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President Obama: “We’ve got as stark a choice as you could imagine”

At a town hall discussion in Cincinnati’s Music Hall, President Obama talked about the fundamental differences between himself and Mitt Romney—and how he hopes to change the tone in Washington in his second term.

Audience member: Given how divided the country is, if elected, how do you plan to try to unite everyone?

President Obama: Well, I'll be honest, sometimes people ask me what's my disappointment since I've come into office. And obviously, we're always trying to grow the economy faster, put people back to work faster. But one of the disappointments I've had is that we have not changed the tone in Washington the way I wanted to.

Now, part of this just has to do with the fact that the other side had a basic political theory after I got elected—and this is not my opinion. I mean, this has been said by the leader of the Senate minority in Washington. And the basic theory was, “You know what, we kind of screwed things up; Obama is really popular right now. If we cooperate with him, then he'll get credit, so we're better off just saying no. And if we do that, then over time folks will forget the mess he inherited and we can go after him, and hopefully that will help our politics.” Again, this is not my theory. This is explicitly their strategy.

What's true is also we've got, as I said, two different visions about how to move the country forward. But my hope is that this election allows us to, once and for all, resolve some of the bigger questions about how we move the country forward—because right now we've got as stark a choice as you could imagine. I believe in investing in education and transportation and science and research, and bringing down our deficits in a balanced way, and changing our tax code to make sure that companies that are investing here are doing better.

Mr. Romney has the opposite view on almost all those positions. On things like “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” Mr. Romney wants to reverse my position. On issues like immigration, I believe in comprehensive immigration reform. He does not. On issues related to women, I believe that Planned Parenthood does a lot of good, and that women should be able to control their own health care decisions. He does not.

On Iraq, he said me ending the war was "tragic." I said I think it was the right thing to do. On Afghanistan, I imposed a deadline, a timetable for when we're going to bring our troops home. He wants to extend their stay indefinitely. So on all these issues, we've got just profound differences.

Now, you guys ultimately are the arbiters of this disagreement. And in this election, if the American people decide, you know what, we want to try what Mr. Romney is offering …

No, I mean, that's the great thing about democracy, is people can vote and make up their minds. And so, if that's the case, then you can count on Mr. Romney implementing the plan that he and the Republicans in Congress have put forward. So $5 trillion in tax cuts, massive cuts in a lot of the programs that are so important, from my perspective, to growing the economy—those will be eliminated. Medicare will be voucherized. They will implement what they say they're going to implement.

But if I'm elected, not only do I think that we'll be able to continue the progress that we've made over the last three and a half years, I actually think that a lot of Republicans, since this will be my last election, they will not be as interested in just beating me, and maybe they’ll be more interested in moving the country forward. That's my hope.


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