In a news conference — scheduled at a time that conveniently put him at the center of attention as his Republican opponents duke it out on Super Tuesday — President Obama fielded questions on Iran, Israel, contraception and the GOP race. Here's our look at some of what he had to say.
Still More Mortgage Plans
Before taking questions, the president announced more plans to address the perpetually high foreclosure rate — but this time focusing on a change that he's making immediately without approval from Congress. He claimed that his plan, to steeply reduce the refinancing fees on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, would save the 2 million to 3 million homeowners with FHA mortgages $1,000 a year. "Our job in Washington isn't to sit back and do nothing," Obama said. "We're going to do this on our own."
GOP Talk of Attacking Iran Is "Just Talk"
Asked to respond to criticism from Mitt Romney that if he's re-elected, Iran will get a nuclear weapon, the president touted the "unprecedented, crippling" sanctions that global leaders have laid on Iran. And he argued that military action right now is rash.
"When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war," he said, listing the lives of young men and women in the military and the national economic impact as some of those costs.
"When you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we've been doing over the last three years, and it indicates to me that that's more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem. Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven't launched a war. If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk."
Breaking: Women Care About More Than Contraception
With women's access to contraception still a hot topic among Republicans — from House committee hearings to campaign stump speeches to Rush Limbaugh diatribes — Obama was asked if he believes there's a "war on women." He countered that women care about a whole range of issues and should not be narrowly defined by the birth control question.
"Women are going to make up their own mind in this election about who is advancing the issues that they care most deeply about. And one of the things I've learned being married to Michelle is I don't need to tell her what it is that she thinks is important," he said. He added, however, that he thinks Democrats have the upper hand in reaching women voters through their economic message of solidifying the middle class.
Whatever Happened to Immigration Reform?
Questioned on promises of immigration reform that never came to pass, Obama emphasized his administration's efforts around border control and his commitment to providing a chance for undocumented immigrants to "be a fuller part of our community." But he conceded that reform legislation has not been done.
"The reason we haven't gotten it done is because what used to be a bipartisan agreement that we should fix this ended up becoming a partisan issue," he said, giving credit to George W. Bush for investing in the issue while president. "Ultimately, I can't vote for Republicans. They're going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country and that this is something that they themselves think is important."
Remembering Rep. Donald Payne
While the president released a statement on the passing of New Jersey congressman Donald Payne today, he took a moment during the conference to note the loss. "I want to publicly express condolences to the family of Donald Payne, congressman from New Jersey — a wonderful man; did great work, both domestically and internationally. He was a friend of mine. And my heart goes out to his family and to his colleagues."
A Short, Sweet Message for Mitt Romney
And what did Obama have to say when asked to respond to criticism from Romney that he is "America's most feckless president since Carter"?
"Good luck tonight," Obama said with a smile.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.