Declaring that gays deserve to be "treated like all Americans," President Obama stopped just short of endorsing gay marriage at a wide-ranging press conference on Wednesday.
Touting his administration's accomplishments on behalf of gays--including ending the military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy and no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act-- Obama applauded New York state, which adopted gay marriage earlier this month, for its vigorous debate over the issue. Obama has said on earlier occasions that his position on gay marriage is "evolving" and today he went so far as to say that the principle of gay equality "will win out." The president's comments were not the same as saying that he favors gay marriage, but by endorsing the debates in the states and saying that equality will prevail, he took a position that went further than he's gone before and is far different than the one taken by GOP presidential candidates including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who fought gay marriage when he was in office.
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The president also called on congressional Republicans to show flexibility on revenue increases as the August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling looms large over negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden. At least five times, Obama invoked tax breaks for corporate jets and juxtaposed it against what he said would be necessary spending cuts in federal responsibilities like food safety (mentioned at least twice) unless more revenues were raised. The president made an effort to reframe the debate over the debt-ceiling increase as a "jobs issue," which may be a wise gamble rather than turn it into an economic argument about roiling the markets. He also dismissed arguments that the August 2 deadline set by his Treasury Department was not a real line in the sand. He flipped the debate on Republicans, saying that he was just looking to pay off debts that Congress incurred. "They took the vacation. They bought the car, and now they're saying we don't have to pay," the president said, offering an analogy to family budgets. Mostly he pressed for quick action: "There's no reason we cannot get this done now." He cited his children, saying that they get their homework done a day early, and he tried to persuade Congress not to take a July 4 recess so they can stay and work on the debt-ceiling deadlock.
Republicans and Democrats are dug in over tax breaks and the president is betting that extra pressure on the GOP will help. At the same time, the president said that "real progress" was being made in the Biden-led talks.
The president also declared that he had complied with the War Powers Act when it comes to the conflict with Libya. He cited Muammar el-Qaddafi's threats to massacre citizens who had risen up against his rule. He cited Qaddafi's links to terrorism but did not note that the Libyan strongman was taken off the U.S. terror watch list during the George W. Bush administration after he gave up his program to build weapons of mass destruction. He said that Qaddafi was responsible for more American deaths than any foreign figure until Osama Bin Laden came along.