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What You Need to Know From President Obama's Press Conference What You Need to Know From President Obama's Press Conference

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White House

What You Need to Know From President Obama's Press Conference

The president addresses al-Qaida, Putin, and the Fed.

President Barack Obama speaks during his news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

August 9, 2013

It's a Friday afternoon in early August. Most of Washington appears to be on vacation, and it's amazingly humid. So it's time for a presidential press conference.

President Obama announced potential big changes for the National Security Agency Friday afternoon, which you can read about here. Here are some of the biggest moments from the rest of today's conference.

On Russia and the Olympics

"I want to just make very clear right now: I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics... No one is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation" in Russia. The president also said that he looks forward to LGBT U.S. athletes bringing home some medals. "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, it would probably make their team weaker."

 

The president also pushed back against the idea that he has a bad relationship with Vladimir Putin. He called his conversations with Putin "candid, blunt" and "oftentimes very productive." But that, as things stand right now, relations with Russia are just a matter of where Putin and the Russian people want to go.

I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes it's very productive.

On the Fed, Larry Summers, and "Mr. Yellen"

President Obama made clear how important he views the nomination of the next Fed chair, calling the job "one of the most important policy makers in the world." 

The president, asked about the candidacies of Larry Summers and Janet Yellen, accidentally slipped and referred to Dr. Yellen as "Mr. Yellen," saying that "they're both terrific people." From there, Obama went into a strong defense of Larry Summers:

When someone has worked hard for me, and worked hard on behalf of the American people….then I want to make sure somebody is standing up for him. I felt the same way when people were attacking Susan Rice.

Obama said that for him, the most important qualification for a Fed chair isn't someone with an inside track—it's someone who is able to look at and address the serious issues in the U.S. economy. "The challenge is not inflation," he said, pointing instead to the high level of unemployment. Obama again said that he'd announce a nominee in the fall.

On the Snowden Leaks

The president stressed that while the Edward Snowden and The Guardian bring up the possibility for government abuse, and he says there's no evidence to believe they have been abuses. "What you are not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs, you're reading about the prospect of the abuses," he said. However, he understands why people may be concerned. "If you're an ordinary person, well, understandably people would be concerned. I would be too if I wasn't in the government."

On al-Qaida

The president was asked specifically if he still believes, after the threats over the last week, that al-Qaida has been decimated. His response: "core al-Qaida is on its heels, has been decimated. But... al-Qaida and other extremists have metastasized into regional groups" that can pose significant threats. He said these groups "have the capacity to go after our embassies," and "potentially to go after our businesses."

Obama refused to comment on the recent reported drone strikes in Yemen.

On Obamacare

The president, obviously, gave a defense of his signature health care program, but acknowledged that "there is no doubt that in implementing the Affordable Care Act… there are going to be some glitches." "Our goal," he said, "is to actually deliver high quality, affordable health care for people...I make no apologies for that."

Obama did use aggressive language in his criticism of Republican attacks on the ACA.

Addressing a possible plan to defund Obamacare, he said that "the idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting healthcare is a bad idea." And that "Republicans have determined that they don't want to see these people get healthcare."

Obama on National Security Policy Changes

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