President Obama held his first full news conference of 2012 just as Republicans held their Super Tuesday primaries, using his powerful perch to announce new initiatives to help homeowners with government-insured loans and members of the military facing possible foreclosure. Obama also fielded questions from reporters on everything from the prospect of war in Iran to the outcry over Rush Limbaugh's hostile remarks toward a law school student. Here, four highlights:
1. Obama's chastisement of the GOP on Iran
Obama really took Republicans to task for what he called the "casualness" of their talk of war with Iran, says Jennifer Epstein at Politico. Obama rejected suggestions that the U.S. has to spring to action within a few weeks or months to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, saying that timetable "is not borne out by the facts." While conservatives beat war drums, Obama said, "I think about the costs ... This is not a game. There's nothing casual about it." That's smart politics, says Alexander Burns at Politico, and makes Obama look like "the restrained one in the conversation on Iran." Clearly, his team thinks "voters would rather have a president who sounds deliberate about the use of military force" than one who reflexively just "stakes out the toughest position."
2. His coy handling of the Limbaugh controversy
Prodded by the press about the controversy embroiling the conservative talk radio host — which flared up after Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student a "slut" for supporting Obama's insurance mandate for contraception coverage — the president said, "I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart, so I'm not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology." Good move, says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. This lets Obama "position himself as above the fray" while "other Democrats go on the attack." Are you kidding? says Sally Zelikovsky at The American Thinker. Obama and the Left are shamefully and obviously exploiting the issue for political gain.
3. Obama's cozying up to women voters
When a reporter asked if Obama thinks Republicans are waging a "war on women" by opposing his contraception coverage policy, Obama diplomatically said women's votes don't hinge on any single issue, says Pema Levy at Talking Points Memo. However, the president was quick to note that "Democrats have a better story to tell to women" than Republicans do. Either way, Obama is clearly working hard to win over women, says Major Garrett at National Journal. In both "overt and subtle ways," Obama tried "to hit close to home with women voters concerned about their rights, their health care, and the future use of U.S. military power."
4. His ulterior motives
Let's be honest, says Liz Peek at Fox News: Obama clearly wanted to "steal the limelight" from the GOP as its presidential candidates square off on Super Tuesday. "The president's intentional raining on the GOP parade" proves he's already in "full campaign mode," and Obama knows Super Tuesday will put his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, a step closer to the nomination. Clearly, the Democrat just wanted to start framing the debate before he's in a one-on-one contest.