Obama's course: His answers to reporters sketch his next priorities

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President Barack Obama used his first press conference following re-election to lay out the positions he will take on major issues facing the United States at the start of his second term.

Top of the list was "the fiscal cliff," the jumble of taxes, budgets and debt facing Americans, that coupled with the persistent need for more job creation. Mr. Obama correctly put them together as one problem, calling them his top priority. He stressed his fundamental commitment, supported as he saw it by the election results, to watching out for the well-being of the middle class, both on jobs and taxes.

He then moved to the Washington topic of the day, the extracurricular adventures of two top military leaders: former Gen. David H. Petraeus, who resigned last week as CIA director after news of his affair with his biographer, and Afghanistan chief Gen. John R. Allen, whose confirmation as head of the U.S. European Command has been put on hold due to a probe of "flirtatious" emails with a woman who was a Petraeus family friend. The president took the safe position that while the FBI is investigating it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

Based on another conclusion drawn from the Nov. 6 election, Mr. Obama pledged early attention to immigration reform, referring to greater participation by Latino voters, most of whom supported him.

The president appeared to be touchy on the attacks by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice over information she had given on the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya. He said that their criticism of her for merely doing her job was "outrageous."

Mr. Obama also pledged attention to climate change in his second term, deemed recognition of Syrian rebels and provision of arms to them premature and reaffirmed his dedication to no nuclear arms for Iran.

The most important takeaway from the press conference was Mr. Obama's intention to attack these problems in a spirit of openness, compromise and responsiveness. He even acknowledged, with reference to his critics, that "I can always do better." It was a good start to Mr. Obama's second round.

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