Obama: No "Jedi mind-meld" with Republicans

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 1, 2013 6:13pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions from the media after a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions from the media after a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington March 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, who said just days ago that he had no interest in playing a "blame game," spent much of a news conference on Friday pointing fingers at Republicans after last-ditch talks with congressional leaders failed to avert automatic spending cuts from kicking in later in the day.

Emerging from a nearly hour-long meeting and taking the podium in the White House briefing room, Obama displayed a combative style that has become his regular approach toward opponents since his decisive re-election victory in November.

Asked why he didn't just refuse to let congressional leaders leave the room until they had a deal, Obama told reporters: "I am not a dictator. I'm the president. So, ultimately, if (Senate Republican leader) Mitch McConnell or (Republican House of Representatives Speaker) John Boehner say, 'We need to go to catch a plane,' I can't have Secret Service block the doorway, right?"

Pressed on whether he was showing enough leadership - something Republicans say he has been lacking in the fiscal showdown - Obama mixed up his sci-fi references but made his point, nonetheless.

"I'm presenting a fair deal. The fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow do a 'Jedi mind-meld' with these folks and convince them to do what's right," he said, while offering no new ideas for resolving the bitter dispute.

Obama combined a reference to the "mind trick" sometimes used by Jedi on weak-minded adversaries in the "Star Wars" films with the "Vulcan mind meld" technique used by the "Star Trek" character Spock and others from his fictional planet Vulcan.

The president acknowledged that "this is not going to be an apocalypse" but he called the cuts "just dumb."

Obama's self-confidence - and his willingness to let things go over the edge, at least temporarily, in the latest fiscal battle - demonstrated what his aides have been saying for weeks.

He believes he's winning the public relations war and that Americans will put the lion's share of the blame on the Republicans for any economic pain and social hardship caused by failing to head off $85 billion in spending cuts due to start taking effect.

Republicans, for their part, insist Obama is exaggerating the potential impact of the cuts, but are seeking to avoid blame. McConnell, after the talks, called it "the president's across-the-board cuts" even though both sides agreed in 2011 to have these "sequestration" spending cuts go into effect if Obama and lawmakers failed to fashion another deficit-reduction plan.

But with lawmakers either heading out of town or already gone, Obama used the presidential soapbox on Friday to hammer home his points. He suggested that Republicans - who accuse him of continuing to campaign despite the election being long over - were driven, at least in part by entrenched hostility toward him still simmering after their election losses.

'PAINT HORNS ON MY HEAD'

"I recognize that it's very hard for Republican leaders to be perceived as making concessions to me," Obama said. "Sometimes, I reflect, 'Is there something else I could do to make these guys - I'm not talking about the leaders now, but maybe some of the House Republican caucus members - not paint horns on my head?'"

Obama wants Republicans to agree to eliminate tax loopholes enjoyed largely by the wealthy in order to help reduce the U.S. budget deficit. Republicans have ruled out raising taxes and want spending cuts instead.

Obama also took a shot at New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who endorsed the president in the 2012 election. Bloomberg, during a visit to the White House on Wednesday, suggested to reporters that the administration was hyping the warnings of dire consequences from sequestration.

Responding to that, Obama said the Defense Department was trying to figure out how to continue funding schools for the children of military families. He also said Border Patrol agents "out there in the hot sun" were facing a 10 percent pay cut.

"I don't think they feel like this is an exaggerated impact. So I guess it depends on where you sit," he said.

Obama's sci-fi reference caused a stir on the Internet.

His mashing-together of the Vulcan "mind meld" and the Jedi "mind trick" went viral, drawing an avalanche of commentary on Twitter from "Trekkies" and "Star Wars" fans eager to point out the mistake.

The White House, known for its use of social media, wasted little time joining in the fun. "We must bring balance to the Force," it tweeted along with a photo of a gesturing Obama. "To deny the facts would be illogical." "The Force" was a "Star Wars" reference, while Spock often called things illogical.

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock, weighed in on Twitter, saying: "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress."

(Additional Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Comments (15)
turtledove wrote:
In order for the mind meld to work the species it’s being used on would need to have a mind.

Mar 01, 2013 6:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
cyke1 wrote:
Funny Obama is playing the blame game when his party was responsible for the massive amount of debt we have is all on them. republican prez and democrat house/senate we had a 500billion debt, with democrat as prez it sky rocketed to 1.25 trillion. Democrat’s only thing spending more money is way outta problem. Here in Michigan we had a democrat gov every year the budget was fight, one last time the democrat was in office she wanted to use federal money to offset the deficit we had and just kick the can down the road and not solve the spending problem. Now re have a republican gov and budget was balanced in his first year on top of state starting to recover from years of going down hill, well before wall street screwed things up. Lesson here is, Throwing money at a problem is not the answer. Obama blames senate republicans for, Remind me again which party is in control of the Senate?

Mar 01, 2013 6:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RSaltyDog wrote:
This is dumb. Congress controls the purse strings. Money in, money out, spent on credit card, debt, and deficit. IF Congress has disagreed then each Representative/Senator can vote their conscience, their constituents voices, the lobbies, or whatever but in the end this is the problem of Congress. The only power from Obama is he can veto any spending. Even then Congress can override a veto with enough votes. Love/Hate Obama or Dem/GOP/TEA does not matter. Obama can agree to anything but it is never legal until Congress votes. Congess voted to this stupid thing and it is the mess of Congress. Personally I would like to see direct Democracy and dump Congress altogether. Way over paid for too little actions/results.

Mar 01, 2013 7:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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