What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Looking on to 2016, Obama makes fighting terror a priority for final year

In his year-end news conference, President Obama promised to target terror at home and abroad during his final year in office. But he also made an upbeat assessment, claiming successes on job growth and health care coverage signups, and praising Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for his work crafting the 2016 budget compromise. Judy Woodruff reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Back now to President Obama's final news conference of 2015. Today's session in the White House briefing room was a combination year-in-review and year-to-come.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    As I look back on this year, the one thing I see is that so much of our steady, persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It was an upbeat assessment from a president soon to enter his final year in office. He claimed a list of successes — among them, job growth and a surge of sign-ups for health care coverage — and he promised more to come.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    For all the very real progress America's made over the past seven years, we still have some unfinished business. And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as president, to deliver on behalf of the American people. Since taking this office, I have never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016, I'm going to leave it out all on the field.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    At the same time, Mr. Obama acknowledged the growing challenge of confronting terrorism at home and abroad, after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

    Even so, he vowed to defeat the Islamic State group.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    And we're going to do so by systematically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure.

    Now, in order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam. So, we can disable them, we can dismantle much of their infrastructure and greatly reduce the threat that they pose to the United States our allies and our neighbors. Our long term goal has to be to stabilize areas so that they don't have any safe haven. And in order for us to do that in Syria, there has to be an end to the civil war.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Today, in fact, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution that outlines a process for a limited cease-fire in Syria, and peace talks. The U.S. wants the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia supports him.

    But President Obama made clear Assad is still a central problem.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way. And I do think that you've seen from the Russians a recognition that after a couple of months, they're not really moving the needle that much, despite sizable deployment inside of Syria. And, of course, that's what I suggested would happen, because there is only so much bombing you can do when an entire country is outraged and believes that its ruler doesn't represent them.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The news conference also came just days after more than 190 nations reached a landmark deal on arresting climate change.

    The president brushed aside Republican opposition to the deal.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Right now, the American Republican Party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it's an outlier. So, my sense is, is this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short term politics in the Republican primary; it's not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long term.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On the other hand, the president praised Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan's work on crafting the 2016 budget compromise.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    It was a good win. And there are some things in there that I don't like, but that's the nature of legislation and compromise. And I think the system worked. That gives me some optimism that next year, on a narrow set of issues, we can get some more work done.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Later, the president and his family left Washington, en route to California and a meeting with families of the San Bernardino attack victims. From there, it's on to Hawaii for the holidays.

Listen to this Segment