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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: When you took office, you said this -- and I'm sure you remember -- you said, if I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one term proposition, meaning you're going to be a one term president.

Do you remember that?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, here's what I remember, is that when I came into office, I knew I was going to have a big mess to clean up. And, frankly, the mess has been bigger than I think a lot of people anticipated at the time.

We have made steady progress on these fronts. But we're not making progress fast enough. And what I continue to believe is that ultimately the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable.

I think people understand that a lot of these problems were decades in the making. People understand that this financial crisis was the worst since the Great Depression. But ultimately, they say, look, he's the president, we think he has good intentions but we're impatient and we want to see things move faster. And I understand that. I'm sympathetic to it. And we're going to just keep on putting forward ideas that are going to be good for the country. We're going to need a partner from Congress.

And we're going to need folks to move off some of these rigid positions they've been taking in order to solve these problems.

BLITZER: I want to go through some specifics on that. But let's talk about some things that you need to do. You've -- you yourself have said you support modest modifications in Medicare.


BLITZER: Give me specifics.

OBAMA: Well, what I'm going to do, I'm not going to make news here, Wolf, in terms of what a comprehensive plan would look like. But what I've consistently said is that Medicare health -- and health care costs generally are out of control, that the health reforms that we initiated are starting to reduce those costs. But we're going to have to more, particularly around Medicare and Medicaid.

BLITZER: Changing the Cost of Living Index?

OBAMA: Well, what we --

BLITZER: Which would reduce the amount of money for Medicare --

OBAMA: The --

BLITZER: -- and Social Security recipients?

OBAMA: As much as possible, what we'd like to do is actually reduce the costs of health care, as opposed to just shifting the costs from the government to seniors. But that --

BLITZER: But a change in the --

OBAMA: -- that doesn't --

BLITZER: Cost of living, is that something you're open to?

OBAMA: The -- the problem with some of the proposals we've seen, including some of the proposals coming out of the House of Representatives and the Republicans there is they don't really address what -- what it takes to reduce costs. What they say is senior citizens, we're going to voucherize it and whatever inflation there is, you're going to have to cover out of pocket. So seniors may have to spend $6,000 more.

What we say is are there modifications that can change the delivery system and how health care is delivered so that you don't have to take five tests, you take one; so that providers are not ordering unnecessary procedures, but focusing on what actually works?

The more we can do those kinds of changes -- and, in some cases, you know, that -- that involves empowering consumers to make better choices, then we can hopefully control these costs without seeing any radical change to the basic structure of Medicare.


OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: -- Republican presidential candidate now, says the men and women of the United States military want someone who's worn the uniform. He says he served in the Air Force.

Do you see a comment like that that he makes referring to you as disrespectful to the commander-in-chief?

OBAMA: You know, Mr. Perry just got into the presidential race. I think that everybody who runs for president, it probably takes them a little bit of time before they start realizing that this isn't like running for governor or running for senator or running for Congress. And you've got to be a little more careful about what you say.

But I'll cut him some slack. He's -- he's only been at it for a few days now.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney says corporations are people.

Does he have a point?

OBAMA: Well, if -- if you tell me that corporations are vital to American life, that the free enterprise system has been the greatest wealth creator that we've ever seen, that there are corporate CEOs and folks who are working in our large companies that are creating incredible products and services and that is all to the benefit of the United States of America, that I absolutely agree with. If, on the other hand, you tell me that every corporate tax break that's out there is somehow good for ordinary Americans, that we have a tax code that's fair, that asking oil and gas companies, for example, not to get special exemptions that other folks don't get and that if we're closing those tax loopholes somehow that that is going to hurt America, then that I disagree with.

And I think that, you know, corporations serve an important benefit, but ultimately, we've got to look at what's good for ordinary people. You know, how do we create jobs, how do we create economic growth. And a lot of the special interest legislation we see in Washington, it isn't benefiting ordinary people.

BLITZER: What do you think of that Republican field lining up to challenge you?

OBAMA: You know, I haven't been giving it too much thought. I -- I figure that I'll let them winnow it down a little bit. When they -- when they decide who they want their standard-bearer to be, then I'll be ready for them.


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