Sybil Wilkes: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: Some to programs that I would have liked to have kept. But I understand we’ve all got to make some sacrifices when it comes to deficit reduction. We’ve all got to recognize that some of our — the programs that we have out there don’t work.
Tom Joyner: How far apart are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think that — once Republicans agree to let the tax rates go up on the top 2 percent, like I talked about during the campaign, like the majority of Americans agreed to, once we do that, then I think we can get a deal.
Sybil Wilkes: Could that happen within the next couple of weeks before the end of the year?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sometimes in this town folks like to leave things to the last minute; but when it starts getting close to their Christmas vacation, then things open up. But we’ll see. I mean the one thing I will not compromise on is I’m not going to have the burden of deficit reduction borne by seniors –
Sybil Wilkes: On the backs of –
THE PRESIDENT: — who suddenly are paying higher Medicare, or students who are paying higher rates on their student loans while millionaires are keeping their tax breaks. That’s just not fair.
I am now in a position, as you are, Tom, we’ve had great, good fortune in our lives because a lot of people helped us along the way. We’ve been successful. We can afford to pay a little bit extra — a few thousand dollars extra — in order to make sure that that young person coming up behind us is getting the same opportunities we do.
Tom Joyner: Yes, I’m in.
THE PRESIDENT: And that’s — yes, and most people. And so why this is so difficult is sometimes puzzling to me, but we’re just going to keep on at it until we get it done.
Tom Joyner: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Sybil Wilkes: Are you going to nominate Susan Rice for Secretary of State?
THE PRESIDENT: The truth of the matter is that I haven’t made a decision on Secretary of State, and I’m going to make it on the substance. But what I don’t like is when somebody is singled out, like Susan, who has done an outstanding job on behalf of this country and who has carried the banner for America in the U.N., I don’t like her integrity or her capabilities questioned; particularly when of all of us here in the White House, she probably had the least to do with what happened in Libya and Benghazi than anybody else. So I just don’t like folks being treated unfairly.
I’ll make a separate decision about who is going to be Secretary of State, but regardless of whether I do or do not nominate her, I’m going to make sure that people know that she has done an outstanding job and represented America well.
Tom Joyner: Well, you got Syria now to deal with.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, listen, unlike winning the NBA championship or the NFL championship, when you win, you don’t go to Disneyland. (Laughter.) You come back to the office and –
Tom Joyner: Get right back to work.
THE PRESIDENT: — you got this big inbox full of stuff. (Laughter.)
But the main thing I wanted to do, let everybody know, put some pressure on your members of Congress — Democrat and Republican — tell them. In fact, if you tweeted you can use the hash tag #my2k. If you’re not tweeting, just get on — send an email or write a letter or make a phone call and just tell folks, the easiest thing we can do right now is extend the tax cuts for middle-class families so that 98 percent of Americans have certainty that their taxes don’t go up on January 1st.
If we at least get that piece done, then this whole fiscal cliff thing is not that scary. What gets scary is if suddenly everybody is seeing their money out of pocket, and consumers stop going to buy a car or buy an appliance or the other things that help drive our economy. That’s the thing that we have to really avoid. That’s what we have to watch out for.
Tom Joyner: All right.“
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. And listen, once again, I couldn’t be more grateful to you and all the folks who are listening because I know that you guys really invested a lot in my capability to serve for another four years. And I’m humbled by that and grateful. I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday.
Tom Joyner: Merry Christmas, sir.
Sybil Wilkes: Happy holiday to you too and the family.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, guys.
Tom Joyner: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: Bye-bye.
Tom Joyner: Bye.