News Wrap: Obama Tackles Iran, Campaign Issues in Super Tuesday News Conference
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama took on his Republican opponents today,on foreign policy, gas prices and other issues. He spoke at a White House news conference called to coincide with Super Tuesday.
NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.
KWAME HOLMAN: At times the president took a tongue-in-cheek approach to his challengers on their big day.
QUESTION: Today is Super Tuesday, so I wonder if you might weigh in on some of your potential Republican opponents.
Mitt Romney has criticized you on Iran and said, “Hope is not a foreign policy.” He also said that you are “America’s most feckless president since Carter.”
What would you like to say to Mr. Romney?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good luck tonight.
QUESTION: No, really.
BARACK OBAMA: Really.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Mr. Obama turned serious on Republican demands for military action against Iran’s nuclear program. He said they’re beating the drums of war, but don’t understand the costs.
BARACK OBAMA: This is not a game. And there’s nothing casual about it.
And, you know, when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but 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.
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.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president also ridiculed suggestions by some Republicans that he wants gas prices to move higher still to promote alternative energy.
BARACK OBAMA: Just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher?
I want gas prices lower because they hurt families, because I meet folks every day who have to drive a long way to get to work, and them filling up this gas tank gets more and more painful and it’s a tax out of their pocketbooks.
KWAME HOLMAN: Reporters also asked about Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a slut because she backed insurance coverage of birth control. Mr. Obama declined to question Limbaugh’s apology. Instead, he said there’s a larger political point.
BARACK OBAMA: And there are millions of strong women around the country who are going to make their own determination about a whole range of issues.
It’s not going to be narrowly focused just on contraception. It’s not going to be driven by one statement by one radio announcer.
But I believe that Democrats have a better story to tell to women about how we’re going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy, make sure everybody got — has a fair shot, everybody’s doing their fair share, and we got a fair set of rules of the road that everybody has to follow.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today’s Super Tuesday news conference was the president’s first of the year.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street took it on the chin today. It was partly due to new worries about Greece getting private investors to accept terms of a European bailout. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 203 points to close at 12,759. The Nasdaq fell 40 points to close at 2,910.
Hours before President Obama spoke today, Iran agreed to let U.N. inspectors visit a major military site. The announcement said both sides still have to agree on guidelines. The Parchin complex had previously been off-limits, and U.N. officials have said secret work on nuclear weapons may be under way there.
Also today, six world powers agreed to resume nuclear talks with Iran.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, made the announcement in Helsinki, Finland.
CATHERINE ASHTON, European Union: On behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, I have offered to resumed talks with Iran. We hope that we will be able to now pursue with Iran constructive engagement, with the purpose of addressing the international community’s concerns about the nuclear program.
HARI SREENIVASAN: There was no word on a date or venue for the nuclear talks.
Eight women are suing the U.S. military, alleging they were raped, assaulted or harassed while in service. The plaintiffs are all current or former members of the Navy and Marine Corps. They say they suffered retaliation after reporting incidents to their superiors. Their federal lawsuit, filed today, accused military officials of showing a high tolerance for sexual predators.
Five top members of the computer hacking group known as LulzSec were charged today in federal court in New York. The FBI said the ringleader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, pleaded guilty to various charges last year and began working as an informant. The five others are accused of crimes ranging from stealing information to defacing the websites, including those of the PBS NewsHour, credit card firms, and others.
Democratic Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey died today of colon cancer. He was first elected in 1988, and served 12 terms in the House, representing the Newark area. Payne had chaired the Congressional Black Caucus and dealt extensively in U.S.-Africa policy. Donald Payne was 77 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.