America can't do it all.
That was the overarching message from a somber and occasionally weary-sounding President Barack Obama as he briefed reporters Friday on a cascade of global crises.
"Apparently, people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything around the world," the president said in response to a question from veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante about whether the U.S. – and Obama himself – had lost influence in the world.
Topping the list of affronts to world peace on Friday was the deteriorating situation in the Middle East after a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas collapsed "almost minutes," in Obama's words, after it began.
If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be released as soon as possible," Obama said.
The president condemned Hamas for its capture of an Israeli soldier and laid out how today's developments could be a huge hinderance to peace. A new ceasefire would be even more difficult because Israel cannot trust that Palestinian leaders would be able to enforce their end of it. While saying that more needed to be done to protect innocent civilians in Gaza, Obama strongly defended Israel's "right to defend itself" from constant rocket attacks. He also defended the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry to bridge the divide, and he said Kerry had been subject to "unfair criticism" for trying to forge peace.
But the president's words at the end of his statements responding to a Senate report on the "enhanced interrogation techniques" the CIA used on detainees in the weeks and months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 drew the most attention.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We tortured some folks," Obama said. "That needs to be understood and accepted, and we as a country need to take responsibility for that so we don’t do it again in the future."
After acknowledging that the intelligence agency spied on Senate computers in a breach of the separation of powers, he nevertheless stood by C.I.A. director John Brennan, who has come under heavy criticism.
"I have full confidence in John Brennan," Obama said, noting that Brennan had acknowledged the breach and apologized for it.
He also trumpeted the spate of rosy economic news, including announcements this week that the economy grew at an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter and the Friday report that showed the sixth consecutive month in which companies added more than 200,000 jobs.
The good news is the economy clearly is getting stronger," Obama said. "The engines are revving a little louder."
The president seemed to lament that the "booming" economy – a topic of relentless media attention in his first term – had suddenly become an afterthought with the world falling apart.
Obama chastised Republicans in the House for pursuing a border bill that he said was "the most extreme, the most unworkable version of a bill that is going nowhere."
And he acknowledged that with Congress unlikely to pass legislation, he would have to act on his own in August to try to resolve the migrant crisis at the Southern border. "While they’re out on vacation, I’m going to have to make some tough choice to meet the challenge, with or without Congress," Obama said.
The bill House Republicans are considering would provide far less than the $3.7 billion the president sought. "We've run out of money," Obama said bluntly. "I'm going to have to act alone."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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