After yesterday's mini-freakout over what exactly White House adviser David Axelrod told the Huffington Post
about President Obama's intention to cave to Republicans urging an extension of all
the Bush tax cuts -- not just those for middle class incomes -- Obama took time out of his swing through Asia to reiterate his opposition to the GOP plan.
"Here's the right interpretation -- I want to make sure that taxes don't go up for middle class families starting on January 1st. That is my number one priority for those families and for our economy." Obama told reporters gathered in Seoul, South Korea when asked about the Huffington Post
article, in which Axelrod appeared to suggest the White House was backing off its strong opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy.
"I also believe that it would be fiscally irresponsible for us to permanently extend the high income tax cuts," Obama said. "I think that would be a mistake, particularly when we've got our Republican friends saying that their number one priority is making sure that we are dealing with our debt and our deficit."
Still, Obama made it clear that he's willing to negotiate with Congressional leaders about what to do about the Bush tax cuts, which must be dealt with in this month's lameduck session before they all expire at the start of 2011. The president is set to meet with the leaders of both partisan caucuses in the House and Senate in the coming days, and told reporters in Seoul he expects to have a dialogue with them about the tax cuts.
"I continue to believe that extending, permanently, the upper-income tax cuts would be a mistake, and that we can't afford it," Obama told reporters, according to Politico's Mike Allen. Obama said he has "hope" the two sides of the debate can come to an agreement on the cuts.
"But I'm not going to negotiate here in Seoul," he said. "My job is to negotiate back in Washington, with Republican and Democratic leaders."
Watch Obama talk about tax cuts in Seoul in this CNN clip: