President Obama took questions from reporters this morning and encouraged the people of Iran to continue their quest for human rights while acknowledging the limits of American influence.
He saluted their "courage" and declared: "We are going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government."
Not surprisingly, the president used the occasion to trumpet his budget, saying that it met his campaign pledge to cut the deficit by half by the end of his first term in office. He also noted some of the cuts in the budget including “freezing the salaries of hard-working government employees” and a threatened veto of any legislation containing earmarks. Obama also cited cuts to “community action programs” that he said he would like to fund if the nation’s fiscal situation was better.
While the president mentioned his deficit-cutting commission and noted that “Medicare and Medicaid are the biggest single contributors to our long-term deficits” his budget plan doesn’t offer long term cuts. He took issue with a reporter who suggested that Social Security was a major contributor to long-term deficits and said that solving its issues would be relatively easy. He noted that he was essentially punting these thorny entitlement questions for now: “We’ve been very specific about how to cut the discretionary budget…and then lets together, Democrats and Republicans, tackle these long-term fiscal issues.”
Twice Obama cited the entitlement deal hammered out in 1983 between Ronald Reagan and then House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill, D-Mass. But that deal on Social Security was far less complex than the need to contain health-care costs which is now the main driver of the country’s long-term deficit.
On foreign policy, he reiterated that America “can’t dictate” to Mideast nations on how to run their societies but he also repeated his call for nonviolence and respect for the rights of freedom and assembly and said the U.S. has urged its allies in the region to look at Egypt and take lessons from it. He chided Iran for “gunning down and beating” protesters.