Transcript: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013 – Part V

Part V of VI: Transcript of remarks by President Barack Obama on the government shutdown and debt ceiling. The press conference was held on Oct. 8, 2013.

…This week the President of China has visited several of the Asian countries that you were going to visit and have had to skip because of the shutdown. He’s also taken a big role at the two regional summits, both of which your administration has made a pretty big priority of as part of the broader Asian pivot. Does China benefit from the chaos in Washington? And then more broadly, you’ve said in general that this hurts the reputation of the United States overseas; are there specific things that you can point to where you already have seen some damage? And one that occurs to me is the trade deal you’ve tried to do in Asia. The leaders today announced that they still want to wrap it up but they no longer are able to say they want to wrap it up by the end of this year. Had you been there, do you think you could have gotten that additional push?

President Barack Obama:
I think that’s a great example and we don’t know but it didn’t help that I wasn’t there to make sure that we went ahead and closed a trade deal that would open up markets and create jobs for the United States and make sure that countries were trading fairly with us in the most dynamic, fastest growing market in the world. I should have been there.

But I can tell you – because I’ve had to apologize to some of the host countries – that they understood that the most important thing I could do for them and the most important thing I can do for bilateral relationship for America’s reputation is making sure that we re-open our government and we don’t default.

So I don’t think it’s going to be lasting damage. As I said, if we deal with this the way we should, then you know folks around the world will attribute this to the usual messy process of American democracy but it doesn’t do lasting damage. In the short term, I would characterized as missed opportunities.

We continue to be the one indispensable nation. There are countries across Asia who have welcomed our pivot because they want to do business with us. They admire our economy. They admire our entrepreneurs. They know that their growth is going to be contingent on working with us. They care about the security environment that we maintain – help maintain – and the freedom of navigation and commerce that’s so important to them. So it’s not as if they’ve got other places to go; they want us to be there and they want to work with us.

But in each of these big meetings that we have around the world a lot of business gets done, and in the same way that a CEO of a company, if they want to close a deal aren’t going to do it by phone. They want to show up and look at somebody eye to eye and tell them why it’s important and shake hands on a deal, the same thing is true with respect to world leaders.

And the irony is our teams probably do more to organize a lot of these multilateral forums and set the agendas than anybody. I mean, we end up being engaged much more than China, for example, in setting the agenda and moving this stuff forward. So when – it’s almost like me not showing up to my own party. I think it creates a sense of concern on the part of other leaders but as long as we get through this, they’ll understand it. We’ll be able to, I believe, still get these deals done.

The last point I’ll make though is we can’t do it every three months. All right? I mean, back in the ’90s we had a government shutdown. That happened one time and then after that, the Republican Party and Mr. [Newt] Gingrich realized this isn’t a sensible way to do business, that we shouldn’t engage in brinksmanship like this, and then they started having a serious conversation with President Clinton about a whole range of issues and they got some things that they wanted; they had to give some things that Democrats wanted. But it took on a sense of normal democratic process.

So here we already went through this once back in 2011, and at the end of last year, right after my election, we went through something similar with the so-called fiscal cliff, where Republicans wouldn’t negotiate about taxes despite the fact that taxes went up anyway. Even though they could actually have gotten some things from us that they wanted if they had been willing to engage in normal negotiations. So we’ve got to stop repeating this pattern.

I know the American people are tired of it. And to all the American people, I apologize that you have to go through this stuff every three months it seems like. And lord knows I’m tired of it.

But at some point, we’ve got to kind of break these habits and get back to the point where everybody understands that in negotiations there is give and there is take and you do not hold people hostage or engage in ransom taking to get 100% of your way. And you don’t suggest that somehow a health care bill that you don’t agree with is destroying the Republic or is a grand socialist scheme. You know, if you disagree with certain aspects of it, tell us what you disagree with and let’s work on it. If you’re concerned about long-term debt, that’s a good thing to be concerned about. But don’t pretend as if America’s going bankrupt at a time when the deficit has been cut in half.

That’s what the American people, I think, expect is just civility, common sense, give and take, compromise. Those aren’t dirty words. There’s nothing wrong with them. And you know, I think the American people might understand that I may – not I may – I have flaws, Michelle will tell you. One of them is not that I’m unwilling to compromise. I’ve been willing to compromise my entire political career. And I don’t believe that I have the answers to everything and that it’s my way or the highway. But I’m not going to breach a basic principle that would weaken the presidency, change our democracy and do great damage to ordinary people just in order to go along with what the House Republicans are talking about.

…I did ask about China, and I’m wondering what it says – how our loss is their gain?

President Barack Obama:
You know, I’m sure that the Chinese don’t mind that I’m not there right now in the sense that there are areas where we have differences and they can present their views and not get as much of a push back if I were there, although Secretary Kerry is there and I’m sure he’s doing a great job.

But I’ve also said that our cooperation with China is not a zero-sum game. There are a lot of areas where the Chinese and us agree.

On trade in particular though – here’s an area where part of what we’re trying to do is raise standards for example intellectual property protection, which sometimes is a big problem in China. And if we can get a trade deal with all the other countries in Asia that says you’ve got to protect people’s intellectual property, that’ll help us in our negotiations with China.

…On the issue of debt prioritization, what are your legal liabilities here? What is your legal requirement? Do foreign creditors have to be paid first… [inaudible]?

President Barack Obama:
…You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to let Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, make a formal presentation on Thursday before the Senate Committee because this is obviously sensitive enough. And I think people would be paying close enough attention that details count and I think prepared remarks from Secretary Lew on that topic would probably be more appropriate.

But as I indicated before, we plan for every contingency so obviously, you know, worst case scenario, there are things we will try to do.

But I will repeat, I don’t think any option is good.


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3 Comments on “Transcript: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013 – Part V

  1. Pingback: Transcript: President Barack Obama's press conference on the government shutdown & debt ceiling - Oct. 8, 2013 - Part VI | What The Folly?!

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