President Obama left his minions at home and did the talking himself this morning on Meet the Press, blasting House Republicans' insistence on keeping tax breaks for the rich as the main obstacle to reaching a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. "They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they're behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected," Obama said, calling it "their only overriding, unifying theme." Other highlights of the Obama interview:
- On the Newtown massacre: "The question becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not (just get) a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away. It certainly won't feel like that to me. That was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."
- On armed guards in schools: "I am not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem."
- On the Benghazi attack: "We have some very good leads, but this is not something that I'm going to be at liberty to talk about right now." As for the State Department, "We're going to solve this. We're not going to be defensive about it. We're not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem."
- On whether Chuck Hagel is out of the running at the Pentagon: "Not that I see. I've served with Chuck Hagel. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, in Vietnam, and who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."