U.S. President Barack Obama said at his year-end press conference Friday he has no intentions of slowing down as he enters the fourth quarter of his presidency following a string of controversial executive actions. “At last year’s end-of-the-year news conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and a breakthrough year for America, and it has been,” Obama said during the televised press conference in the White House Friday afternoon, before embarking on his two-week family vacation in Hawaii.
Obama touted job growth, shrinking deficits, global leadership, booming energy and a growing economy as part of his 2014 accomplishments. It’s been a busy six weeks since his last news conference on Nov. 5, the day after the midterm elections in which Republicans took back the Senate. Despite flak from Republicans in Congress, Obama has taken aggressive action on front-burner issues.
Obama announced a monumental move Wednesday to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility with the island nation. The U.S. will open an embassy in Havana for the first time in decades. “Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” Obama said in a televised address this week. “Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past.” Congressional Republicans have blasted Obama for using executive authority to lift the embargo on Cuba, which has been listed by the U.S. as a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1982. Obama said Friday that he remains concerned about human rights issues in the island country, noting that Cuba is "still a regime."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Friday the North Korean government was responsible for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which resulted in the canceled release of “The Interview,” a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Obama said Friday Sony “made a mistake” by pulling the satirical movie from theaters without first consulting with his administration.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said at the press conference. “That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”
Obama said the White House is planning a “proportional response” to the hack “in a place and time and in a manner that we choose.” However, North Korea’s U.N. mission has denied involvement in the attack.
Obama is expected to face tough opposition from the GOP-controlled chamber next year after his Nov. 20 executive actions on immigration reform, in which he decided to act unilaterally to increase law enforcement personnel at the borders, make it easier and faster for immigrants who are educated and entrepreneurs to stay, and address the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. “If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his address to the nation on immigration.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania recently ruled the president’s Nov. 20 actions “unconstitutional,” and 24 U.S. states have signed a pending lawsuit against Obama, claiming the are illegal and exceed his authority.
While congressional Republicans are angry with Obama over his executive actions, “they are serious about getting some things done,” the president said Friday, including taking action on tax reform and the war on the Islamic State group. The Obama administration has asked Congress for authorization to use military force and an additional $5.6 billion in military funding against the Islamic militants. “We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement,” Obama said of Congress at the press conference Friday. “That’s going to involve compromise every once in a while.”
Obama gave no indication of softening his recently aggressive style during his last two years in the Oval Office. “I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years,” he said Friday. “I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.”