Jim Gardner's exclusive interview with President Obama

December 14, 2012 4:06:49 PM PST
In an Action News exclusive, anchor Jim Gardner interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House Thursday.

Jim asked President Obama about gun violence during his one-on-one interview Thursday.

The focus was on gun violence in cities like Philadelphia, but his comments seemed to resonate on a day like today in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

Jim asked the President if he, as president, can do something to stem the tide of increasing gun violence.

"The first thing is to try and convene a conversation with the stake holders, law enforcement, church groups, politicians, the NRA; get everybody in the room together, and let's talk about what makes sense," said President Obama. "If you talk to most gun owners, and I am a believer in the 2nd Amendment, they are responsible, they have it for safety, maybe they have it for sport, and if you say to them, 'Shouldn't we make sure we keep these guns out of the hands of criminals? Shouldn't we make sure we keep them out of the hands of gangbangers? Shouldn't we make sure that basic safety rules are put into place?' An overwhelming majority of them are going to say yes. I want to work with the mayors; I want to work with local officials, I want to work with law enforcement, and the families of victims who have been affected."

On the political front, Jim asked the President about what has been perceived as a "bromance" with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the sentiment among some Republicans that it had an impact on the election.

He also asked what it feels like to be bear-hugged by the Governor.

"I actually have a great personal relationship with Governor Christie. Obviously, our politics are different. He and I disagree on some things," said President Obama.

Jim reminded him of the joint news conference held with the Governor after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy where Governor Christie said, "I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern and compassion. It has been very good working with the President and his administration."

"Here is the keynote speaker from the Mitt Romney Republican National Convention saying these things about you. As you stood there hearing these words, did it occur to you that maybe some folks in the Mitt Romney camp were a tad upset?" Jim asked.

"Keep in mind that we had just done a tour where people had lost everything, and in that context, I think a lot of that stuff goes away. But what this illustrates is that when people set politics aside, the truth is what separates us isn't all that much," the President said.

The "fiscal cliff" was the only thing anyone in Washington was talking about Thursday; but Friday morning's tragedy has changed the conversation entirely while the country mourns with the Connecticut families.

Jim Gardner interviews President Obama on the "fiscal cliff"

Thursday, Jim Gardner had a chance to sit down with the President and ask him to respond to Republican claims that he wants to raise taxes but it not prepared to cut spending.

"I'm prepared to make some tough cuts, and have specified some areas where I know we can eliminate waste and improve the functioning of government. But we also have to make sure that we are not balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, making their Medicare much more expensive," said President Obama.

During the interview, Jim asked the President if he and Republicans in congress can begin to close the chasm defined by their differences on taxes and spending? Can they compromise?

"We use social media to hear from our viewers about a whole nature of issues. And there is sense that they so want you to come to a compromise with Speaker Boehner of the fiscal cliff issue for economic implications, but also to show that compromise is still possible in this government, and that this government can work. But they are very skeptical."

"They have good reason to be skeptical," said President Obama. "I think that what we've seen for too long in Washington is for politicians to put their jobs before the jobs of the American people; to think about the next election instead of the next generation. So what I've said, is that job number one for congress, and this is where we shouldn't have to compromise, because everybody says they agree, let's extend tax cuts for middle class American families, for incomes below $250,000, and that would cover 98% of Americans. They would know that next year their taxes would not go up one single dime."

That is the minimal fiscal cliff solution for the time being, but both Obama and Boehner are talking publicly about accomplishing so much more if they can get passed what are turning out to be seemingly impassable road blocks; each blaming the other.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey tells Jim Gardner that the President has shown no evidence that he is interested in a compromise.

"The president has not demonstrated any willingness at all to do anything about meaningful about spending, and this is a spending problem," said Senator Pat Toomey.

House Speaker John Boehner left the capital and arrived at the White House some time after the interview to resume talks on the fiscal cliff in a closed door meeting with the President.

The White House "fiscal cliff" meeting between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner ended in about an hour with no immediate indication of progress from either side.

Obama and lawmakers have until December 31 to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff", an economy-rattling series of tax increases and spending cuts.


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