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Continued: Transcript of Obama news conference

  • Article by: , Associated Press
  • Last update: February 9, 2009 - 8:48 PM

QUESTION: Why do you have to speculate on who has...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: All right.

Sam Stein, Huffington Post. Where's Sam? Here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Today, Sen. Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that, before you turn the page, you have to read the page first.

Do you agree with such a proposal? And are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?

OBAMA: I haven't seen the proposals, so I don't want to express an opinion on something that I haven't seen.

What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process, as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. And I don't think those are contradictory; I think they are potentially complementary.

My view is also that nobody's above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen.

But that, generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards. I want to pull everybody together, including, by the way, the — all the members of the intelligence community who have done things the right way and have been working hard to protect America and I think sometimes are painted with a broad brush without adequate information.

So I will take a look at Sen. Leahy's proposal, but my general orientation is to say let's get it right moving forward.

Mara Liasson?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. If it's this hard to get more than a handful of Republican votes on what is relatively easy — spending tons of money and cutting people's taxes — when you look down the road at health care, and entitlement reform, and energy reform, those are really tough choices. You're going to be asking some people to get less and some people to pay more.

What do you think you're going to have to do to get more bipartisanship? Are you going to need a new legislative model, bringing in Republicans from the very beginning, getting more involved in the details yourself from the beginning, or using bipartisan commissions? What has this experience with the stimulus led you to think about when you think about these future challenges?

OBAMA: Well, as I said before, Mara, I think that old habits are hard to break. And we're coming off an election, and I think people want to sort of test the limits of — of what they can get.

You know, there's a lot of jockeying in this town, and a lot of who's up and who's down, and positioning for the next election.

And what I've tried to suggest is that this is one of those times where we've got to put that kind of behavior aside, because the American people can't afford it. The people in Elkhart can't afford it. The single mom who's trying to figure out how to keep her house can't afford it.

And whether we're Democrats or Republicans, surely there's got to be some capacity for us to work together, not agree on everything, but at least set aside small differences to get things done.

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