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Obama Talks Sequester With Local Media Outlets

President Barack Obama launched a local media pushback against the defense sequester in a set of interviews Monday.

Obama addressed the effects of scheduled military budget cuts in a series of coordinated interviews with local media outlets in defense-focused neighborhoods.

In an interview Monday with the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, Obama indicated he remained optimistic that a deal will be reached to avert the across-the-board spending reductions required by the 2011 law that raised the debt limit.

“The numbers work as long as each side recognizes they’ve both got to give. Democrats have to understand we’re going to need some additional spending cuts, and Republicans have to understand we’re going to need some additional revenues,” Obama told the newspaper.

Realistically, however, there are not enough session days in Congress to get the deal done before the November elections, Obama said.

“My sense is it will get done,” Obama told Virginia TV station WVEC. “Two out of three Republicans voted for this law setting up sequestration.”

Many Republicans have resisted the repeated calls by Democrats for new revenue to contribute to the debt deal. At the same time, GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) have held town hall meetings around the country to warn of the consequences of the sequester on military readiness.

McCain and Ayotte responded to Obama late Monday, reiterating their call for him to take the lead on working to avoid the defense cuts before November.

“President Obama either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the devastating impact that the defense cuts under budget sequestration will have on our national defense, which right now are set to kick in on January 2nd of next year,” Ayotte and McCain said in a joint statement.

“The responsibility to avert this crisis is shared, and the time to negotiate a solution is now – not after the November election. Among our biggest obstacles to doing so is the President’s failure to lead. President Obama signed into law the legislation that put into place the cuts slated to occur on January 2nd. He has a solemn responsibility – and duty – as Commander in Chief to help devise a solution that averts this disaster and protects our nation’s security,” the Senators added.

McCain held a town hall meeting Monday at a facility in Tucson, Ariz., operated by the defense contractor Raytheon Co. McCain voted in favor of the debt limit deal, while Ayotte opposed it.

The House passed a bill before departing for the August recess that would replace the current sequester cuts with reductions in domestic spending.

Reporters from television stations in San Diego, Calif., and Jacksonville Fla., also interviewed Obama on Monday. Those media markets have large Navy installations.

Both the Virginia newspaper and TV station spoke with Obama about a former Navy SEAL who has been critical of the administration releasing too many details about the raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Obama dismissed those concerns, telling WVEC that some have criticized him for being too aggressive in cracking down on leakers. Under Obama, the Justice Department has used the 1917 Espionage Act to try to prosecute those involved in leaking classified information.

“I don’t take these folks too seriously. One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You’ve got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election,” he told the newspaper.

Obama made an appearance in the White House press briefing room Monday afternoon to defend changes to Medicare and tout benefits of the Affordable Care Act for seniors. Republicans have pledged, and voted numerous times this Congress, to repeal the health care law.

The president then answered a few questions from reporters on topics ranging from campaign advertising to Syria.

Obama has been criticized and mocked for granting interviews primarily to local and entertainment media outlets, including Entertainment Tonight and People magazine, but those publications can reach different audiences from traditional Washington insider publications and the Sunday morning talk shows.

Asked by CNN whether Obama’s re-election campaign viewed entertainment media as “more important” than the Washington press corps, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said the campaign gave the different mediums equal weight.

“I don’t think that they’re more important, but I think they are equally important. I think that’s where … a lot of Americans get their news. And I think the president is going to continue doing that,” Cutter said Sunday.

Cutter also stressed that Obama talks to local reporters on the campaign trail.

“The president was talking to reporters on the ground in Iowa. Do you think that that is less important than talking to somebody like you?” Cutter said. “Everywhere that the president goes he is talking to reporters.”

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