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Obama to National Press Corps: 'We Are Not a Deadbeat Nation'

In his last press conference of his first term, the president struck a defiant stance, explaining why he spurned Democrats' pleas for an end run around Congress on the debt ceiling.

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But of the rush on guns that has resulted in a surge in sales of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines since the Newtown shootings, Obama was blunt in his implication that the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates were stirring the pot to gin up gun sales.

“I think that we’ve seen for some time now that those who oppose any common-sense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government’s about to take all your guns away,” Obama said. “And you know there’s probably an economic element to that. It obviously is good for business.”

He asserted that there are ways to regulate gun ownership “that comport with the Second Amendment.”

A Government Shutdown in the Offing?

Some Republicans -- notably former House speaker and failed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich -- are counseling Republican members of Congress to go ahead and pass legislation to raise the debt ceiling, and instead refuse to pass a continuing resolution (the means by which Congress appropriates funds for the running of the government) unless the president gives the G.O.P. the deep spending cuts it wants.

Obama, when asked about the prospects for such, noted that the American people probably wouldn't be too keen on that approach (a view with which Republican pollster Frank Luntz concurs). But he took the opportunity offered by the question to paint a picture of a Republican caucus frought with paranoia. 

 

"[I]t seems as if what’s motivating and propelling at this point some of the House Republicans is more than simply deficit reduction," Obama said. "They have a particular vision about what government should and should not do. So they are suspicious about government’s commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat or whether we should be spending money on medical research. So they've got a particular view of what government should do and should be. And that view was rejected by the American people when it was debated during the presidential campaign."

A Pretty Friendly Guy

Granted the final question of the presser, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times challenged the president on the lack of diversity among his latest cabinet picks, which critics have noted are all white men, as several high-powered women -- including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis -- exit the cabinet.

Ready for the question, Obama rattled descriptions of women who have played critical roles in his first term -- without ever calling them by name -- and noted that the two Supreme Court justices he appointed are women. He noted that his first-term cabinet and staff were as diverse as any in history, and he promised that his second-term administration would be, as well. 

"Now, what, I’ve made four appointments so far?" Obama replied. "...I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they’ve seen all my appointments, who’s in the White House staff and who’s in my cabinet, before they rush to judgment."

It was the second part of Calmes' question, though, that seemed to get under Obama's skin -- the part about whether or not he's social enough.

"I’m a pretty friendly guy," the president asserted. "And I like a good party."

He went on to say that Republicans might not want to hang out with him because to do so just might invite a primary challenge when their term was up.

 
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