Economy still recovering from deep and damaging crisis: Obama

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Washington:

The economy is still recovering from a very deep and damaging crisis, US President Barack Obama said today during his first press conference since his re-election to the top post.

The presser was held in the East Room of the White House. This is also Obama's first official press conference since the Group of 20 economic summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June this year.

At the presser, Obama also pushed for his proposal to have the wealthy pay more in taxes as a way to tame the federal deficit, taking a hard line in his opening bid before he begins fiscal talks with US lawmakers later in the week.

"We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said in his first press conference since winning re-election on November 6.

Besides, he said he was encouraged some Republicans have agreed to raising new revenues.

Speaking on fiscal cliff, he said he is open to compromise and new ideas and insisted that higher taxes for the wealthy had to be a part of any deal on averting it.

"We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said.

He expressed confidence that he and Congress can reach an agreement that avoids a so-called "fiscal cliff" on January 1.

"We face a clear deadline that requires us to make some big decision on jobs, taxes, and deficits by the end of the year... As I've said before, I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas," he said at a press conference. He said tax breaks for middle class families should stay in place.

"Let's also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes and it includes potentially tax reform.

"It want a big deal. I want a comprehensive deal."

Further, Obama said that there has been no breach in the national security due to the scandal that forced CIA Director Gen David Petraeus to quit because of an extra-marital affair.

Making his first public comment on the scandal, Obama said, "I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security." "Obviously, there's an ongoing investigation. I don't want to comment on the specifics of the investigation," Obama said in response to a question if there was any breach of national security due to the scandal.

Sixty-year-old Patraeus quit as CIA chief after enforcement agencies identified Jill Kelley, 37, as the woman whose report of harassing e-mails eventually exposed an extramarital affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, a former Army officer who wrote a biography of the retired four-star general.

Obama said the FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed.

"I am gonna let (Mitchell) Mueller (acting CIA director) and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally," he said.

Obama praised Petraeus for his extraordinary career. "Gen Petraeus had an extraordinary career. He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan and as head of the CIA. "By his own assessment, he did not meet the standards that he felt were necessary as the director of CIA with
respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with his family and with his wife. And it's on that basis that he tendered his resignation and it's on that basis that I accepted it," he said.

"I want to emphasise that from my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service. We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done. And my main hope right now is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side-note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career," Obama said.

With inputs from agencies

Story first published on: November 15, 2012 00:59 (IST)

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