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David Ono interviews President Barack Obama

ABC7 anchor David Ono got an exclusive interview with President Barack Obama at the White House.
July 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
ABC7's David Ono sat down with President Barack Obama for a one-on-one interview Wednesday to discuss the apparent breakdown of civility in government, same-sex marriage, California's budgetary crisis, as well as the pressing issue of jobs.

ABC7 was the only TV station in Los Angeles invited to the White House.

The apparent breakdown of civility in government

The issue of civility in government went front and center last week when ABC News' Cokie Roberts eulogized former first lady Betty Ford in Palm Desert, saying "Mrs. Ford wanted me to remind everyone of the way things used to be in Washington."

"I think it was a great message to send," Obama said. "I've always said we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable, that we shouldn't be questioning each other's motives, and most importantly, we should remind ourselves why we are in this town, which is to help the people who sent us here. I do think that this slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners, no-compromise, no-matter-what approach to politics is one of the reasons why Congress has such a difficult time getting things done."

Obama said the language that's used, the way campaigns are run and the demonization of the other side has broken down some of the trust in Washington.

"The American people expect us to rebuild it and I think there are still some people here who want to do the right thing and aren't just looking to score political points," he said.

Job growth in California

The issue of jobs is a major concern in California, as it is in other parts of the country. According to a May report by the Bureau of Labor Statistic, California's jobless rate is the worst in the country after Nevada's.

Mayors, governors and Obama have discussed job stimulation and growth, but progress has stalled. Many Californians are out of work and they're losing hope.

Obama said the first thing that needs to be done is get the fiscal house in order, which could be done over the next several weeks.

"If we have a plan to get that done, then the next step is looking at bolder plans like infrastructure, for example," the president said. "Putting people to work, rebuilding. Not just our roads and bridges, but also broadband lines, high-speed rail, putting all those construction workers that used to be in housing to work, rebuilding California and rebuilding America. That can have huge ripple effects.

"The last thing we have to do is we have to make sure we are investing in the research and development and training our workers for the jobs of the future: thinking about clean energy jobs, making sure the solar panels and the wind turbines and the electric cars are built here in the United States, built in California. All that can help in terms of moving us forward."

Overcoming California's budgetary crisis

California is facing a massive budgetary crisis. According to the California State Treasurer, the state's credit rating is worse than Mexico's.

The treasurer predicts California will need another $5 billion in loans to make up for the money the federal government will not be able to give the state. If the deadline isn't met, California and other states that are suffering equally will need to figure out how to stay afloat.

Obama said lawmakers at the state and federal level need to figure out how to consolidate and eliminate programs that are not needed while still investing in programs that are crucial.

"What made California the envy of the world was the greatest education system in the world," Obama said. "The best public education system, best public university system, that money has been drained away and those school systems have really gotten strained. So what I encourage states and local officials to think about is, what are the things you can't do without but make sure you are still investing in those things that are going to help us win the future?

The president said raising the debt ceiling is necessary.

"The full faith and credit of the United States of America is at stake," he said. "We've always been an AAA-rated nation. The dollar is the reserve currency of the world. If we do not solve this problem in a serious way, you can potentially see a downgrading of U.S. credit, which would mean potential interest rate hikes for everybody, whether you are trying to get a car loan or your credit card. It also would add interest costs that would actually worsen the deficit. It doesn't make sense for us not to do it.

"We intend to get this done. I'm going to keep members of Congress here for as long as it takes to get it done."

Obama's stance on same-sex marriage

The issue of marriage equality is still mired in legal challenges in California. The Obama administration signaled its desire to support California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage between a man and a woman.

While he supports same-sex marriage, Obama was reluctant to give his full endorsement.

"I believe in the notion that everybody should be treated equally and fairly in this society, that everybody should have the full protections of the law," the president said. "I have not made the leap and I have not made news - and I probably won't today - on fully endorsing same-sex marriage.

"What I've said is this is something the states should be making decisions about and the federal government, which traditionally has not been involved in this, has no business meddling here. What we've seen in New York for example is a healthy debate and that state made what I think was a decision that everybody should be supportive of. They've decided in that state that this was the right thing to do and I think that's the best approach to take."


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