President Obama on Monday surprised the White House press corps by joining Press Secretary Jay Carney for the daily briefing.

When asked about certain Democrats characterizing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as a tax cheat, President Obama responded with the following:

First of all, I’m not sure all those characterizations that you’ve laid out there were accurate. For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon. And, I think that what is absolutely true is that, if you watch me on the campaign trail, here’s what I’m talking about: I’m talking about how we put Americans back to work. And there are sharp differences between myself and Mr. Romney in terms of how we would do that.

[...]

If you look at the overall trajectory of our campaign, and the ads that I have approved, and are produced by my campaign, you’ll see that we point out sharp differences between the candidates, but we don’t go out of bounds.

And when it comes to releasing taxes, that’s a precedent that was set decades ago, including by Gov. Romney’s father. And for us to say that it makes sense to release your tax returns, as I did, as John McCain did, as Bill Clinton did, as the two President Bush’s did, I don’t think it is in any way out of bounds, I think it what the American people would rightly expect … particularly when we’re going to be having a huge debate about how we reform our tax code and how we pay for the government that we need. I think people want to know that everybody’s been playing by the same rules including people who are seeking the highest office in the land.

[...]

We’ve got to put ourselves before the American people to make our case.

And in regards to the Priorities USA ad accusing Romney of being somehow responsible for the death of the wife of Joe Soptic, a former GST Steel employee and Obama campaign operative, the president responded:

I don’t think that Gov. Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind: This is an ad that I didn’t approve, I did not produce, and, as far as I can tell, [it] has barely run. I think it ran once.

Of course, it should be noted that the president’s soft approach to the “Romney Kills” ad is somewhat of a departure from his previous stance on third-party advertisements. Recall in 2007 when then-Sen. Obama attacked John Edwards over a 527 [via POLITICO]:

“The fact is this is somebody who worked for John Edwards, for the last who knows how many years, who’s a good friend and colleague of Edwards, who’s now running a 527 that is running ads on behalf of John Edwards. [Laugh]

You’re telling me he has no influence over him? That’s not true. If [Obama communications director] Robert Gibbs started running a 527 and I called Robert Gibbs and said, ‘Stop running ads on my behalf,’ are you suggesting I would have no influence over Robert Gibbs?”

After concluding his first formal session with reporters in the East Room since October 6, 2011, the president headed towards the exit and ABC’s Jake Tapper shouted, “Don’t be a stranger!”

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

All photos courtesy the AP. This story has been updated.

Other Must-Read Stories