Obama promises to boost oversight of NSA surveillance operations
President Obama says he had called for a 'thorough review' of NSA surveillance even before Edward Snowden's actions, but that the leaks 'triggered a much more rapid and passionate response.'
(Page 2 of 2)
“If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer, and make his case,” Obama said.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Snowden affair has added a chill to US-Russian relations, sparking the cancellation of a summit between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September. Obama and President Putin have never had a warm relationship, and the US president took a few digs at Putin in his remarks to reporters.
“I don't have a bad personal relation with Putin,” Obama said. “When we have conversations, they're candid. They're blunt. Oftentimes, they're constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.”
“Candid” and “blunt” are often diplomatic code for “not much fun.” Still, he said, their conversations are often productive.
Russia faces a choice, he said – looking forward or backward. When Putin returned to power, Obama said that he started hearing more anti-American rhetoric that played into the old cold war stereotypes. And he portrayed the Russian leadership as he often does the Republicans: If the US (or Obama) is for it, then Russia (or the Republicans) will be against it.
Obama became most animated when the question of health-care reform came up. A key feature of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – the individual mandate to purchase insurance – begins implementation on Oct. 1, when open enrollment starts for the online marketplaces.
Opponents of the ACA, or Obamacare, have been actively encouraging the uninsured not to enroll, in an effort to kill the program before it gets off the ground, he said, dubbing this idea the Republicans' “holy grail.”
“The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have health care,” Obama said, with an edge in his voice.
He also expressed astonishment over a group of Republican senators who are threatening a government shutdown if Obamacare is not defunded, when Congress takes up a measure to continue funding the government beyond Sept. 30.
“The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea,” he said. “What you should be thinking about is how can we advance and improve ways for middle class families to have some security so that if they work hard, they can get ahead and their kids can get ahead.”
RECOMMENDED: Inside President Obama's White House