Washington, DC – With his bags packed for his weeklong summer vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, President Barack Obama added color to his press conference Friday afternoon at the White House, but the undercurrent of the hour long session in the East Room was the ongoing controversy over the NSA’s surveillance programs.
President Obama was reminded of his pre-White House days when he was doing the dishes and compared checking on whether he’s doing the dishes to checking on whether the government was abusing its snooping programs.
Saying that those days are behind him, Obama told a press conference at the White House, “If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes — now, granted, in the White House I don’t do the dishes that much,” adding amid laughter, “but back in the day — and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.”
Insisting that the NSA programs “are operating in a way that prevents abuse” even without the new reforms he’s proposing. “The question is,” Obama said, “how do I make the American people more comfortable?
Obama said that people need answers for questions that are raised over a period of time. “We’ve seen information coming out in drips and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways.” Obama suggested he is asking his administration, “to go ahead and answer these questions.”
“What I’m going to be pushing the IC (intelligence community) to do is rather than have a trunk come out here and leg come out there and a tail come out there, let’s just put the whole elephant out there so people know exactly what they’re looking at,” he said, arguing, “Let’s examine what is working, what’s not, are there additional protections that can be put in place, and let’s move forward.
Obama didn’t think, “Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” and felt that Snowden’s leaks triggered a faster response than if the administration had gone ahead with a review board with the president sitting down with Congress.
Obama told journalists, “It would have been less exciting. It would not have generated as much press,” adding, “I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.”
Among other subjects, healthcare and immigration reforms were addressed during the presser, and Obama lambasted conservative efforts to defund Obamacare, which could force a government shutdown this fall. Obama described the Republican Party’s fixation with blocking the law as “their holy grail,” and identified their unifying principle “at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have healthcare.”
With the immigration reform bill clearing the Senate floor but stuck in the quagmire of resistance created by House Republicans, President Obama expressed his frustration, saying, “This is one where you’ve actually got some pretty broad consensus. I don’t know an issue where you’ve got labor, the Chamber of Commerce, evangelicals, student groups, you name it, supportive of the bill.” “Let’s get it done,” concluded Obama.