Just when reporters were bracing for the day to be all about Super Tuesday as the Republicans square off against each other, President Obama threw a curve ball today with his first news conference since November.
Surprisingly, today’s primary showdowns in ten states did not grab much attention, until the president unleashed a comical one-liner that prompted more than a few chuckles. When asked to weigh in about perceived Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, calling him “feckless," Obama smirked and said, “Good luck tonight.”
But the presser also highlighted issues that have a direct impact on voters’ bank accounts and their security.
President Obama announced efforts which would provide at least some relief for the ailing housing market, saying, "I'm not one of those people who think we can sit by and let the housing market hit bottom." He proposed mortgage assistance for people with FHA loans. While not the sweeping program he proposed last year, this one will cut finance fees in half, saving the typical borrower $1,000 a year. “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said I would do everything in my power to act without them. Today we’re taking it a step further,” he said.
The president also pushed an effort to give military homeowners a bit of a break. Those service members who were targeted by mortgage companies for foreclosure may receive compensation or lower interest rates. Some lenders would also be required to compensate qualified military borrowers for lost equity and other compensation. But, he said, “No amount of money is going to be enough to make it right for an American family who's had a piece of the American dream taken away from them.”
In addition to housing, rising gas prices are another driver of the economy that made its way into today’s presser. The president dismissed questions about whether he was secretly in support of rising gas prices as a way to curb oil dependency; suggesting it wouldn’t make political sense to do so during an election year.
"I meet folks every day who have to drive a long way to get to work and filling up this gas tank gets more and more painful and it's a tax out of their pocketbooks," he said. "When gas prices go up consumer spending often pulls back. We're in the midst of a recovery starting to build steam, and we don't want to reverse it."
But international challenges in the Middle East also loomed heavily over the news conference. A day after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president touted crippling sanctions against Iran and efforts to keep the nation from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Obama also answered criticism from his republican rivals calling him weak on Iran. He answered, "I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits are. I'm not one of those people."
He went on to make a statement that seemed to sum up his resolve on the matter saying, “This is not a game.”
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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)