11:15 AM PT: Again on the fiscal
cliffartifice: in the next couple of weeks, extend middle-class tax cuts. After decoupling the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy from Bush tax cuts for the middle-class, he says a process can begin for talking about tax reform and how to achieve additional revenue.
11:14 AM PT: Obama, without mentioning Bill Kristol's name, tips his hat to Kristol for pointing out that letting taxes go up on the top 2 percent won't hurt the economy.
11:16 AM PT: Obama, without getting into details, says he wants to resolve Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, and that he wants to do it diplomatically. He says the preelection reports about imminent talks were not new.
11:17 AM PT: Holy cow! A question on climate change! Hooray for the press corps!
11:18 AM PT: Question is what is the president's agenda overall for climate change, and whether he will push for a carbon tax. Obama takes a moment to lay out the basic facts about the reality of climate change: "I'm a firm believer that climate change is real and that it's impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions."
11:21 AM PT: Obama talks about accomplishments from first term, and says what he plans to do over the next couple of months is to talk with scientists about what we should do in the short term, and then starting a process for educating the public and building support for more fundamental policy change. "I don't know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point," he says, his point being to recognize the reality of the political difficulties of addressing climate change. His focus is on developing an agenda that couples economic growth with climate change, because he says that's the only way to actually build the necessary support to get something done.
11:23 AM PT: Last question is about Syria—whether U.S. would recognize the opposition to Assad and whether the U.S. would consider arming Assad's opposition.
11:26 AM PT: "We're not prepared to recognize" them as "a government in exile." But Obama says the United States believes Assad must go. As far as arming them: he doesn't want to arm folks that might end up one day doing Americans or Israelis harm. (Gee, what a concept!)
11:28 AM PT: Haha, a reporter asks Obama whether he's got a bright line about $1.2 trillion in tax hikes (if I heard the question correctly). Obama says it's a great question, but jokes that he won't answer because it would set a horrible precedent if he answered a question from somebody who hadn't been called on. Actually, I suspect he just didn't want to name numbers in public.