Washington: Flush with victory, a combative President Barack Obama made clear he would push hard to increase taxes on the rich, fiercely defended his UN ambassador and insisted the Petraeus affair had not caused a security breach.
Laying out his second term agenda at his first post-election press conference Wednesday he made clear his approach to negotiations over the fiscal cliff - the impending tax rises and automatic spending cuts that would go into effect Jan 1 if no deal is reached and push the country into another recession.
"When it comes to the top 2 percent, what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it, which would cost close to USD 1 trillion," Obama said, referring to the tax cuts made by former president George Bush that apply to income over USD 200,000.
"And it's very difficult to see how you make up that USD 1 trillion -- if we're serious about deficit reduction -- just by closing loopholes and deductions."
His starting position will be for a broad USD 4 trillion deficit-reduction plan that includes USD 1.6 trillion in new revenue, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. The basis for it is Obama's 2013 budget proposal from last February.
Asked about the Petraeus affair, Obama declined to join congressional voices calling for an investigation into why the FBI did not notify the White House and other political leaders sooner about the investigation into the affair that led to the former CIA Director David Petraeus' downfall.
"I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding Gen. Petraeus came up," Obama said. "We don't have all the information yet, but I want to say I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI. So I'm going to wait and see."
Obama said he agreed with Petraeus' decision to resign after acknowledging an affair, but praised his service to the country.
"From my perspective, at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service," Obama said. He also said he had seen no evidence of any potentially damaging breach in national security stemming from the affair.
"I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security," Obama said.
Fiercely defending the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice for her handling of the Benghazi affair, Obama called out Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain for their "outrageous" comments that they would block her if she is nominated for secretary of state.
"If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone they should go after me," Obama said.
"When they go after the UN ambassador apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Graham and McCain said they would use parliamentary means to hold up her nomination, should it be made, over her characterization of the deadly September attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
First Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012, 19:40