouldn't take effect for a year. that by itself could undermine the whole agreement. >> syria, also an incredibly complicated story and one we have not covered much since we almost went to war against syria several months ago. there is this process in place to take this chemical weapons out of syria, but there are still thousands of innocent syrian civilians being killed, not by chemical weapons, but by other weapons by the assad regime. there's also a large civil war, that's too strong a term, but a large fight going on among rebel factions with islamists taking
control of many parts of the country. and assad is still very much in power. so there's some tough questions to ask there, and as you say, the dilemma about what to do in afghanistan, whether and how many troops should stay in that country after the withdrawal date for combat troops of 2014. still many questions remain unanswered. >> i want to go back to brianna at the white house. the president getting ready to walk in where you are, brianna. the health care website was down for a while today. i take it it's now back working. is that right? >> it is. we understand it is, wolf. truly just in the nick of time for president obama because we had heard that the website, because of some unplanned errors, had been taken down for a fix. meaning that it was down or not really operational for a lot of people who were going on to it. we have learned this is a very powerful visual. we have seen hhs secretary kathleen sebelius testify on capitol hill, and when that website is down, it sort of creates a situation where, you know, the president could be
talking about healthcare.gov or trying to promote some of the progress that has been made, and that's a pretty powerful visual to see when the website is not operational. so it appears just really in the nick of time for this press conference that will not happen. >> yeah, hold on for a minute. the president getting ready to walk out. i'm sure the economy will be among the top issues the president will talk about in his opening statement. danny boston is joining us from georgia tech university, the department of economics. these numbers are pretty encouraging, economic growth in the third quarter. the dow jones industrial's record high numbers right now. what do you think? have we turned the corner? is the u.s. economy in 2014 going to be strong and robust? >> it will be strong and robust. what it appears is we have actually entered a new phase of the recovery in the sense that we're getting sort of coordinated progress moving the economy forward. in the past, we have had one sector moving forward and another sector dragging behind. for example, it could be
consumers were spending and businesses were hoarding money. now, we have all of those sectors spending, and that's playing out in terms of creating new jobs. still need higher-quality jobs, but we're creating new jobs at a pretty rapid clip. >> how worried are you, how worried should we all be about the growing gap, the disparity between the rich and poor? >> it's a serious problem. and a problem that has no short-term solution. it's very, very serious. a part of it is due to the collapse in the housing market and the destruction of home equity, which is a major form of wealth for both middle class and working class americans. that's a part of it. but the other part of it is related to the dynamics that are taking place in the labor market. consistent long-term unemployment. 4 million people, and then 8 million people still employed part time. but would like to have full-time jobs. >> the dow jones, above 16,000,
record highs. it was about 7,000 when the president was sworn in five years ago. so people who have invested in the markets, they have done well. it's up 103 points right now, at 16,282, which is very impressive. but at the same time, you have a statistic, and you're familiar with this, professor. that there are record numbers of americans on food stamps right now that millions and millions of people have been added to the food stamps list because they need it basically to survive. so what's going on here? dow jones is doing great. but there are, what, 50 million americans who require food stamps to survive? >> absolutely. that's one of the dilemmas of a market economy. the down jones is doing great because corporations have gotten off the sideline. they're investing, seeing record profitability and sustaining that growth. on the other hand, we have these global pressures that are really changing the economy in some fundamental ways, and it has --
that upper -- the progress at the upper end has not trickled down to what's happening at the lower end. so we do have a record amount of poverty. we have people that we have not seen now before, among working class and middle class families on food stamps. those issues need to be addressed. and they have to be addressed in a sensible way with more reasonable, long-term strategies. >> as we await the president at the news conference, let's bring back maria cardona and ben ferguson. ben, how much credit does the president deserve for the emorms rise in the markets, from 7,000 five years ago to 16,000 right now. the growth in the third quarter above 4%. pretty impressive. unemployment numbers going down. housing markets going up. how much credit do you give the president? >> i don't give him a lot, mainly because i haven't seen policies this white house has pushed forward that have helped
those issues grow. you have to give credit to the private sector for getting off the sidelines and being willing to take chances and risks. as you her the economist talk about there. one of the things i think the president did do a better job of at the end is starting to realize that all the mandates of obama care that were stalling many companies from hiring people at full-time work because they were afraid of all the mandates and switching to part-time work, that's part of the reason why you have so many people on food stamps now. they didn't realize the repercussions for the mandates. when they allowed some of these companies this one-year hiatus, you saw them get off the sidelines and get back to hiring people. they have to do a better job in the future. >> maria, you know 1.3 million americans who have been receiving long-term unemployment benefitsering starting january 1st, they're not going to continue to receive those benefits. the democrats, they worked out a budget deal with the
republicans, but they didn't demand the long-term benefits remain in the deal. are you upset about that? >> i am. and i think a lot of democrats are, but let's be clear that that's something the democrats are going to continue to fight for and that i think what also helped define not only what this president is going to continue to fight for but what democrats will fight for, which is for the middle class to have the opportunity to continue to live up to the american dream. let's be very clear here. the president deserves a lot of credit for the uptick in the economy. he's created in four years more jobs than george w. bush created in eight years. the american recovery act, and economists from all sides of the spectrum will say this, is credited with bringing us back from the brink of a great depression. that's a huge accomplishment for this president, and in this press conference, he's going to continue to focus on the economy, which frankly, republicans have taken their eye off of. imagine if republicans worked
with this president, imagine where we would be today. >> with all due respect, i don't think the doubling of people on food stamps that happened under the president's first five years in office, i don't think those people would agree with your assessment that it's an amazing job market for them when you double the people on food stamps and government assistance. 1 in 4 americans right now is on government assistance in some form. that's a problem. there's a difference between helping people and coddling people. i think we have to help people but not allow them to have two years to go find a new job with unemployment benefits just so you can get voters to like you more. >> who were the ones who wanted to cut the food stamps for people and giving them absolutely no social safety net? that's the republicans. republicans don't understand how to fight for those who need help. and this is what this president is going to focus on, i think, in the second term, is that income inequality. because as long as we have that disparity, and you're right, not a lot of people are participating in the recovery,
and president will focus on what we can do to help. as long as people are losing in the economy, america itself is not doing as well as it could be, and we hope republicans can join the president instead of trying to block him every step of the way. >> hold on. we're going to come back to you. wns again, waiting for the president of the united states. he'll be walking into the briefing room. running obviously a few minutes late. we'll hear from the president momentarily. jake tapper has been watching together with me. this new cnn poll has interesting numbers comparing where president obama is right now in the end of the fifth year of his presidency in his second term to where other two-term presidents recently were. the president now is at 41%, job approval number. that's the same number george w. bush was in, december of 200200. 41%. bill clinton at the same time was at 56% job approval. ronald regan in 1985 was at 63%. i'm sure when the president sees that he's in the same boat right
now as george w. bush was five years in, he's not very happy about it. >> not a reassuring place to be, especially because it's easy to plunge as a politician. easy to plunge in popularity and jop approval. it's difficult to climb out of the hole. george w. bush never got out of his hole. after he went under 50%, he never got back. i'm not saying that will be the same with president obama. we'll see. it's very difficult. once you have lost trust. once the american people indicate they don't trust you, and polls indicate more americans don't trust president obama than trust him, which is a staggering number that happened about a month ago, and also the plunging of numbers of people thinking he's looking out for their economic interest, i think it went down 20 points from 26% over the republicans now to just 6% over the republicans. difficult to regain in the eyes of the volters the idea you are
trustworthy and the idea that you do have their economic interests at heart. he's going to try to turn that around. it starts right now when he comes out. >> when he comes out. we'll take a quick break as we await the president of the united states. we're waiting for the two-minute warning. have not yet received it. we'll be right back. ist about trying or adding a biologic. this is humira, adalimumab. this is humira working to help relieve my pain. this is humira helping me through the twists and turns. this is humira helping to protect my joints from further damage. doctors have been prescribing humira for over ten years. humira works by targeting and helping to block a specific source of inflammation that contributes to ra symptoms. for many adults, humira is proven to help relieve pain and stop further joint damage. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal events, such as infections, lymphoma, or other types of cancer, have happened. blood, liver and nervous system problems,
serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure have occurred. before starting humira , your doctor should test you for tb. ask your doctor if you live in or have been to a region where certain fungal infections are common. tell your doctor if you have had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections, or have symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, or sores. you should not start humira if you have any kind of infection. ask your doctor if humira can work for you. this is humira at work. welcome back. once again, i want to welcome our viewers around the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we're told a few seconds away from the president walking into the briefing room. making an opening statement. we assume he'll talk about the economy, probably health care, other issues and start taking reporters' questions. this could last as long as an hour if past history is any
precedent for what could happen. i know a lot of reporters in there are getting ready to ask the president some tough questions. questions involving the economy to be sure, there obamacare issues, nsa surveillance, foreign policy questions, iran, whether or not the president could go along with some additional sanctions, although yesterday the white house said the president would veto legislation even if it were passed by a bipartisan coalition of democrats and republicans to tighten up some of the sanctions if the deal with iran doesn't go forward. a huge crisis right now, a huge issue between the united states and india that the president potentially could address. of course, syria is an important issue. north korea, an important issue. i assume there will be questions on a whole range of domestic and national security issues once the president comes into the briefing room. reporters have been seated. they're getting ready to ask the questions once the president winds up his opening statement. once the news conference is
over, the president and first family will board marine one first and then air force one. they'll fly to hawaii for badly needed r & r. this has been a very tough year for the president. the first year of the second term. and certainly culminating with many of the serious problems of the affordable care act, especially the website, which had some major, major problems. seemed to be improving. even for a few hours today it was down, but we're now told it is up and running. only a few days left for people to get the insurance they need in order to make sure they have full protection or at least a lot of protection on january 1st. so this has been a big issue for the pred. here comes the president. >> good afternoon, everybody. i know you are all eager to skip town and spend some time with your families. not surprisingly, i am, too. but you know what they say. it's the most wonderful press conference of the year. i am eager to take your
questions, but first, i want to say a few words about our economy. in 2013, our businesses created another 2 million jobs. adding up to more than 8 million in just over the past 45 months. this morning, we learned that over the summer our economy group at its strongest pace in nearly two years. the unemployment rate has steadily fallen to its lowest point in five years. our tax code is fair and our fiscal situation is firmer with deficits that are now less than half of what they were when i took office. for the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world. and our all of the above strategy for new american energy means lower energy costs. the affordable care act has helped keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. combined, that means bigger
paychecks for middle-class families and bigger savings for businesses looking to invest and hire here in america. and for all the challenges we've had, and all the challenges that we have been working on diligently in dealing with both the aca and the website the past couple months, more than half a million americans have enrolled through healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of december alone. in california, for example, the state operating its own marketplace, more than 15,000 americans are enrolling every single day. and in the federal website, tens of thousands are enrolling every single day. since october 1st, more than 1 million americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. so all told, millions of americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come new year's day. now, this holiday season, there
are mothers and fathers and entrepreneurs and workers who have something new to celebrate. the security of knowing that when the unexpected or misfortune strikes, hardship no longer has to. you add that all up, and what it means is we head into next year with an economy that's stronger than it was when we started the year. more americans are finding work. and experiencing the paycheck. our businesses are positions for new growth and new jobs and i firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for america. but as i outlined in detail earlier this month, we all know there's lot more that we're going to have to do to restore opportunity and broad-based growth for every american. that's going to require some action. it's a good start that earlier this year for the first time in years, both parties in both houses of congress came together to pass a budget. that unwinds some of the
damaging sequester cuts which created headwinds for our economy. it clears the path for businesses and investments we need to strengthen our middle class like education and scientific research. and it means that the american people won't be exposed to the threat of another reckless shutdown every few months, so that's a good thing. it's probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it's also fair to say we're not condemned to endless gridlock, there are areas where we can work together. i believe that work should begin with something that republicans in congress should have done before leaving town this week. that's restoring the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet when they're looking for a job. because congress didn't act, more than 1 million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at christmas time, leaving a lot of job seekers without any source of income at all.
i think we're a better country than that. we don't abandon each other when times are tough. keep in mind, unemployment insurance only goes to folks who are actively looking for work. a mom who needs help feeding her kids when she send out her resumes or a dad who needs help paying the rent while working part-time and still earning the skills he needs for that new job. so when congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right. i know a bipartisan group is working on a three-month extension of this insurance. they should pass it. and i'll sign it right away. let me repeat, i think 2014 needs to be a year of action. we've got work to do on jobs, to help more americans earn the skills and education they need for the jobs, and to make sure that the jobs offer the wages and benefits that hlet families build a little bit of financial security.
we still have the task of finishing the fix on our broken immigration system. we've got to build on the progress we've painstakingly made over these last five years with respect to our economy and offer the middle class and all those who are looking to join the middle class a better opportunity. and that's going to be where i focus all of my efforts in the year ahead. and let me conclude by saying just as we're strengthening our position here at home, we're also standing up for our interests around the world. this year, we've demonstrated that with clear-eyed principle diplomacy, we can pursue clear paths to a more secure world, a future where iran does not build a nuclear weapon, a future where syria's chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed. by the end of next year, the war in afghanistan will be over, and
we'll continue to bring our troops home and we'll remain vigilant to protect our homeland and our personnel overseas from attacks. a lot of our men and women in uniform are still overseas and still spending their christmas far away from their family and friends. in some case,s still in harm's way. i want to close by saying to them and their families back home, we want to thank you. your country stands united in support of you and being grateful for your service and your sacrifice. we'll keep you in our thoughts and in our prayers during this season of hope. so before i wish a merry christmas to all and to all a good night, i will take some questions. jay prepared a list of who's naughty and nice. we'll see who made it. julie must be nice. julie pace? >> thank you, mr. president. despite all of the data points you cited in the opening statement, when you look back at
this year, very little of the domestic agenda you outlined in your inaugural address were achieved. health care had huge problems and your ratings from the public are at near historic lows. when you take this all together, has this been the worst year of your presidency? >> i got to tell you, julie, that's not how i think about it. i have now been in office five years. close to five years. was running for president for two years before that. and for those of you who have covered me during that time, we have had ups and we have had downs. i think this room has probably recorded at least 15 near-death experiences. and what i have been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball in helping the american people, families, have more opportunity, have a little
more security? to feel as if, if they work hard, they can get ahead? and if i look at this past year, there are areas where there have obviously been frustrations where i wished congress had moved more aggressively. you know, not passing background checks in the wake of newtown is something that i continue to believe was a mistake. but then i also look at because of the debate that occurred, all the work that's been done at the state levels to increase gun safety and to make sure that we don't see tragedies like that happen again. there's a lot of focus on legislative activity at the congressional level. but even when congress doesn't move on things they should move on, there are a whole bunch of things we're still doing, so we don't always get attention for it, but the connect-ed program
we announced where we're going to be initiating the wireless capacity in every classroom in america, will make a huge difference for kids all across this country and for teachers. a manufacturing hub that we set up in youngstown, something i talked about during the state of the union, is going to create innovation and connect universities, manufacturers, job training, to help create a renaissance, build on the renaissance we're seeing in manufacturing. when it comes to energy, this year is going to be the first year in a very long time where we're producing more oil and natural gas here in this country than we're importing. that's a big deal. so i understand the point that you're getting at, julie, which
is that a lot of our legislative initiatives in congress have not moved forward as rapidly as i would like. i completely understand that. which means that i'm going to keep at it. and if you look at, for example, immigration reform, probably the biggest thing that i have wanted to get done this year, we saw progress. it passed the senate with a strong bipartisan vote. there are indications in the house that even though it did not get completed this year, that there is a commitment on the part of the speaker to try to move forward legislation early next year. and the fact that it didn't hit the timeline that i would prefer is obviously frustrating, but it's not something that i end up brooding a lot about. >> sir, it's not just your legislative agenda, when you talk to americans, they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you. your credibility has taken a hit. the health care law was a big
part of that. do you understand that those -- that the public has changed in some way, the view of your over this year? >> julie, i guess what i'm saying is if you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. i mean, if i was interested in polling, i wouldn't have run for president. i was polling at 70% when i was in the u.s. senate. i took this job to deliver for the american people. and i knew and will continue to know there are going to be ups and downs. you're right. the health care website problems were a source of great frustration, i think, in the last press conference, i adequately discussed my frustrations on those. on the other hand, since that time i now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have health care on january 1st. and that is a big deal. that's why i ran for this
office. and as long as i've got an opportunity every single day to make sure that in ways large and small i'm creating greater opportunity for people, more kids are able to go to school, get the education they need, more families are able to stabilize their finances, the housing market is continuing to improve, people feel like the wages maybe are inching up a little bit, if those things are happening, i'll take it. and you know, i've said before, i have run my last political race, so at this point, my goal every single day is just to make sure that i can look back and say, we're delivering something. not everything, because this is a long haul. mark? >> thank you, mr. president. one of the most significant events of this year was the revelation of the surveillance.
as you review how to rein in the national security agency, a federal judge said that, for example, the government had failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the nsa's met adata actually stopped the imminent attack. are you able to identify any specific examples. 4. >> let me talk more broadly and then about the program you're talking to. the independent panel i have put together came together with a series of recommendations, 46 in total. i had an extensive meeting with them in the situation room to review all of the recommendat n recommendations they have made. i want to thank them publicly because i think they did an excellent job and took my charge very seriously, which i told them i want you to look from top to bottom at what we're doing,
and evaluate whether or not the current structures that we have and the current programs we have are properly addressing both our continuing need to keep ourselves secure and to prevent terrorist attacks, or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or other threats to the homeland. and are we also making sure we're taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties. so what we're doing now is evaluating all the recommendations that have been made. over the next several weeks, i'm going to assess based on conversations not just with the intelligence community but others in government and outside of government, how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations. and i'm going to make a pretty
definitive statement about all of this in january where i'll be able to say here are the recommendations we think make sense. here are ones that we think are promising but still need to be refined further. here's how it relates to the work we're doing, not just internally, but also in partnership with other countries. and so i'm taking this very seriously because i think as i have said before, this is the debate that needed to be had. the exchanges have taken place. it's gotten the most attention, at least with respect to domestic audiences. what i have said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the nsa in executing
this program believed based on experiences from 9/11, if there was a phone number of a known terrorists outside of the united states falling into the united states, where that call might have been. and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations and terrorist threats. and i think it's important to note that in all of the reviews of this program that have been done, in fact, there have not been octual instances. it's been alleged that innsa in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data. but what is also clear is from the public debate, people are concerned about the prospect of
the possibility of abuse, and i think that's what the judge in the district court suggested. and although his opinion differs than the rulings of the fisa court, we're going to take that into account. can we accomplish the goals that this program is intended to accomplish? ways to give the public the confidence that in fact the nsa is doing what it's supposed to be doing. they're engaging in domestic surveillance, but i also recognize as technologies change and people can start running algorithms and programs and map out all the information that we're downloading on a daily basis into our televisions and our computers, that we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence, and i'm going to be working hard to do
that. we have to provide more confidence to the international community. in some ways, what has been more challenging is the fact we have a lot of laws and checks and balance balances when it comes to making sure the nsa and other intelligence agencies aren't spying. we have had less legal constraint in terms of what we're doing internationally, but i think part of what's been interesting about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world, some of these boundaries don't matter anymore. just because we can do something doesn't mean we necessarily should and the values that we've got as americans are ones that we have to be willing to apply more systematically than in the past.
>> merry christmas, by the way. >> merry christmas. >> when edward snowden started leaking the information, you claimed to the american people you were already informed many of the surveillance programs. quote, my team evaluated them, scrubbed them thoroughly. we actually expanded some of the oversight. you did. you said we may have to rebalance some, there may be changes, but you concluded with, you can complain about big brother. when you actually look at the details, then i think we have struck the right balance. that was only six months ago. now this judge is saying no, your own panel is saying no. even you're saying no, we haven't struck the right balance, perhaps. that changes have to be made. were you thwart ed on this wher we're listening to the leaders who suggest there were abuses,
and number two, if you were informed of these programs, is it another example of what julie was getting at with the credibility of the american people, just like health care, if you like your plan, you can keep it. on surveillance, you looked the people in the eye and said we have the right balance, and six months later, you're saying maybe not. >> it's important to note when it comes to the right balance on surveillance, these are a series of judgment calls we're making every single day because we have a whole bunch of folks whose job it is to make sure the american people are protected. and that's a hard job. because if something slips, then the question coming from you the next day at a press conference is, mr. president, why didn't you catch that? why did they allow that to slip? isn't there a way we could have found out this terrorist attack took place. >> why did you say we struck the right boundary? >> the point is not my assessment of the 215 program has changed in terms of
technically how it works. what is absolutely clear to me is that given the public debate that's taken place and the disclosures that have taken place over the last several months, that this is only going to work if the american people have confidence and trust. now, part of the challenge is because of the manner in which these disclosures took place, in dribs and drabs, oftentimes shaded in a particular way, and because of some of the constraints that we've had in terms of declassifying information and getting it out there, that that trust in how many safeguards exists and how these programs are run has been diminished. so what's going to be important is to build that back up. and i take that into account in weighing how we structure these programs. let me just be very specific on the 215 program. it is possible, for example,
that some of the same information that the intelligence community feels is required to keep people safe can be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer, and to create some mechanism where they can be accessed in a effective fashion. it might cost more. there might need to be different checks on how those requests are made. there may be technological solutions that have to be found to do that. and the question that we're asking ourselves now is, does that make sense, not only because of the fact that there are concerns about potential abuse down the road with the
metadata kept by a government rather than private companies, but also does it make sense to do because people right now are concerned that maybe their phone calls are being listened to even if they're not? we have to factor that in. so my point is that the environment has changed in ways that i think require us to take that into account. but the analysis that i have been doing throughout has always been, you know, periodically looking at what we're doing and asking ourselves, are we doing this in the right way? are we making sure that we're keeping the american people safe, number one. are we also being true to our civil liberties and our privacy and our values. >> i understand it's a tough job, and god forbid there's another terror attack. every one of us will be second guessing you and that's extremely difficult. >> i volunteered. >> my question is, do you have any personal regrets.
you're not addressing the facts the publish statements you made to address the public. james clapper went up, got a question from a democrat, not a republican, about whether some of this was going on, and he denied it. doesn't this deflate the public trust? he's still on the job. >> i understand. what i'm saying is this. that yes, these are tough problems. that i am glad to have the privilege of tackling. your initial question was whether the statements that i made six months ago are ones that i don't stand by, and what i'm saying is that the statements i made then are entirely consistent with the statements that i make now, which is that we believed that we had scrubbed these programs and struck an appropriate balance. and there had not been evidence, and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how
it was used. and that it was a useful tool working with other tools in the intelligence community to insure that if we have a thread on a potential terrorist threat, that that can be followed effectively. what i have also said, though, is in light of the disclosures that have taken place, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have, may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse. if that's the case, there may be another way of skinning the cat. so we just keep on going at this stuff, and saying, can we do this better? can we do this more effectively? i think the panel's recommendations are consistent with that. so if you had a chance to read the overall recommendations, what they were very clear about
is, we need this intelligence. we can't unilaterally disarm. there are ways we can do it potentially that gives people greater assurance that their checks and balances, that there is susufficient oversight, sufficient transparency. programs like 215 could be redesigned in ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse. and that's exactly what we should be doing, is to evaluate all of these things in a very clear, specific way. and moving forward on changes. that's what i intend to do. >> you have no regrets? >> john carl. >> thank you, mr. president. it's been a tough year. you may not want to call it the worst year of your presidency, but a tough year. the polls have gone up and down, but they're at a low point right now. so what i'm asking you, you have acknowledged the difficulties with the health care rollout, but when you look back and you look at the decisions that you have made and what you did, what you didn't do, for you
personally, what do you think has been your biggest mistake? >> with respect to health care specifically or in general? >> the whole thing when you look back at this tough year. >> well, there's no doubt that when it came to the health care rollout, even though kwl was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience and easy experience in getting the information they needed and knowing what the choices and options were for them to be able to get high-quality, affordable health care, the fact is it didn't happen in the first month. first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable. and since i'm in charge, obviously, we screwed it up.
part of it, as i have said before, had to do with how i.t. procurement generally is done and it almost predates this year. part of it obviously has to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of the technology and cracking the whip on a whole bunch of contractors. so there are a whole bunch of things we have been taking a look at. and i'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we've gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up. but, you know, having said all that, bottom line also is that we've got several million people who are going to have health care that works. and it's not that i don't engage in a lot of self-reflection here. i promise you, i probably beat myself up even worse than you or ed henry does.
on any given day. but, i've also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that i do better the next day. and that we keep moving forward. and when i look at the landscape for next year, what i say to myself is, we're poised to do really good things. the economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. our next challenge then is to make sure that everybody benefits from that, not just a few folks, and there's still too many people who haven't seen a rai raise, and are still feeling financially insecure. we can get immigration reform done. we've got a concept that has bipartisan support. let's see if we can break through the politics on this. you know, i think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms of bringsmanship coming
out of the -- coming out of the government shutdown. there have been times where i thought about, wheere there oth ways i could have prevented that -- those three, four weeks that hampered the economy and hurt individual families who were not getting a paycheck during that time? absolutely. but i also think that in some ways, given the pattern that we have been going through with house republicans for a while, we might have needed just a little bit of a bracing sort of recognition that this is not what the american people think is acceptable. they want us to try to solve problems and be practical even if we can't get everything done. so, you know, the end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year. that's how i intend to approach it. i'm sure that i will have even better ideas after a couple days of sleep and sun.
brianna? >> thank you, mr. president. on the debt ceiling, your treasury secretary has estimated that the u.s. government will lose its ability to pay its billed come late february or early march. house budget committee chairman paul ryan has said the republicans are going to decide what it is they can accomplish on the debt limit fight, his words. will you negotiate with house republicans on the debt ceiling. >> oh, brianna, you know the answer to this question. no, we're not going to negotiate for congress to pay bills that it has acued. here's the good news. i want to emphasize the positive as we enter into this holiday season. i think congressman ryan and senator murray did a good job in trying to narrow the differences and actually pass a budget that i can sign. it's not everything that i would like, obviously.
it buys back part of these across the board cuts of the so-called sequester. but not all of them. so we're still underfupding research, still underfunding education. still underfunding transportation and other initiatives that would create jobs right now. but, you know, it was an honest conversation. they operated in good faith. and given how far apart the parties have been on fiscal issues, they should take pride in what they did. i actually called them after they struck the deal and i said congratulations. and i hope that creates a good pattern for next year. where we work on at least the things we agree to, even if we agree to disagree on some of the other big ticket items. i think immigration reform falls in that category. here's an area where we have bipartisan agreement. there's a few differences here and there, but the truth of the
matter is that the senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high school workers who are doing great things in places like silicon valley and around the country. so let's go ahead and get that done. now, i can't imagine that having seen this possible daylight breaking when it comes to cooperation in congress, that folks are thinking actually about plunging us back into the kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis that has done us so much harm over the last couple years. to repeat, the debt ceiling is raised simply to pay bills that
we have already accrued. it is not something that is a negotiating tool. it's not leverage. it's the responsibility of congress as part of doing their job. i expect them to do their job. although, i'm happy to talk to them about any of the issues that they actually want to get done. so congressman ryan is interested in tax reform, let's go. i've got some proposals on it. if he's interested in any issue out there, i'm willing to have a constructive conversation of the sort that we just had in resolving the budget issues. but i've got to assume folks aren't crazy enough to start that thing all over again. >> if i may just quickly on a more personal note, what is your new year's resolution? >> my new year's resolution is to be nicer to the white house press corps. you know? absolutely.
>> quite a lead in, mr. president, thank you. rick leggatt, the head of the nsa task force, told "60 minutes" it was, quote, worth having a conversation about granted edward snowden amnesty. to what degree, sir, were you pleased he did this, and under what circumstances would you consider either a plea agreement or amnesty for snowden, and what do you say to americans, sir, after possibly being alerted to judge leon's decision, reading the panel recommendations, believe edward snowden set in motion something that is proper and just about the scope of surveillance and should not be considered by this government criminally? >> i've got to be careful here, major, because mr. snowden is under indictment. he's been charged with crimes. and that's the province of the
attorney general and ultimately a judge and a jury. so i can't weigh in specifically on this case at this point. i'll make -- i'll try to see if i can get at the spirit of the question even if i can't talk about the specifics. i have said before and i believe that this is an important conversation that we needed to have. i have also said before that the way in which these disclosures happened have been -- have been damaging to the united states. and damaging to our intelligence capabilitie capabilities. and i think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that being. i'll give you just one specific example. the fact of the matter is that the united states, for all our warts, is a country that abides
by the rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our constitution. and as a consequence of these disclosures, we have countries who actually do the things that mr. snowden says he's worried about very explicitly, engaging in surveillance of their own citizens, targeting political dissidents. targeting and suppressing the press. who somehow are able to sit on the sidelines and act as if it's the united states that has problems when it comes to surveillance and intelligence operations. and that's a pretty distorted view of what's going on out there. so i think that as important and as necessary as this debate has
be been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to u.s. intelligence capabilities and u.s. diplomacy. but i will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in publicly on the specifics of mr. snowden's case. >> sir, if i could follow up. mr. leggatt is setting this in motion, at least raising this as a topic of conversation. you, sir, would be consulted if there was ever to be a conversation, amnesty or a plea bargain. >> i think that's true, major. i guess what i'm saying -- >> no doubt you would ever consider it? >> what i'm saying is there's a difference between mr. leggatt saying something and the president of the united states saying something. >> that's exactly right. >> chuck todd? >> thank you, mr. president. and merry christmas and happy new year. you talk about the issues with
health care and the website rollout, but there have been other issues, the misinformation about people keeping their policies, the extended deadlines, postponements, a new wave at hhs announced last week. how do you expect american said to have confidence and certainty in this law if you keep changing it? this one here, this new waiver last night, you could argue you might as well have just delayed the mandate. >> that's not true because what we're talking about is a very specific population that received cancellation notices from insurance companies. the majority of them are either keeping their old plans because the grandfather clause has been extended for them, or they're finding a better deal in the marketplace, with better insurance for cheaper costs. but there may still be a subset, a significantly smaller subset than some of the numbers that have been advertised, that are
still looking for options, are still concerned about what they're going to be doing next year, and we just wanted to make sure that the hardship provision that was already existing in the lawwit also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition period. so that's the specifics of this latest change. you're making a broader point than i think is fair, and that is that in a big project like this, that what we are constantly doing is looking, is this working the way it's supposed to? if there are adjustments that can be made to smooth out the transition, we should make them. but they don't go to the core of the law. first of all, the core of the law is that for 85% of the population, all they have been getting is free preventive care,
better consumer protections, the ability to keep their kids on their insurance plan until they're 26. $1,000 or $500 discounts on prescription drugs for seniors on medicare. so 85% of the population, whether they know it or not over the last three years, have benefitted from a whole set of the provisions of the lieu. by the way, if it were to be repealed, you would be taking away all of those benefits from folks who already are enjoying them. you had this subportion of the population, 15%, who either don't have health insurance or are buying it on the individual market. that's still millions of people. and what we're doing is creating a marketplace where they can buy insurance and we can provide them with tax credits to help them afford it. the basic structure of that law is working. despite all the problems. despite the website problems,
despite the mesnjing problems, despite all that, it's working. and again, you don't have to take my word for it. we've got a couple million people who are going to have health insurance just in the first three months, despite the fact that probably the first month and a half was lost because of problems with the website and about as bad of a bunch of publicity as you could imagine. and yet you still got 2 million people who signed up. or more. and so what that means then is that the demand is there, and as i said before, the product is good. now, in putting something like this together, there are going to be all kinds of problems that crop up. some of which may have been unanticipated and what we have been trying to do is respond to them in a commonsense way, and
we're going to continue to try to do that. but that doesn't negate the fact that, you know, a year from now or two years from now when we look back, we're going to be able to say that even more people have health insurance who didn't have it before. and that's not a bad thing. that's a good thing. that is part of the reason why i pushed so hard to get this law done in the first place. and you know, i've said before, this is a messy process. i think sometimes when i say that, people say, well, a, yeah, it's real messy. and b, you know, isn't the fact that it's been so messy, some indication that there are more fundamental problems with the law. i guess what i would say to that, chuck, is when you try to do something this big, affecting this many people, it's going to be hard. and every instance, whether it's social security, medicare, the
prescription drug plan under president bush, there hasn't been an instance where you tried to really have an impact on the american people's lives and wellbeing, particularly in the health care arena where you don't end up having some of these challenges. the question is going to be ultimately do we make good decisions trying to help as many people as possible in as efficient a way as possible? and i think that's what we're doing. >> 72 hours ago, you make this change. where people are buying the junk, frankly, a junk type policy that you were trying to get people away from. >> well, keep in mind, chuck, first of all, that the majority of folks are going to have different options. this is essentially an additional net in case folks might have slipped through the cracks. we don't have precision on those
numbers, but we expect it's going to be a relatively small number because these are folks who want insurance and the vast majority of them have good options. and in a state like north carolina, for example, the overwhelming majority of them have just kept their own plans. so the ones they had previously. but we thought, and continue to think, that it makes sense that as we are transitioning to a system in which insurance standards are higher, people don't have unpleasant surprises because they thought they had insurance until they hit a limit and next thing you know, they still owe $100,000 or $200,000 or $300,000 for a hospital visit. as we transition to higher standards, better insurance, that we also address folks who get caught in that transition and their unintended consequences. i'll be honest, that was the original intent of the grandfather clause in the law. obviously, the problem was it
didn't catch enough people. and we learned from that and we're trying not to repeat those mistakes. >> enforced? >> absolutely. let's see. phil mattingly. >> thank you, mr. president. what was the message you were trying to send with not only your decision not to attend the sochi games but also with the people you named to the delegation to represent the united states at the games? >> first of all, i haven't attended the olympics in the past, and i suspect that, you know, me attending the olympics particularly at a time when we've got all the other stuff people have been talking about, is going to be tough, although i would love to do it. i'll be go to a lot of olympic games post-presidency. i think the delegation speaks for itself. you have outstanding americans, outstanding athletes. people who will represent us extraordinarily well.
and, you know, the fact that we've got folks like billie jean king or brian boitano, who themselves have been world-class athletes that everybody acknowledges for their excellence and also for their character, who also happen to be members of the lgbt community, you should take that for what it's worth. that when it comes to the olympics and athletic performance, we don't make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. we judge people on how they perform, both on the court and off the court. on the field and off the field. and that's a value that i think is at the heart of not just america but american sports. i'm going to just roll down these last few real quickly.
ari shapiro. last day at the white house, he deserves a question. >> thank you very much. senator max baucus was widely seen as the best hope for a large-scale deal to overhaul the tax code. what does your decision to nominate him as ambassador to china say about your hopes for a major tax code in the second term? >> it says max baucus is going to be an outstanding ambassador to china, and i would like a swift confirmation, and my expectation and hope is that if both the senate democrats or if democrats and republicans in the house and the senate are serious about tax reform, then it's not going to depend on one guy. it's going to dependent on all of us working together. and my office is ready, willing, and eager to engage both parties in having a conversation about how we can simplify the tax code, make it fairer, make it work to create more jobs and do
right by middle-class americans. jackie collins. >> thank you, mr. president. how do you say it in hawaii? looking back at the year, i would like to ask you what your reaction was to the nonpartisan truth telling group, politifact when it said the lie of the year was your statement that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. and related to health care problems we have seen over the past year, the fallout from that seems to be making democrats, particularly in the senate, a little rambunctious and independent of you. which is evidenced most clearly in the debate over the iran sanctions. it looks like senate majority leader harry reid has expedited a consideration of an iran sanctions bill for january, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions while you're -- >> i have to say, you're
stringing a bunch of things along here. let's see if we can hone in on a question. >> that's a lot less than ed henry had. >> i thought we were trying to get along for christmas. >> now i can see -- how about i separate out the iran question from the health care question? on the health care question, look, i think i have answered several times, this is a new iteration of it, but bottom line is that you know, we're going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of health care law and the website and all elements of it, including the grandfather clause, work better every single day. and as i have said in previous press conferences, we're going to make mistakes.
and we're going to have problems, but my intentions have been clear throughout. which is i just want to help as many people as possible feel secure and make sure that they don't go broke when they go sick. we're going to keep doing that. on iran, there is the possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for american national security for over a decade now. and that is getting iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue a nuclear weapon. already, even with the interim deal that we struck in geneva, we have the first halt and in some cases, some rollback of
iran's nuclear capabilities. the first time that we've seen that in almost a decade. and we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for iran to get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion, to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or allies in the region, including israel. and as i have said before and i will repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that's possible. not because it's guaranteed but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve
the problem, with all kinds of unintended conquences. now, i have been very clear from the start. i mean what i say. it is my goal to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but i sure would rather do it diplomatically. i'm keeping all options on the table, but if i can do it diplomatically, that's how we should do it. i would think that would be the preference of everybody up on capitol hill because that sure is the preference of the american people. and we lose nothing during this negotiation period. precisely because there are verification provisions in place. we will have more insight into iran's nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously. we'll know if they're violating the terms of the agreement. they're not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium. in fact, they have to reduce
their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. ironically, if we did not have this six-month period in which we're testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to the problem, they would be advancing either further on their nuclear program. in light of all that, what i have said to members of congress, democrats and republicans, there is no need for new sanctions legislation. not yet. now, if iran comes back and says we can't give you assurances that we're not going to weaponize, if they're not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having break-out capacity, it's not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back.
strengthen sanctions even further. i'll work with members of congress to put even more pressure on iran. but there's no reason to do it right now. and so i'm not surprised that there's been some talk from some members of congress about new sanctions. i think the politics of trying to look tough on iran are often good when you're running for office. or if you're in office. but as president of the united states right now, who has been responsible over the last four years with the help of congress in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what i'm saying to them, what i have said to the international community, and what i have said to the american people is, let's test it. now is the time to try to see if
we can get this thing done. and i have heard some logic that says, well, mr. president, we're supportive of the negotiations, but we think it's really useful to have this club hanging over iran's head. first of all, we still have the existing sanctions in place that are resulting in iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. we already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied even as the negotiations are taking place. it's not as if we're letting up on that. so i have heard arguments, well, but this way, we can be assured and the iranians will know if negotiations fail, even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. listen, i don't think the iranians have any doubt that congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. we can do that in a day.
on a dime. but if we're serious about negotiations, we've got to create an atmosphere in which iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them, and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us, and we don't help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action. all right? okay, everybody. i think i'm going to take one more question. colleen mccain nelson, and that's it. >> thank you, mr. president. >> there you are. >> some of your longtime advisers are leaving the white house and new folks are coming in. others are taking on new roles in the west wing. as you reshape your team a bit, how does that change the dynamic here and how does it impact what you think you can accomplish going forward?
>> you know, i just had lunch with pete rouse, who is leaving me. that's tough. he says not right now, at least. you know, i love that guy. and that will be a significant loss, although he'll still be in town and hopefully i'll be able to consult with him on an ongoing basis. i think the fact john podesta is coming in will be terrific. he may deny it, but i have been trying to get him in here for quite some time. he ran my transition office. i asked him with he was running the transition office if he would be willing to join us, and i think at that time he was wanting to develop other organizations, but john is a great strategist. he is as good as anybody on domestic policy. and i think he'll be a huge boost to us and give us more band width to deal with more issues. i suspect that we may have
additional announcements in the new year. you know, there's a natural turnover that takes place. people get tired. people get worn out. sometimes you need fresh legs. but what i can tell you is that the team i have now is tireless and shares my values and believes the thing that i think i have repeated probably four or five times in this press conference, which is we get this incredible privilege for a pretty short period of time to do as much as we can for as many people as we can, to help them live better lives. and that's what drives them. that's the sacrifice they make being away from families and soccer games and birthdays and some of them will end up working over christmas, on issues like iran.
the fact that they make those kinds of sacrifices, i'm always grateful for. if they then say to me after making those sacrifices for three, four, five years, i need a break, you know, then i completely understand. all right? have a great holiday, everybody. appreciate you. merry christmas. >> all right, spent an hour in the white house briefing room with an opening statement, what. five to seven minutes or so, then he answered reporters' question, by my count, ten reporters had a chance to ask questions. there were pretty tough questions. especially the polit afact notion that he offered the lie of the year when he said if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. the president also was asked a few times whether 2013 was the worst year of your presidency for a variety of issues. let's assess what we just heard from the president of the united states. he's getting ready to head off on vacation right now with his
family in hawaii. john king, what jumped out at you? >> at a time, if you look at the polls, talk to democrats around town, he's at the lowest point of his presidency, he was 0 for 2013 in terms of what he wanted to accomplish, yet, the president tried to end the year by saying i think it's at least half full. he hoped the economy in 2014 makes for better political circumstances, he hoped people love the health care law six months from now better than today. and if edward snowden was hoping to get amnesty as a christmas present, no. >> a senior lawyer floating that idea that maybe he should be grabted amnesty if he comes clean, returns all the documents and all of that. van jones and newt gingrich, co-hosts of "crossfire," did something jump out at you, van? >> first of all, that was barack obama as muhammad ali doing the rope-a-dope. he was tired, he was laying on the ropes. his main goal, i think today was
to get through that press conference and get on that airplane and not cause problems. he did that, but there is good news in what he said. i think we have been really focused on some of the downsides. listen. the economy is growing. they had to revise the numbers up 4%. he pointed that out. unemployment, good. fuel prices, low. we're focusing on the bad stuff. in the background, good stuff is accumulating. i think the president pointed to that, took some blows and got out of there. >> he did say, the president, when the debt ceiling has to go up again in february, he's not negotiating with the republicans on this. this is a debt, newt gingrich, that the united states has already accumulated and there's no negotiations on this, even though paul ryan and others say, you know what, let's nmake a deal. >> i thought overall, it was sort of an eisenhower quality press conference in which he manages to obfuscate and
ubsecurity whatever he needed to avoid getting in trouble on, and i would have been proud of him. the fact is when you listen to that one section, he has learned nothing. this is really embaseress. >> about the debt ceiling. >> i think congress ryan has many good ideas. i would like to reach out to the house and senate republicans. i'm sure we can find a way to get a solution which might not be on the debt ceiling, but they will be really happy to then pass the debt ceiling. the idea you end the year the way you started the year by saying i'm an imperial president. i expect you to do what i want you to do. we're not going to negotiate, it's just dumb. >> i see it differently. from my point of view, praobabl the biggest achievement this year was breaking the fiver. he broke the back of the tea party obstructionism. he said we're not going to keep doing this. it opens the door for bipartisanship. your paul ryan is going to be more popular now. >> he started the year, according to our cnn poll, his
job approval number was 55%, but throughout the year, it went down. and now he ends the year at only 41% job approval. >> which, wolf, this life in politics aren't fair, but that's the exact same number george w. bush had at this point. that's why the president has a lot of thinking to do on this va vacation. does he want to reach out. will they reach out in an election year even if he does reach out? the president has to worry about democrats because they see that number and the risk of holding the nat is at stake, losing seats in the house is at stake. george w. bush had that number at this point, they lost 30 seats in the midterm election. no one thinks the democrats are going to lose 30 seats, but if you talk to democrats in the house and senate who are in competitive seats, they're nervous and no longer willing to say, let's see what the president wants to do, let's let him lead. they're puthsish and poking and screaki skrieming at the white house to
do more. >> the president did not back down as far as iran sanctions are concerned. and he took a swipe at democrats pushing for sanctions. that sort of jumped out add me. >> absolutely. he's responding. where you're starting to get some democrats who are willing to get off of the reservation for lack of a better term, and he threw a brush-back pitch at them. he's done that before. i also think it's important to recognize the economic numbers are good. the obamacare situation is actually beginning to improve. you have a couple million people now who are beginning to benefit. i would make the argument that unlike george w. bush, his worst days are probably behind him. it would be hard for him to do much worse than he's done. and you now have, i think, the shot at bipartisanship. it's not a given, but because he stood up to some of this crazy stuff in the fall, you have a shot to get something done. >> he did say, newt gingrich to respond, he did say -- i'm paraphrasing, i've got to assume
they're not crazy enough to start that all over again. referring to republicans who might try to negotiate with him over the debt ceiling. >> take that phrase alone. having appointed a guy who compared house republicans to jonestown. >> he apologized. >> right, but he watched this. you have any signal this guy has any interest in serious bipartisan conversation? we're the ones -- you know, we're the ones who are going to start things. he's the president of the united states. he has every opportunity to reach out. he has every opportunity to be bipartisan. >> he did say, look, i'm willing to talk to them. i'm always looking for good ideas. but when it comes to the debt ceiling, no negotiations. >> it's not just about the debt ceiling. on the iranian sanctions, the margins in the house are going to be so big, heiss rr not going to veto the bill. >> i don't know if there's enough votes to override it. >> i think there will be. >> you think harry reid is going to let that get to the floor? >> there are certain moments
when the majority leader if he wants to be the leader, decides he's going to lead where they want him to go. >> i don't know if iran is the issue to to it on at this point in time. >> his deputies want that. harry reid can shut them down, but his deputies want that vote. the question for the white house, will they try, if the speaker is right, and i think he is where the margins are right now, does the white house try to negotiate more of an open trigger, to make it clear to the iranians this is not about now. that's what everybody says, it's not about now, but try to develop more clear language to allow the white house to say, okay, we can hold our nose and take it. >> were you surprised by the answer when he was asked what was your biggest mistake of the year and he said, the rollout of obama care. i didn't appreciate the enormity of the website, the technology issues, and the other matters. he acknowledged that was his biggest mistake. >> presidents hate those questions, but i think it's somewhere in the documents. >> he said i'm in charge.
>> it's self-eft. >> since i'm in charge, we screwed it up. sort of reminded me, you remember this, newt. when, what, was it george w. bush asked about his mistakes, he couldn't think of any. you remember that news conference? >> i think this was a good thing for the president. >> to acknowledge that? >> yeah, when you have something this big go wrong this publicly, it's actually helpful to the country to hear that you're at least in touch with reality. >> i want to -- by the way, speaking of being in touch with reality, i want to fact check polit afact. they're now coming out and saying this is the lie of the year, but i look back. when he first said it, they said it was half true. so how is plit fact getting away with, double check this, how are they getting away with when they first said you get to keep the thing, it's a half true, now it's a full lie and the lie of the year? >> because they found out it was totally untrue and they knew it for years. >> they knew it in the middle of the re-election campaign it wasn't true.
>> there's mixed reporting on that, but i do agree with the speaker. it is good when he steps forward, and he says i screwed up, and he owns it. i thought there were other opportunities he had. there were questions where you could see, almost he was saying, well, i'm going to keep rope-a-doping as opposed -- >> hold on. we're going to continue this. the president, once again, paraphrasing, since yp in charge, we screwed it up. referring to the rollout of obamacare. people make mistakes. american people are very forgiving. we'll see how forgiving they are. let's take a quick break, resume our analysis right after this. i saw my doctor. a blood test showed it was low testosterone, not age. we talked about axiron. the only underarm low t treatment that can restore t levels to normal in about 2 weeks in most men. axiron is not for use in women or anyone younger than 18 or men with prostate or breast cancer. women especially those who are or who may become pregnant and children should avoid contact where axiron is applied
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>> president obama speaking about a proposal that was floated over the weekend by a top lawyer for the national security agency suggesting perhaps snowden should be allowed to come back to the united states, receive amnesty in exchange for coming clean, handing over all of the documents, 1.7 million documents he stole from the nsa. let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, jim sciutto. the president didn't exactly answer the question. he sort of punlted to the justice department because there's criminal action pending against snowden, but he also didn't rule it out, but he certainly didn't support it. >> he showed he's still angry at snowden, explaining the ratio l rationale for why it's done harm to the intelligence gathering. it doesn't seem like he's making the case for him getting that reprieve, but there was a significant statement by the president on the overall behavior of the nsa and
admitting changes have to be made. he said we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence both here at home and overseas. he got more specific, saying he's open to this idea of moving that phone metadata, all that information on millions and billions of phone calls of americans from the nsa's possession, back into private hands of the phone companies. and he explained there may be a way to redesign the program, in his words, to give the nsa information when it needs it, but to eliminate or at least reduce the potential for abuse. that was really one of the most significant recommendations from the reform panel that came out a couple days ago. the president signaling there that he may acceptable that recommendation. >> he didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement to director james clapper. when he was asked about statements clapper had earlier made, a lot of republicans want clapper to resign, and i'm paraphrasing, he said don't
conflate me with general clapper. it jumps out to me. >> especially after we saw the verbal gymnastics the director of the dni went through to explain that lie or mistament in march. you recommend when he was asked if the government is gathering mass data. he said no, then of course three months later when edward snowden releases all these documents, they find out he did. and clapper said i didn't know you were asking about that particular program. when you have to explain the answer so many times over, it makes your credibility suffer. there we saw the president not doing him favors either. >> brianna kyler at the white house for us. you asked the president a good question and a very newsreceivek the president if he would be willing to make a deal, some sort of negotiations with republicans to raise the nation's debt ceiling in february. he looked at you and said, you know the answer, brianna.
he said absolutely not. that's going to impact markets and other factors out there. >> that's right, and the question, i think, wolf, as well is is there a little wiggle room in there? would he agree to any sort of conditions? and the truth is, we have heard president obama say the last two times the debt ceiling has bib increased that no, he won't negotiate, but the truth is also in a way, he through senate democrats, kind of did. there were conditions on both of the deals he lauded and what he did say is he did say, wolf, you know, it would be crazy, he would think, for people, republicans, read republicans, to go thru what they went through with the government shutdown. he said he couldn't imagine that following this budget deal, that whatever daylight is breaking, that people, read republicans, would pull, congress would pull washington back into this area of brinksmanship. at the same time, wolf, notice he also said when it came to paul ryan, because it is paul ryan, the house budget committee chairman who said there might be
this fight that's going to happen come february and march, he also said he's willing to work with paul ryan on things, for instance, tax reform. at the same time in a way, maybe offering an olive branch that there could be some area of agreement, if the debt ceiling is increased, there could be some process moving forward for something. how big would it be? it seems like we're looking at a lot of incremental things. the last budget deal, while significant, was incremental. we'll see how it plays out in january and february. >> we certainlybrianna, stand b. newt gingrich is still with us, van jones, john king. newt gingrich, there are two wings on the republican party on a whole bunch of these issues. the john boehner-paul ryan wing on the budget. rand paul, he hated it. others said republicans had no choice. two wings on international issues. isolationests, some like peter king was calling rand paul
yesterday. where are you in these wings? >> i'm not sure it's as clear and simple as a two-wing theory. look, i think the house republicans passed the best budget they could negotiate at this point. >> so you're with boehner and ryan? are. >> i said all along, if i were a junior speaker, i might have said no. if i was a speaker, i might have rammed it through. republicans are likely to have a very big win next fall if they can avoid hurting themselves. i think in that sense it's important for them to think through a strategy where they fight for things they believe in, they make clear what certain votes are, but they also remember not to take any of the spotlight off obama. the longer watches, like yesterday's fiasco, of an entire list of ways in which you can avoid demanding. if you read it, it's an ubcerty. the more we can allow the country to understand big government doesn't work, this particular big government doesn't work, the better off
republicans are going to be in november. that's the real prize. i think they could easily win control of the senate. >> van, how worried should the president be that there are democrats, especially those up for relection in 2014, plenty of democrats who might try to run away from him in seeking their re-election? >> first, i want to translate what i just heard from the speaker, which is that the best thing republicans can do is just sort of stay out of sight and hope that, again, obamacare doesn't work, that people don't like obama. that's basically going to be their strategy and their playbook. i'm not saying they're inventing something new. i'm just saying it's interesting to me. listen, it would be much more interesting to me if they said they were going to put forward constructive ideas, govern as a responsible party. what they're saying and he's not the only one saying, they just keep hoping obama messes up. that's their basic strategy. as far as for democrats, there will be some democrats who separate themselves from this
president. that happens to second-term presidents in midterms. people will act like the sky is falling. that's the normal pattern in american politics. he shouldn't be worried about that. he should worry this little opening for bipartisanship gets more oxygen and he get something done on minmimum wage or immigration. you put it on every ballot and democrats hold on to the senate. >> i think the question, wolf, the president has gone on vacation and george w. bush faced this, bill clinton faced this, every president faces this when they're down. does he change or come back with the same strategy, the same tools and try to win the next chapter even though he lost the last chapter? that's a big question. is he willing to compromise a bit on immigration. saying i will take a path to legal status, not citizenship. he could put pressure on john boehner to bring a vote. that will pressure the republicans. will he drop his number on
minimum wage and say, why don't we cut a deal on this. it's not what i want, but let's take the murray-ryan deal and split the difference. is the president going to change temperamentally how he goes into this, or in 2014, let's push on issues like immigration, minimum wage? does he play to the base or try to see if there could be a second down payment on some compromise? >> he's got more room to maneuver on the minimum wage than i think he might on immigration. our base is as dug in and tough on immigration as the tea party is against it. i don't know what happens there. >> newt, you heard the president express hope that for the long-term unemployment, 1.3 million people who are about to lose their unemployment benefits as of january 1st because they have been on unemployment for more than 26 weeks, he was hoping there could be a bipartisan agreement for a three-mungz extension. is that going to happen? >> i think there will be.
my hope is they will add a training component and get past the point of giving people money without some learning. when people got 99 weeks, that would be an associate degree. think about it. we give people money to not learn, to not do anything. we would be much better off to accept some responsibility, if you can't find a job, but then to say you need to accept the responsibility of getting trained while we're giving you money. >> you think about 1.3 million people, a lot of people, a lot of families dependent on those people. stand by. much more analysis of the president's news conference. i assume he's packed. he and the first family are leaving washington, d.c. pretty soon for a little vacation in hawaii. our coverage continues right after this. thanks for showing me my potential. for teaching me not to take life so seriously. thanks for loving me and being my best friend. don't forget to thank those who helped you take charge of your future and got you where you are today.
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in the u.s. senate. i took this job to deliver for the american people. and i knew and will continue to know that there are going to be ups and downs on it. >> president at the news conference responding to question about his poll numbers. they're now at a record low, and our new poll just out today, our cnn poll, his job approval rating is 41%. 41% approve of the job he's doing. that's down from 55%. 56% disapprove, but at the beginning of the year, his job approval number was 55%. dana bash, are you getting any immediate reaction? i know most members of the senate and house, they fled washington. they're out of town. they're on their vacations, getting ready to relax a little bit. getting any immediate reaction from democratic or republican leadership, dana? >> not any official reaction. i have been e-mailing and texting with some of the few people who are actually still in this building because you're
right, it's a ghost town here. everybody has now left. generally, as you can imagine from the republican side, partisan reactions. particularly to what they consider his non-answers on issues dealing with the nsa, for example. but sort of big picture, going back to what you said, wolf, about the poll numbers and what the president said about his poll numbers. the reality is that this is a man, and a politician, who until recently had been pretty much riding high. when he was here in the senate, he's right, it was 70%. when he took office, he was somebody who people here in congress were afraid to stand up to because he was so popular, and that matters with regard to how much congress, people in both parties are willing to push back. when they have a president who is at 41%, you do see situations like, for example, iran, where no matter what the president said about, you know, it being people who were worried about their own re-elections, that's why they're pushing these new
sanctions, you have not just republicans, but democrats, high profile democrats pushing for new sanctions on iran. you probably wouldn't see that aggressive pushback if he were more popular. >> hold on for a moment, dana. i want to bring in professor danny boston into the conversation with the department of economics at georgia tech university in atlanta. professor, just tell our viewers what's at stake for the united states, the economy, its credit rating, its credit worthiness if there's no increase in the debt ceiling come february, because you heard the president flatly say he's not negotiating, no concessions. this is a debt that's already been accumulated by the u.s. it's gauot to be raised, otherwe the credit worthiness would be undermined. give us your analysis of what's at stake. republicans like paul ryan, they say they want some >> well, wolf, in my opinion,
this would be the worst time to create the kind of uncertainty in the economy around that issue that we have experienced in the past. the economy is moving forward now. in fact, more robustly than we have experienced since the recovery began four and a half years ago. and it's largely because corporations that were sitting on piles of cash at one point, they were sitting on a record pile of cash of about $2 trillion, about a quarter of that would normally have been invested. they're beginning to invest that now. that debate would create again the uncertainty and the idea of having a downgrade of the credit rating will send shock waves through the market. so it would bring to a halt the progress that we're currently making with the economy. so that's a certainty i think a debate you don't want to have and a cliff that you don't want to fall off of. >> certainly an important issue. brianna keilar, our senior white house correspondent, asked the
president that question. it generated a lot of movement out there. by the way, take a look at the dow jones right now. it's still up today and i think it's up about 65 points. but as the news conference started earlier, it was up about 100 points. i don't know, obviously, if that answer that the president gave where he said he's not negotiating any concessions on raising the debt ceiling had an impact on the markets. that's for others to speculate about. but clearly the answer that the president gave, he's not making concessions on raising the debt ceiling. that is of high interest to people out there who worry about these kinds of matters. all right. stand by. everyone stand by. we'll take another quick break and get back to u.s. domestic and international surveillance programs, the nsa, what the president said about that when we come back. your smile. thanks for inspiring me. thanks for showing me my potential. for teaching me not to take life so seriously. thanks for loving me and being my best friend.
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it is my goal to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but i sure would rather do it diplomatically. i'm keeping all options on the table but if i can do it diplomatically i sure would prefer it. that sure is the preference of the american people. >> president obama at his news conference urging members of the house and senate not to pass new anti-iran sanctions legislation at this delicate moment as the u.s. is exploring a diplomatic resolution of the iranian nuclear program with the iranian government. bob baer is joining us, a cnn national security contributor, former cia operative. how serious is this possibility?
looks like the votes are there in the senate and the house that they would pass tighter sanctions against iran but they wouldn't go into effect for a year, give the president this opportunity to see if this interim agreement can work. what's your take on this? >> you know, i think sanctions right now are a bad idea. everything i'm hearing out of iran is they really do want a deal. they are going to make concessions, they are going to stop building a weapon and the rest of it. i think now's the time to give them the opportunity and the president is absolutely right. let's see. with this new president, things are different. a year is probably enough time but sanctions right now would be a mistake. >> because the iranians say if there are new sanctions right now, all bets are off, the deal is over with. the supporters of this new anti-iran sanctions legislation like bob menendez, the democratic senator of the foreign relations committee, and others, they say the only thing that brought the iranians to this negotiating table, to this moment right now, were the
earlier sanctions, keep the pressure on. you don't buy that argument. >> well, pressure has been put on and that's one reason they have come to the negotiating table. but right now, we have to get them on board on all sorts of problems. one is iraq. we need their help there. we need their cooperation on syria with chemical weapons and we've got to give these guys a chance. we can always put the sanctions on six months from now, a year from now, but in the meantime, this is a golden opportunity. >> i want to talk about nsa surveillance but you believe that rouhani, the new president, is much more moderate than ahmadinejad. >> it's not so much him, it's the entire regime wants this. the iranians have really been hurting the last couple years. they don't have a choice. you know, except to reintegrate into the international community. yes, sanctions have worked, but it's the carrot and the stick. let's let up for a bit, see how it goes. >> what did you think of what the president had to say about
the nsa surveillance programs? he's got recommendations now from this outside committee, they came up with some 46 recommendations. he says he's going to go on his vacation in hawaii, study them and sometime in january, give us his verdict. what's your assessment? >> i think he's going to have to change it. americans are uncomfortable, all this meta data sitting in the national security agency hard drives. the chances for abuse are enormous. i don't trust the nsa with it. let the nsa or let the department of justice get warrants, court orders to look into this stuff. give it back to the companies. we really need to do an audit to see what sort of abuse has occurred so far. today, it's come out that we were tapping the phone of the israeli prime minister. unnecessary and it's that kind of thing that worries people. >> because earlier, we had learned that the u.s. was listening in on conversations of angela merkel, chancellor of germany, and obviously that caused a big rift.
one of the recommendations, i want your quick take, is for the u.s. to negotiate agreements with friendly countries, we're not going to spy on your leadership, don't spy on us. is that at all realistic given your knowledge of the real world of espionage? >> no. right now, the russians are listening in on our cell phones in washington, d.c. >> i'm not talking about russia. i'm talking about france and germany, for example. >> they do the same thing. they spy on us. if you're an american businessman, go to paris, you have your hotel room broken into and the intelligence service would copy what's in your briefcase or on your hard drive. we can't get them to stop and they can't get us to stop. we need some sort of convention but you know, a promise not to spy on each other is not going to work. >> yeah. that sounds, given the history of espionage, friendly espionage, given the history of what's been going on, i suspect that's a tough one. i'm not just talking about businessmen. i was specifically referring if there should be new agreements that you don't spy on the chancellor of germany and they
don't spy on the president of the united states. but we'll leave that, bob, for another occasion to continue the conversation. bob baer, our cnn national security analyst. i'll be back in one hour. much more coming up in "the situation room" 5:00 p.m. eastern. right now, jake tapper picks up our special coverage with "the lead." president obama looks forward to 2013 being nothing but a memory. a painful, painful memory. i'm jake tapper. this is "the lead." the national lead. the president facing up to the year's many failures. >> i know you are all eager -- >> will this go down as the worst year of his presidency? the money lead. it's a show about his family, about his business, shot in his home. now that "duck dynasty's" patriarch is suspended, how will the show go on without him? will the family even let it. and the