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Live updates: Obama press conference

December 19, 2014

President Obama held his traditional end-of-the-year press conference at the White House on Friday afternoon.

  • Mark Berman
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President Obama said he thinks the recent conversation regarding race and policing in the United States is healthy.

“Obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York and a growing awareness in the broader population of what many communities of color have understood for some time,” he said. “And that is there are specific instances, at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.”

He cited a task force he had formed is supposed to report back in 90 days, not with abstract musings but with concrete things that police departments and other law enforcement agencies can implement.

“Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off than it was when I came into office,” Obama said.

He cited the jobs that have been created, pensions recovered and housing equity created. But the wealth gap between black and white Americans persists, he said.

“We have more work to do on that front,” he said.

Obama said that this has to do with the country’s troubled racial legacy, which is not an excuse, he said, but is a reason why it’s important to give black Americans access to early childhood education and help them graduate from high school.

  • Katie Zezima
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President Obama downplayed the benefits that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring to the United States.

Obama said the pipeline would take Canadian, not American, oil to the Gulf of Mexico. There would be a “nominal impact” on U.S. gas prices, he said.

“It’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers,” he said. “It’s good for the Canadian oil industry.”

  • Jose A. DelReal
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  • Colby Itkowitz
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The seven White House correspondents who asked questions at President Obama’s final press conference of the year were all women.

  • Mark Berman
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Obama said he still thinks there are opportunities to work together with the Republican leadership, though he said that can happen if they focus on areas of agreement.

“Are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree from others where we agree?” he said.

He said that both sides will “have to compromise” on issues in order for things to become laws, which means that both sides of the aisle will have to consider the other side’s stance.

  • Katie Zezima
  • ·

“We’re not at a stage where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards,” Obama said.

But the president said he is still a “fairly young man” and may get to the island one day.

  • Katie Zezima
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Obama said he doesn’t think that Cuba may still take actions that the U.S. believes are “deeply troubling.” Issues of civil society and human rights were major issues in the talks between the two countries.

But Obama said that is “true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.”

Obama also said that he doesn’t think Cuba will move to overturn the deal.

“We’re not at a stage where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.”

  • Colby Itkowitz
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President Obama said he and Cuban President Raul Castro didn’t speak much about Fidel Castro except for a joke about how Obama’s long-windedness paled compared to Fidel’s.

After Obama told that brief story he admitted that he’d forgotten the original questions.

  • Mark Berman
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  • Katie Zezima
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>Obama: &quot;Change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They have an economy that doesn’t work.”</p>&mdash; Katie Zezima (@katiezez) <a href=”https://twitter.com/katiezez/status/546021362557800448″>December 19, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

  • Jose A. DelReal
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  • Katie Zezima
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Obama said that House Speaker John Boehner and incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are “serious about wanting to get things done.” They include tax reform.

The president would like to see “more simplicity in the system” and more fairness. He would also like to see corporate tax reform, as some companies are paying 35 percent and others aren’t.

  • Jose A. DelReal
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The president, however, accidentally called actor James Franco,” James Flacco,” which lit up social media.

  • Mark Berman
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Obama spoke briefly to a reporter who said she is moving to Brussels to work for Politico.

In response, Obama offered this bit of media analysis: “I have no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.”

  • Jose A. DelReal
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  • Colby Itkowitz
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  • Mark Berman
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President Obama said Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a mistake” in opting to cancel the release of “The Interview,” the Seth Rogen movie that has been at the center of a massive cyberattack traced to North Korea.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said. “Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.”

Worse, he said, is the notion that people would self-censor themselves and not release something that could offend someone.

The Sony hack was the first thing asked of Obama at his end-of-the-year news conference, which came not long after the United States tied the attack to North Korea.

He also said the United States needs to work on improving its cyber-security laws, adding that he is sympathetic to Sony being hacked. He also said he wished Sony had spoken with him before canceling the release of “The Interview.”

“In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyberassaults both in the private sector and the public,” he said. “Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent these attacks from taking place.”

“That’s not who we are,” he said. “That’s what America is about.”

Obama said that the country planned to respond to North Korea’s actions in this situation.

“We will respond proportionally, and we will respond at a place and time that we choose,” he said.

  • Katie Zezima
  • ·

President Obama started off his news conference by touting gains in the economy, something he has been doing for the past few months. Obama said that 2014 has been the “strongest year for job growth since the 1990s,” He said wages are rising, and we’re in the midst of a 57-month job growth streak. However, Obama said more has to be done on a “deeper problem,” the “decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs.”

  • Mark Berman
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  • Jose A. DelReal
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