By Dan Balz, Washington Post
President Obama’s Friday news conference did little to advance U.S. policy on Libya or clarify the White House’s position on resolving the budget impasse in Congress. The president nonetheless conveyed one unmistakable impression: He is now focused intently on winning back independent voters.
After brief comments on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the news conference was dominated by three topics: Libya, the budget and rising gasoline prices. Obama’s handling of each reinforced the perception that independent voters, who helped elect him and then defected to Republicans in 2010, are again clearly on his radar screen.
For those hungering for bolder leadership in the effort to force Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi from power, the president had little new to offer Friday. No option has been taken off the table, he said, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, but he sounded a cautionary note about the use of military force.
He argued that the steps the administration has taken are “slowly tightening the noose” around Gaddafi. But he continued to outline a course of careful diplomacy toward the North African country, in contrast to the more fulsome rhetorical support that he has voiced for democracy movements in the Middle East.
On the budget, Obama remained above the fray. He offered this advice: “Both sides are going to have to sit down and compromise on prudent cuts somewhere between what the Republicans were seeking that’s now been rejected and what the Democrats had agreed to that has also been rejected. Then, from that high-altitude perspective, he added: “It shouldn’t be that complicated.”
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