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Obama, Republicans swap barbs, ideas in meeting

Associated Press | 2/3/2010, 4:04 a.m.

“It was the kind of discussion that we frankly need to have more of,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.

“I’m having fun, this is great,” Obama said when Pence asked if he had time for more questions.

“So are we,” said Pence.

Some Republicans prefaced their questions with lengthy recitations of conservative talking points. The president sometimes listened impassively but sometimes broke in.

Obama, a former law school professor, launched into lectures of his own at times. He warned lawmakers from both parties against demonizing a political opponent, because voters might find it incomprehensible if the two sides ever agree on anything.

“We’ve got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes, because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together because our constituents start believing us,” Obama said. “So just a tone of civility instead of slash-and-burn would be helpful.”

In his opening remarks, Obama criticized what he said was a Washington culture driven by opinion polls and nonstop political campaigns.

“I don’t believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security, they want us to focus on their job security,” he said.

The president acknowledged that Republicans have joined Democrats in some efforts, such as sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But he said he was disappointed and perplexed by virtually unanimous Republican opposition to other programs, such as the economic stimulus bill.

Associated Press