RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – This is a transcript of President Barack Obama’s exclusive interview with WAVY.com’s Andy Fox:
Q: How important is Virginia in this election?
President: “If we win Virginia then we will win the election. I believe that.”
Q: You want to cut the military and that means jobs lost and that hurts Hampton Roads, where I come from. What do you want to say about that?
President Obama: “Well the truth is, actually, the military has gone up enormously since 2001, and rightfully so, we obviously had two wars. And part of our military strength is making sure we’re economically strong as well, so as part of a package, democrats and republicans agreed to reductions more on the non-defense side, but some modest changes the reflected a shifting strategy as these two wars wind down. But when you look at what the defense budget is going to look like, it is still going to be robust. Effectively we are still maintaining all of our key components to our national defense, and this will shape as a strategy by our joint chiefs of staff. So in terms of economic impact in Virginia, we anticipate that as long as the sequester doesn’t go through, that we will continue to have a strong, stable military presence and operations here in Virginia, but the sequester is a genuine concern.”
Q: So you do not think jobs will be lost in Hampton Roads – due to military cuts?
President Obama: “I do not think that unless the sequester goes through, that you’ll see the kind of economic impact that some people are talking about, but I do think that it is very important to understand this debate around the sequester. Congress agreed that they want to make $1.2 trillion worth of cuts and a big chunk of that is defense. Now, what we’ve said is, if you were willing, Republicans, to ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more, then we don’t have to worry about these Draconian defense cuts. On the other hand, if we are not getting any new revenues, then everybody is going to be hurting, so what I’ve called on Congress to do is let’s make sure that taxes don’t go up for folks making $250,000 a year or less. For folks like me who can afford it, we can do a little more and in part that allows us to both reduce our deficit and maintain a strong military.”
Q: Do you support another BRAC closing bases, possibly hurting Hampton Roads?
President Obama: “You know, I don’t think now is the time for BRAC, we just went through some base closings and the strategy that we have does not call for that.”
Q: You said if you’re willing to work hard, then you can find a job. But on your watch, people are working hard and they still can’t find jobs, because they don’t have jobs. What responsibility of that is yours?
President Obama: “Well, look, as President I’m always responsible for everything, to some degree, and we’ve gone through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We’re still working our way out of that. We’ve created 4.4 million jobs, 500 manufacturing jobs – 500, 000 manufacturing jobs and so we’re moving in the right track and Virginia’s unemployment rate is obviously lower than the rest of the country’s, but what is absolutely true is that we’ve got more work to do and the choice in this election is going to be what’s going to most likely build the kind of middle class opportunities that all of us want. And you’ve got Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress who say an additional $5 trillion in tax cuts is what would make that happen. I believe that keeping taxes low for the middle class but then also investing in education, changing our tax code so that we are helping companies that are investing here in Virginia as opposed to companies that are investing overseas, making sure we’re rebuilding our infrastructure, putting construction workers back to work who have been hard hit with the housing bubble going bust. All those things are what are going to make sure that we’ve got a strong middle class in this country.
Q: Your campaign has criticized Romney and Bain Capital outsourcing jobs, which increases unemployment. You have been criticizing him for that, but he says that did not happen on his watch at Bain and he’s asked for you to apologize. Will you apologize and if not, why not?
President Obama: “Because the issue here… is… (Andy: “So you won’t be apologizing?”) No, we won’t be apologizing and you know, sometimes these games are played during political campaigns. Understand what the issue is here. Mr. Romney claims he is Mr. Fix It for the economy because of his business experience, and so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know well what exactly was that business experience? And as the head of a private equity firm, his job was to maximize profits, help wealthy investors. There’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, that company also was investing in companies the Washington Post called pioneers of outsourcing. And he’s now claiming ‘well I wasn’t there at the time’, except he files an SEC listing that says he was the CEO, Chairman and President of the company. So, as President of the United States, one of the things I’ve learned, and we just talked about was anything that happens on my watch is my responsibility. That’s what people expect. Harry Truman said the buck stops with me and I think understandably people are going to be interested in, you know, are you responsible for this company that you say is one of your primary calling cards for wanting to be president.”
Q: You talked yesterday and today about all the negative campaign ads on TV and you speak about the disconnect voters have because of these negative ads, these negative Romney ads. But you, sir, also have a lot of ads out there. Your critics would say that’s hypocritical, that you’ve got just as many negative ads as they do.
President Obama: “You know, here’s the challenge that we have. Because of the Citizens United decision, we’ve had outside groups that have been running tens of millions of dollars of ads against me for the last three and a half years. They didn’t even wait for the campaign to start running. Part of the reason a lot of people don’t know that our healthcare bill for example, if you’ve got health insurance, you don’t have to do anything. All we’re doing is making your healthcare is more secure. The reason people don’t know that is because we were outspent 10 to one on negative ads against the healthcare law. So our job in the campaign is to raise the issues. And if you look at all our advertising, what we’re focused on is this contrast between two visions. And ultimately the way democracy is going to work is people are going to ask themselves which vision do I prefer? And you don’t hear me complaining a lot about what’s been said about me and Lord knows what’s been said about me in the last three and a half years, I understand that the nature of our democracy has always been a little messy like this but the central core message of our campaign in every advertisement is how do you build a strong middle class and how do you make sure that people who work hard and are doing the responsible thing are able to succeed and I believe we’ve got a strong vision to deliver that.”
Q: Romney appeared before the NAACP and talked about Obamacare, and he got booed, Mr. Romney did. What did you think when you heard that?
President Obama: “It didn’t sound like it was too severe and my understanding is someone on his campaign said ‘we expected that.’ You know… (Andy: “Is that not knowing your audience?”) No, you know that… (Andy: “Or what that the intent?”) Well, you know I think the truth is that I’m glad to see he’s competing for every vote just like I am. I think that’s the way it should work. I don’t think any constituency is a lock for anybody and I go into neighborhoods and communities where I know I’m probably not going to get the majority of the vote. I’m glad to see he’s doing the same thing. That serves our voters and that’s what this election’s all about.”
Q: I’m reading Team of Rivals. What is the best quality that you have of Lincoln, your old friend Lincoln from Illinois. What is the best quality you have?
President Obama: “Well, you know, here’s a good rule. As President of the United States you generally don’t compare yourself to the best president we ever had.”