President Obama's Year-End Press Conference: What You Need To Know
On Friday afternoon, President Obama met with reporters in the president's last press conference of the year. The term "worst year of your presidency" was being thrown around a lot, so for Obama, it was kinda like sitting in a school auditorium and being grilled about every single exam answer you'd gotten wrong — with 55 percent of the people in the room room disliking you intensely. Seriously: they even showed him the poll to prove it.
Admittedly, this year has been a bad one — document whisperer Edward Snowden, the ongoing NSA drama, Heathcare.gov, the shutdown — so there were definitely some provocative questions asked. Here's how Obama responded to his critics...
On the NSA
When it comes to the right balance on surveillance, it's a series of judgment calls we're making every single day. If something slips, the question that's coming the next day from you at the press conference is, "Why didn't you catch that?"
What is absolutely clear to me given the public debate that has taken place ... is that this is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust. That trust in how many safeguards exist and how these programs are run have been diminished ... [We need to] build that back up.
The analysis he claims he's been asking himself the whole time is, "Are we doing this the right way? Are we being true to our American civil liberties and values?" Obama's aware that everyone's pretty much saying "Um, no," right now, and noted that he was looking to make changes in the NSA programs that would help restore that trust.
"In light of recent disclosures, it's clear that whatever benefit this program has may be outweighed by the concerns people have over its potential abuse," he said. "There may be another way to skin the cat. Can we do this another way?
On his "biggest mistake this year"
Surprise, surprise, it was the infamous healthcare rollout, which he still seems pretty upset about.
Obama said that even though he trying to improve the sign-up process, "the fact is, it didn't happen in the first month, the first six weeks in a way that was at all acceptable." He also took the bullet. "Since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up."
He reminded everyone of his vision: that in a year or two years or 10, we'll have a nation in which everyone has healthcare. "We’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to have problems, but my intentions have been clear," he said. "I want to help as many people as possible feel secure and don’t go broke when they get sick."
The one bit of good news in 2013! As Obama pointed out, the summit in Geneva struck a deal that rolled back the Iran's nuclear capabilities for the first time in more than a decade.
And he believed, Obama said, that conflict and stronger sanctions were not the solution, and that diplomacy would be the best way to tackle the problem now. "If Iran comes back and can't give us assurance that they are scaling down," he said, "it won't be hard for us to turn the dials back, to strengthen sanctions even further."
But right now, it's a good time to "test it" because Iranians are all too aware America and its allies are capable of harsher sanctions that won't "cost a dime" to put in place."
"Now is the time to try to see if we can get this thing done," he said. "If we’re serious about negotiations, we need to create a situation in which Iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them ... We don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in [sanctions]."
On the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
Basically, said Obama, he won't attend in protest of Russia's controversial anti-gay law, and neither will the First Family. This is the first time in a decade no higher-ups or former/current presidents have attended, and it's no accident.
"I think the delegation speaks for itself," he said. "Outstanding people, outstanding athletes." The fact that we’ve got folks like Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow … you should take that for what it’s worth. When it comes to [Olympic performance], we don’t make distinctions based on sexual orientation."
Cough, Russia. Cough.
Three members of the American delegation for the Winter Olympic opening ceremony are openly gay, which a lot of people believe to be no accident on Obama's part.