Obama: ‘I Am Not a Dictator - I’m the President’

By Melanie Arter | March 1, 2013 | 12:35pm EST

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama on Friday said he’s not a dictator in response to a reporter’s suggestion that he bring Republican and Democrat leaders together “and refuse to let them leave” until a deal is reached on the budget.

“I am not a dictator. I’m the president, so ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say, ‘We need to go to catch a plane,’ I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?” Obama said.

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“To your question what could you do, couldn’t you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?” a reporter asked the president at a White House press briefing on the sequester.

The sequester, which goes into effect Friday, refers to across-the-board budget cuts to defense and non-defense spending, after Congress failed to reach agreement on at least $1.2 trillion in spending reductions from the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“I understand, and I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree 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,” Obama said.

“Well, they’re elected. We have a constitutional system of government. The speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate and all those folks have responsibilities. What I can do is I can make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing,” the president said.

Obama said he could speak to the American people about the consequences of the decisions Congress is making or not making, “but ultimately, it’s a choice they make.”

“This idea that somehow there’s a secret formula or secret sauce to get Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say, ‘You know what, Mr. President, you’re right. We should close some tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts and programs we don’t need.’ I think if there was a secret way to do that, I would have tried it. I would have done it,” Obama said.

“What I can do is I can make the best possible argument, and I can offer concessions, and I can offer compromise. I can negotiate,” he said.

“I can make sure that my party is willing to compromise and is not being ideological or thinking about these just in terms of political terms, and I think I’ve done that and I will continue to do that, but what I can’t do is force Congress to do the right thing. The American people may have the capacity to do that,” he said.

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