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Obama closes 2014 with remarks on Cuba, North Korea

December 19, 2014 at 6:50 PM EDT
In a year-end news conference, President Obama discussed reestablishing ties with Cuba, the North Korean cyber-attack against Sony Pictures and race relations in America. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama said today that the United States would respond proportionally and at time of its choosing to the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The FBI confirmed this morning that North Korea was behind the attack on the company.

Mr. Obama spoke on that and other issues at a year-end news conference.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: It was a year-end review dominated by the events of one week. As the fallout continued from the Sony hacking scandal, and the studio’s decision to cancel the release of the movie about assassinating North Korea’s leader, the president weighed in.

BARACK OBAMA: Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would’ve told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Without divulging specifics, he said the U.S. will respond to the attack.

Mr. Obama also discussed his move to reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba. He acknowledged the country’s regime still oppresses its people, but did find room for optimism.

BARACK OBAMA: What I know deep in my bones is that if you have done the same thing for 50 years and nothing’s changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome. And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: His action on Cuba was just the latest instance of Mr. Obama’s using the power of the executive. Last month, he acted to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Both moves enraged Republicans, who will control both houses of Congress come January.

Despite their differences, and the gridlock that has gripped Washington for much of his tenure, the president said he still believes cooperation is still possible.

BARACK OBAMA: We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement, and we have got to be able to make that happen. And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame-duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama took just a handful of questions, and only from women reporters, including one on race relations in America. It comes as the nation deals with anger over grand jury decisions in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, not to indict white police officers in the killing of two black men.

The president says the country’s made progress, but work remains.

BARACK OBAMA: I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we have had. These are not new phenomena. The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been in the past stories passed on around the kitchen table allows people to, you know, make their own assessments and evaluations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president left tonight for his family’s Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

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