President Barack Obama Tuesday made a personal pitch for the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, hoping to claim an advantage in the effort to win Iowa's electoral votes.
Obama spoke with the editor and publisher of the newspaper by phone for about a half-hour. The conversation was initially required to be "off the record" and not for publication.
However, after a Tuesday evening post from the Register's editor pleading for more openness, the campaign relented and released a transcript of the interview for publication.
In the wide-ranging interview, Obama laid out the case for his second term, arguing that he would build on the accomplishments of his first four years.
"I'm very proud of what we've accomplished over the last four years," Obama said. "A lot of it was responding to the most severe economic emergency we've had since the Great Depression."
"And whether it was saving the auto industry, stabilizing the financial system, making sure that we got into a growth mode again and started putting people back to work, we have made real progress," he added. "But people are obviously still hurting in a lot of parts of the country."
Obama reiterated many of the goals his campaign laid out Tuesday as the road map for a second term, including bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the country, boosting science and technology education, energy independence and a deficit reduction program that Obama argued must include tax increases for the wealthy and using savings from ending the war in Afghanistan to invest in American infrastructure.
Asked by the Register how he would seek to live up to the promises of change in the partisan tone in Washington despite difficulties with Republicans, Obama said that the nation would soon be facing a fundamental question of what the government should do and how should it pay for its actions.
Several factors, including the fact that a large series of tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year and that automatic severe spending cuts are also due, should force all parties to the table, Obama said.
"We're going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business," he said. "It will probably be messy. It won't be pleasant."
The president added, "But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs."
Obama also rejected the notion that whether he or Republican candidate Mitt Romney won the White House would prove irrelevant because of the problems in dealing with Congress.
"It will matter to millions of Americans who may or may not have health care," he said, referring to Romney's vow to repeal the 'Obamacare' health reform legislation. "It will matter to millions of seniors who maybe -- or soon-to-be seniors who may be faced with the prospect of a voucher system for Medicare."
He added, "The consequences on just about every indicator out there would be enormous."
Obama urged voters to think about not just what would be in their immediate interest but also what would be best for the country five or 10 years down the road.
"If we have not built an education system that works and makes sure that college is affordable, if we have not won the race for future energy technologies, if we're slashing funding for things like basic research, if we are not rebuilding our infrastructure, then 5, 10 years from now we are going to be a weaker nation," he said. "And that has huge consequences."
He added, "If somebody believes that the government has been the problem and will remain the problem, and if we just strip down government to defense spending and Social Security and some watered-down version of Medicare and Medicaid, and we shouldn't be doing anything else, then obviously Mitt Romney is the candidate. There's no indication, based on either historical evidence or what's happening around the world, that that's the recipe for long-term sustainable economic growth."
Obama finished out the interview with a rather personal appeal for the endorsement.
"You guys have seen me up close. I wouldn't be on the national stage had it not been for the people of Iowa," he said. "And if you look at what I said to you this time four years ago, and the commitments I've made, I have kept and met those commitments, or I have worked really hard to keep them and meet them."
Obama added, "I feel very strongly that I have a record that justifies a second term. But I guess, more importantly, what you also know is that I'm somebody who keeps my word, that I don't read the polls, that I do what I think is right for the American people, even when it is profoundly unpopular politically."
"I think that's worth something. I think that's the kind of leadership the people of Iowa want," he continued.
by RTT Staff Writer
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