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Obama Calls for Bipartisan Efforts, but Criticizes GOP Posturing’

Though the partisan divide has closed little since he entered office vowing to bridge it, President Barack Obama tonight said he retains hope that he and Republicans can work together. Addressing “my Republican friends— during a prime-time news conference, Obama said, “I do want them to realize that my reach-out to them has been genuine.— Obama acknowledged that some of what divides him and the GOP amounts to differences of philosophy that cannot be resolved. But he argued that progress can be made by focusing on areas where there are shared goals, such as reducing medical malpractice rates. There are “going to be some differences,— he said, but there are “a whole host of other areas where we can work together.—But even as he reached out anew to Republicans, Obama was sharply critical of what he characterized as their unwillingness to put politics aside and to stop pushing a philosophy he said was rejected at the polls.Obama said Republicans should not expect him to “accept certain theories of theirs that for eight years didn’t work.— And he strongly implied that the GOP was putting politics first instead of seeking to help fix the country’s problems during a time of peril.“There is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place, even when we are in the middle of really big crises,— Obama said. “I would like to think that people would say, Let’s take a timeout on some of the political games.’— Addressing the big political story of the week, Obama reiterated that he was happy to welcome Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, saying it would free Specter to work with him on issues where the Pennsylvanian might have been constrained by Republicans, such as health care overhaul. But he said he did not now expect to be working with a “rubber stamp— Senate.“I’ve got Democrats who don’t agree with me on issues, and that’s how it should be,— he said, suggesting that some diverge from his views because they must respond to the voters’ demands in their states.In answering a question, Obama said former President George W. Bush’s administration sanctioned torture by allowing suspected terrorists in the custody of the United States to be waterboarded.Obama, after initially appearing to try to dodge the question, acknowledged what many Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying openly. “I believe that waterboarding was torture, and whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake,— he said.Obama said he is reviewing classified documents dealing with the information that was obtained from prisoners as a result of the “enhanced— interrogations documents former Vice President Dick Cheney has said would show that attacks against the United States were prevented as a result.Obama did not deny that this was so, but he said the documents do not prove that the information could not have been obtained in other ways. He added that they do not demonstrate that the country overall is safer as a result, noting that the practices had served as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida and impeded the cooperation of other countries with the United States in the battle against terror.The president said he had no regrets about ending the practices.Obama also rejected frequent criticism from the right that he wants to expand the role of government and take over private companies such as financial institutions or the automakers.“I don’t want to run auto companies, and I don’t want to run banks,— he said. “I’ve got two wars I’ve got to run already.—Obama also indicated he was not firm on completing legislation this year to change the nation’s immigration laws, saying he does not “have control of the legislative calendar— but that he would like to get the “process— moving this year.But the president said he does expect to sign legislation this year overhauling the financial system and wants to work to pass protections for credit card users as well. He also commended the House for passing the budget on Wednesday, calling it a blueprint that he supports. The Senate followed the House in approving the conference report on the $3.4 trillion budget.As he did in an appearance at the White House this morning with Specter, Obama sought to walk a careful line on the swine flu outbreak, calling it “a cause for deep concern, but not panic.— He justified his decision so far not to close the border with Mexico, saying public health officials had not recommended it and had told him it was already too late that it would amount to “closing the barn door after the horses are out.—

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