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Obama agenda: Obama on Syria, NSA

Here’s President Obama’s interview with Charlie Rose. It ranged from Syria and Iran to China and the NSA.

On Syria: “We know what it’s like to rush into a war in the Middle East without having thought it through.”

On Iran: "I do think that there's a possibility that they decide - the Iranians decide - to take us up on our offer to engage in a more serious substantive way," Obama said.

On China: “We had a very blunt conversation about cyber security.”

On the NSA, Obama said it “cannot and have not” listened to phone calls and “not targeting” phone calls, emails unless they get a warrant.

Asked if the program should be transparent, Obama claimed, “It is transparent, that’s why we set up the FISA court.” (Depends on your definition of transparency then.) 

The Hill: “President Obama defended his administration’s domestic surveillance programs on Monday, arguing he has not abandoned freedom and is not just ‘Bush-Cheney lite.’ In an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, Obama argued it’s a ‘false choice’ to suggest freedom must be sacrificed to achieve security, a phrasing that echoes comments he made on the campaign trail in 2008. ‘To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom,’ Obama said.” 

Obama defended U.S. action (or inaction) in Syria, per NBC’s Mike O’Brien: “[T]his argument that somehow we had gone in earlier, or heavier in some fashion, that the tragedy and chaos taking place in Syria wouldn’t be taking place, I think is wrong.”

The Hill: “President Obama failed on Monday to resolve disagreements with Russian leader Vladimir Putin about the proper international response to Syria's civil war.

Obama vowed after the two-hour meeting to not let his “differing perspectives” with Putin get in the way of closer cooperation on counter-terrorism, arms control and other issues.”

“President Barack Obama brought a campaigner’s mindset to the White House — but the roll-out of Obamacare marks the first time he’s adapted his campaign’s groundbreaking grassroots tactics to the task of turning policy into reality,” Politico writes. “A trio of Obama’s most experienced campaign operatives — one in the West Wing, two others in outside groups closely allied with Obama — are overseeing an effort to ensure that the Affordable Care Act, the president’s biggest legacy project, doesn’t turn into the failure the GOP predicts it will be.”

David Hawkings: “States may not demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote, the Supreme Court ruled by a decisive 7-2 today. The majority signaled it would also be ready to strike down any requirement tougher than what’s set out in the 1993 federal “motor voter” law, which was designed by Congress to simplify registration. The decision, and the language behind it, is therefore a significant victory for mainstream Democrats, who want to expand access to the polls in part because they’re confident they’ll win most of the new voters. And it’s a defeat for mainstream Republicans, who express intense concern about the potential for election fraud but also know that polls show them doing poorly among groups underrepresented on the rolls — ethnic minorities, immigrants and older people.”

The court reconvenes Thursday and has 14 more decisions to hand down dealing with issues ranging from gay rights to affirmative action to voting rights.

But Ted Cruz says he’s not giving up the fight. In a tweet after the decision: “I'll file amendment to immigration bill that permits states to require ID before registering voters & close this hole in fed statutory law.” 

“The White House is reporting progress on President Barack Obama’s initiatives to reduce gun violence, but says the most important step would be getting a reluctant Congress to pass new firearms laws,” AP writes. “Vice President Joe Biden was announcing Tuesday that the administration has completed or significantly advanced 21 of the 23 executive actions that Obama ordered in January in response to the Connecticut elementary school shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six staff members.”