Obama on Meet the Press: President Cool About Fiscal Cliff Deadline, Wants to Push Heavy Gun Control

President Obama had a sit-down interview with Meet the Press host David Gregory on Saturday, an interview which aired Sunday morning.

In the interview, Obama spoke at length on the fiscal cliff — outlining both his strategy in this debate (tax the rich, help the middle class keep running as the engine of the economy) and his economic principles. He also spoke on gun control — giving hints at how Democrats would tackle the issue in the post-Newtown environment — as well as his cabinet fluctuations, the on-going Benghazi situation, and gave insights on how he wants to drive his second term.

With the fiscal cliff deadline imminent (Tuesday at 11:59 p.m.), the president made clear that, yes taxes would go up, but it was his prerogative to keep them from significantly impacting the middle class. Taxes will undoubetedly go up for the wealthy, but at what level is still unclear (the $200 million mark, the $400 million mark, etc.).

“Our top priority is that we can’t let taxes go up on middle class families or it will hurt the economy.”

[See full interview transcript here]

Still, it wasn’t do-or-die for the president in the interview. Obama was almost nonchalant about the situation, thinking that there would be a solution soon, and that if we went over the proverbial cliff that we would eventually get a deal.

The president did outline both his strategy in this debate, but also his wider economic schemes:

“There is a basic fairness that the American people understand. They rejected that the economy grows best from the top down, they believe it grows best from the middle class out,” Obama said.

“You are not only going to cut your way to prosperity” … the American people “elected me to achieve a balanced approach.”

“We grow an economy when … folks in the middle do well.”

The fiscal cliff will increase taxes on all Americans by $536 billion; $110 billion of spending cuts will be implemented and split between defense (a cut of 9%), and other social programs (a cut of 8%).

On Wednesday, when the markets open after the New Year holiday and no fiscal cliff solution has been made, it is expected that the Dow and American markets will plunge … a vote of no confidence by Wall Street  against a government that seems unable to compromise or even function. On Thursday, the 113th Congress will be sworn in and would be required to immediately figure out a fiscal cliff solution. On January 7, the 2.1 million Americans who have been relying on a federal extension of their state unemployment checks will find no checks in their mailboxes. On the first payday in 2013, January 15, Americans will find their paychecks 2% smaller due to the expiration of payroll cuts. By this point — if no deal has been made — the worst would be yet to come as the economy continues to spiral.

“What’s been holding us back is the dysfunction here in Washington,” Obama said. “What Congress needs to do is to prevent taxes from going up for the vast majority of Americans … If we’re serious about deficit cuts, we need to make sure the wealthy say a little bit more … I have put forth a deal that a majority of Americans would agree with.”

Obama has seen his popularity jump during the fiscal cliff debate.

According to the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, 55% of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance. Staggeringly Obama’s approval rating has been above 50% every day since the November 6 election. #Props.

The president clearly seems to have a majority of America on his side.

On gun control, Obama outlined that he would support something similar to the new Dianne Feinstein assault weapons ban, that Democrats would likely put forth early in the new Congress. As Mic reported in December 2012, Feinstein’s measure goes beyond its 1994 predecessor in a number of areas:

- It bans “120 specifically-named firearms”

- It lowers the threshold for qualifying assault weapons from having to have “two or more military-style characteristics,” like bayonet holders, to just “one military-style characteristic”

- It bans high-capacity magazines and targets assault weapons and handguns that have the capacity to carry more than 10 rounds

- It would require grandfathered-in owners of assault weapons to undergo background checks

It would also likely create a significant constitutional issue with the Second Amendment and inflame the pro-gun lobby, especially the NRA.

Still, Obama says: “Something fundamental in America has to change.”

Obama called the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre “the worst day of my presidency.”

There are 88 guns owned per 100 people in the United States (Yemen is second highest with 54.8 guns per 100 people). The National firearm death rate per 100,000 people in United States is 10.19 (2009).

Obama's Meet the Press appearance is his 11th on the show and second as president.

The president didn't sit for interviews on any of the Sunday public affairs shows while running for reelection in 2012. He last made the Sunday show rounds when pushing for health care reform in Sept. 2009.

The Huffington Post reports, "Meet the Press host David Gregory, who sparked controversy and prompted a Washington, D.C., police investigation after holding up an empty gun magazine during last Sunday's interview with National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre, returned from vacation in Kentucky to conduct the interview with the president. NBC News has not commented on the police investigation."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to remove language that was used without attribution to The Huffington Post. We apologize to our readers for this violation of our basic editorial standards. Mic has put in place new mechanisms, including plagiarism detection software, to ensure that this does not happen in the future.