Obama is proud of Jason Collins, angry at Assad and still wants Gitmo closed

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama (Credit: President Barack Obama (Getty Images))

In a news conference at the White House Tuesday, President Barack Obama heaped praise on Washington Wizards center Jason Collins; indicated that the forced feedings of hunger strikers at Guantánamo Bay would continue while affirming his desire to close the prison; and proclaimed President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria "a game changer."

Obama told the press corps he had spoken Monday with Collins, who recently came out as gay in a Sports Illustrated essay this week.

"He seems like a terrific young man . . . I told him I couldn't be prouder of him," Obama said.

Asked about the forced feedings of hunger strikers at Gitmo, who are protesting having been held for more than a decade without a trial, Obama, who ran for office promising to close the prison, said: "I don't want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation."

The administration has evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but "we don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened," yet, he said. "The only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is going to be for Assad to step down and -- and to move forward on a political transition."

He also said that health reform would continue even if states such as Florida and Texas refused to cooperate. "We have a backup federal exchange," that will be implemented in states that do not provide a health insurance exchange, said Obama.


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