Obama Attacks Stimulus Critics
By Perry Bacon Jr.
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- President Obama sharply attacked critics of his proposed economic stimulus in a speech in front of House Democrats tonight, using his first trip outside of Washington as president to reshape public perception of a bill that has been assailed by Republicans and even some Democrats.
"You get the argument, well, 'this is not a stimulus bill, it's a spending bill," Obama said, repeating GOP criticisms of the bill. "What do you think a stimulus is? That's the whole point.... No seriously, that's the point."
He turned to two of his favorite tactics used during his presidential campaign, blasting the record of George W. Bush and criticizing the "the cable chatter" and "distractions" that he feels bog down Washington.
"We're not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that in eight short years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin," Obama said to cheers. "We can't embrace the losing formula that offers more tax cuts as the only answer to every problem we face."
While acknowledging there are legitimate criticisms of the proposal, he said "But I urge all of us not to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary."
In private sessions with Republicans, Obama has suggested he does not agree with every provision Congress has put into the stimulus, but he praised House leaders here, specifically naming not only House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), but David Obey (D-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee which wrote much of the stimulus package.
The three-day retreat in Willamsburg is a tradition for Democrats, but the first with the new president. Obama led the crowd in shouts of "Fired up, ready to go" after his speech, repeating a chant from his campaign rallies.
More than 200 Democratic House members came to the retreat. Many brought their spouses who were eager to take pictures not only with the new president, but also his press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Before he arrived, Obama took his first flights on Marine One, the helicopter that takes the president from the White House to Andrews Air Base and Air Force One, on which he took the 31-minute flight from Andrews to the airport in Newport News.
He greeted reporters before the flight on Air Force One took off, wearing a blue jacket with the words Air Force One stitched in cursive on the right side and "Barack Obama" on the left.
"I've got my spiffy jacket so I thought I'd come and show it off," he told reporters. "It's good to see you guys. What do you think of this spiffy ride? It's not bad."
He added, "The helicopter was very smooth, very impressive, you got right over the Washington Monument and then, you know, kind of curves in by the Capitol. It was spectacular."
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