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Obama: 2014 can be 'breakthrough year for America'



By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON (AP) - Citing progress on the economy, President Barack Obama said at his annual year-end news conference Friday that 2014 "can be a breakthrough year for America" after a long season of recession and slow recovery.

But when it came to the universally panned roll out of his health care law, Obama conceded that "we screwed it up," and said, "I'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year." It was unclear if he meant to signal high-level personnel changes.

The president praised Congress for a recent, relatively modest budget compromise, saying, "It's probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship. But it's also fair to say we're not condemned to endless gridlock."

He also renewed his long-standing refusal to negotiate concessions with Republicans in exchange for legislation that will be needed in late winter or early spring to raise the nation's debt limit. "It is not something that is a negotiating tool. It's not leverage. It's a responsibility of Congress," he said, although he added he was willing to discuss other issues separately.

Obama spoke from the White House briefing room podium as he concluded his fifth year in office. He and his family were departing later in the day for their holiday vacation in Hawaii.

Asked if this year had been the worst of his presidency so far, he laughed and said, "That's not how I think about it."

Obama's polls are at or near the low point of his tenure in the White House. The rollout of his health care website bombed, and high-visibility parts of his agenda have yet to make it through Congress, including a call for gun safety legislation in the wake of the shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school a year ago and a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws.

"If you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot over the course of my career," he said, and then repeated that the economy was finally showing significant progress.

The president fielded questions a few hours after the government announced the economy grew at a solid 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest pace since late 2011 and significantly higher than previously believed.

Much of the upward revision came from stronger consumer spending at a time when unemployment is at a five-year low of 7 percent. Obama did not mention it, but the stock market is also at or near record levels.

In his review of the year, Obama also noted that U.S. combat troops will finally be withdrawn from Afghanistan during the coming year.

As he has before, he promised to speak in more comprehensive terms in the near future about the future of NSA surveillance programs.

"I have confidence that the NSA is not engaged in domestic surveillance or snooping around," he said. Yet he added, "we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence."

A presidential advisory panel this week recommended sweeping changes to government surveillance, including limiting the bulk collection of Americans' phone records by stripping the NSA of its ability to store the data in its own facilities.

Separately, a federal judge ruled earlier in the week that some of the NSA's activities were likely unconstitutional. Judge Richard Leon called the NSA's operation "Orwellian" in scope and said there was little evidence that its vast trove of data from American users had prevented a terrorist attack.

Obama was challenged on his 6-month-old statement that he and his administration had gotten the balance about right, in terms of the NSA's activities, between concern for terrorism and protection of civil liberties.

He replied that the same assessments are made on a daily basis and noted pointedly that if an attack were to occur, "the question that's coming from you is, 'Mr. President, why did you slip?'"

Obama faced the type of challenging questions that presidents have long encountered, and he drew laughter with his answer to one of them.

"My New Year's resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps," he said.

Obama Reflects on 2013 in News Conference

Join the discussion

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jnel713 December 20 2013 at 7:44 PM

Wow...Hp is actually allowing free speech again and not censoring, silencing or deleting comservative comments!

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1 reply
Grey Ghost jnel713 December 20 2013 at 7:48 PM

This is AOL,,,I've been kicked off HP for about 2 years now,,,idiot bastards over there

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pianomanref December 20 2013 at 8:32 PM

Phil Robertson offends a few, Obama offends millions.

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1 reply
LEIGH pianomanref December 20 2013 at 8:40 PM

Amen pianomanref!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
eccurtistv December 20 2013 at 8:32 PM

He is just not a leader. He is way over his head and has not the ability to bring people togeather.

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fernandezarthr December 20 2013 at 8:42 PM

....it's been proven...Communism does Not work.....look at history.........Russia, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua......Money its where is at.......weather you like it or not......

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1 reply
thechargerdude fernandezarthr December 20 2013 at 8:44 PM

Ouch, Commie Liberals can't handle that much truth all at the same time. There heads will pop like the Aliens in 'Mars Attacks!!!'

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michael_arndt21 December 20 2013 at 8:46 PM

America will never be the same of course its corrupt that's obvious. And we the people point fingers blaming one side or the other. Nothing will ever make everyone happy. That's a fact. Can anyone remember the last time everyone was happy??

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1 reply
Tom michael_arndt21 December 20 2013 at 9:30 PM

I can't recall a time when everyone was happy but I do recall a time when more people were united in a common purpose and that was during World War Two. We were fighting at least two evil empires and we were united in a common cause. People all over the United States planted Victory gardens during gardening season. We tightened our belts and accepted ration cards for a variety of things and instead of complaining we sucked it up.

America was corrupt back then too and that's something about America, if you read some of the history of the USA you can find out for yourself.

Would I want to live anywhere else? Not on my worst day. I love my country.

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dostoyevskyj December 20 2013 at 8:47 PM

Actually governing is way more than a mere community organizer from the streets of South Chicago
can handle. Hint: lying is not a skill that should be practiced in the White House.

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1 reply
Tom dostoyevskyj December 20 2013 at 9:19 PM

Another individual who has no idea whatsoever what a Community Organizer from Chicago has for a job description that must be met.That tells me you don't meet even the most minimum of qualifications even if you wanted to apply for the job. The south side of Chicago is, of course, one of the roughest areas in the United States to work as a Community Organizer.

Let me guess..You still believe that President Obama was born in Kenya. You still believe that the
Affordable Care Act has Death Panels as part of the "benefits". Last, but not least, you also believe that illegal aliens qualify for the Affordable Care Act.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
skippylou December 20 2013 at 4:47 PM

economy is not getting better, full time unemployment still at 14 percent,because of obamacare pepole going to 28 hr work weeks and thus hiring other part time to pick up the other 12 hrs

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1 reply
GEE skippylou December 20 2013 at 4:51 PM

Where is it not getting better ?

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fernandezarthr December 20 2013 at 8:58 PM

.....from 2014 and all until 2016.....time to get them ALL out of office and Restore the Republic....we got work to do.......all hands on deck......gun-ho.....

Flag Reply +6 rate up
TargetMrktng December 20 2013 at 4:45 PM

I believe the American people are smart people and will help change the Senate to a Republican Senate. We need to grab control of this country back to the way it should be. Jobs for all Americans, freedom of religion and speech, greener energy options, better form of health-care reform and a tough stance on immigration which start with secure borders. Did I not mention lower corporate tax rates so business's small and large have a chance to flourish, hire more employees and GENERATE more tax dollars.......not tax the middle class out of current day standards of living.

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roffne December 20 2013 at 9:00 PM

God bless our land America

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
thechargerdude roffne December 20 2013 at 9:05 PM

And please God...Don't let the PMSNBC Commie Liberals wreck our great Capitalist Country.

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1 reply
aghughes thechargerdude December 20 2013 at 9:14 PM

Too late they have already!

Flag +4 rate up
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