Obama Goes Hard on ‘Meet the Press’

The president made it clear who will be to blame if we go over the fiscal cliff.

(The Root) — Clearly frustrated with how his message on finding a compromise to avert a fiscal cliff is being received by Congress, President Obama decided to take his message directly to the American people with a fiery appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. Taped on Saturday, Dec. 29, and aired on Sunday, the appearance was particularly noteworthy because it was his first interview on the program in nearly three years.

With fewer than 36 hours to go before America officially goes over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” resulting in automatic, across-the-board program cuts and tax hikes that will affect most Americans, the president made the case that he has attempted time and again to compromise with the Republican-controlled House. (Click here to see how fiscal-cliff talks most directly impact black Americans.) The message was loud and clear: If America goes over the fiscal cliff, we’ll know who’s to blame, and it’s not the commander in chief.

Calling the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting “the worst day of my presidency,” the president also highlighted some of his other second-term policy priorities.

Below, read some of the president’s most noteworthy moments on the show:

On the fiscal-cliff negotiations:

“We have been talking to the Republicans ever since the election was over. They have had trouble saying yes to a number of repeated offers. Yesterday I had another meeting with the leadership, and I suggested to them if they can’t do a comprehensive package of smart deficit reduction, let’s at minimum make sure that people’s taxes don’t go up and that two million people don’t lose their unemployment insurance, and I was modestly optimistic yesterday but we don’t yet see an agreement and now the pressure is on Congress to produce. If they don’t, what I’ve said is that in the Senate we should go ahead and introduce legislation that would make sure middle-class taxes stay where they are and there should be an up or down vote. Everybody should have a right to vote on that. If Republicans don’t like it, they can vote no, but I actually think there is majority support for making sure that middle-class families are held harmless.”

On automatic spending cuts:

“But so far at least Congress has not been able to get this stuff done, not because Democrats in Congress don’t want to go ahead and cooperate but because I think it’s been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit as part of an overall deficit reduction package.”

On whether he bears responsibility for the absence of a fiscal-cliff deal: