Elections 2012: President Obama Uses White House Podium to Press For Re-Election

President Obama used his first White House news conference in five months to grab some of the Super Tuesday campaign spotlight away from his GOP rivals, chiding them for their policies on Iran, women and contraception, and immigration, as well as the nation’s deteriorating political decorum.

President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2012. Photo: Lawrence Jackson/The White House

President Barack Obama, ahead of the GOP primary’s Super Tuesday contest, held his first news conference of 2012, reports International Business Times.

During a wide-ranging 45-minute interview with the White House press corps, Obama discussed Iran’s nuclear ambitions, war in the Middle East, high gas prices, immigration and his Republican rivals.

According to The Huff Post, during a White House press conference, Obama said there is still time for dealing diplomatically with Iran as the country signals it may be trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

That is the view of U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials, he said, and as such, he said he plans to keep working with the international community to impose sanctions on Iran.

Obama responded to criticism from Mitt Romney that a second term would ensure that Iran obtains a nuclear weapon by hitting Republicans who are “casual” about engaging in war with another Middle Eastern country.

“This is not a game and there’s nothing casual about it,” Obama said. “When I see some of these folks, who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, and you ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things we’ve been doing over the last three years. That indicates to me it’s about politics than solving a difficult problem.”

without naming names, the president slammed Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who have criticized him for being too passive on Iran by not endorsing military action.

“What’s said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not commander-in-chief,” Obama said.

“When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded of the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.”

Following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said being a friend to Israel means offering “unvarnished advice” when it comes to the country launching an offensive against the Iran.

He said sanctions aer beginning to work, noting he impact they have had on Iran’s central bank and oil industry.

“It is deeply in everybody’s interests — the United States, Israel and the world – to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion,” Obama said.

Obama refused to comment on Rush Limbaugh’s apology to a Georgetown Law student he called a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress on insurance coverage of contraception.

He explained that his phone call to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke last week was motivated by his hope that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, will be able to engage in public discourse without fear of being personally attacked.

Asked whether he believed Limbaugh’s subsequent apology was sufficient and sincere, Obama demurred, tells Reuters.

“I don’t know what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart, so I’m not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology,” he said. “What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.”

When a reporter asked whether other Democrats are pandering by referring to the contraception debate and Limbaugh’s remarks as a “war on women,” Obama referred to his wife, saying she has helped him understand that women will make up their own minds.

“One of the things I’ve learned being married to Michelle is I don’t need to tell her what it is that she thinks is important,” he said. “And there are millions of strong women around the country who are going to make their own determination about a whole range of issues. It’s not going to be narrowly focused just on contraception. It’s not going to be driven by one statement by one radio announcer.”

Obama stressed his desire to see immigration reform tackled in a bipartisan manner that protects the borders and gives undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship.

But he said Republicans need to be willing to pass immigration reform after the administration introduces “a framework, a proposal… that can move the ball forward.”

“But ultimately, I can’t vote for Republicans. They’re going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country.”

When asked to comment on Romney’s criticism that Obama was “feckless,” the president had a smile and a simple message for the former Massachusetts governor: “Good luck tonight.”

His comment drew laughter from reporters, but the not-really-tongue-in-cheek response underlined the fact that Romney is fighting a close race with former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum to win Ohio, a major battleground state and the biggest prize in the Super Tuesday contests.

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