Okay, I'm a little disappointed. There was no laser pointer. There were no charts or graphs. Yes, yes, President Obama did a fine job at the second press conference of his 64-day-old presidency. But still, I wanted more. I wanted professorial Obama to step off the red carpet in the East Room and talk to me like an adult about the economic mess, but to explain it to me in an "Economic Armageddon for Dummies" kind of way. Instead, the American people saw a chief executive who was relentlessly on message. And Obama made it clear that he had one immediate and overarching goal in mind: to marry his budget to the economic recovery and get it passed. As he said, his budget plan “is inseparable from this recovery because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity.”
In response to a question on sacrifice from NBC News's Chuck Todd, the president said, "What we can’t do, though, is sacrifice long-term growth, investments that are critical to the future, and that’s why my budget focuses on health care, energy, education, the kinds of things that can build a foundation for long-term economic growth, as opposed to the fleeting prosperity that we’ve seen over the last several years."
Answering a question from CNN's Ed Henry about soaring spending and growing deficits for years to come, Obama said, "Now, the alternative is to stand pat and to simply say, we are just going to not invest in health care. We’re not going to take on energy. We’ll wait until the next time that gas gets to $4 a gallon. We will not improve our schools. And we’ll allow China or India or other countries to lap our young people in terms of their performance. We will settle on lower growth rates, and we will continue to contract, both as an economy and our ability to — to provide a better life for our kids. That, I don’t think, is the better option."
Not even an out-of-left-field question like Ann Compton's (ABC News) on race could derail him. "And, and, you know, right now, the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged. And that is: Are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe? And that’s what I’ve been spending my time thinking about."
But it was in that answer ("improve liquidity in the financial markets") and in another part of his response to Todd where I wished he'd just gotten a whole lot more specific. "We are going through an extraordinary crisis, but we believe that, taken -- if you take the steps that we’ve already taken, with respect to housing, with respect to small businesses, if you look at what we’re doing in terms of increasing liquidity in the financial system, that the steps that we’re taking can actually stabilize the economy and get it moving again."
Increasing liquidity in the financial markets? Stabilize the economy and get it moving again? What exactly does that mean? And why does it involve playing ball with the very financial institutions that have brought the United States and the rest of the world to the precipice of economic ruin? A laser pointer, some charts and graphs and 30 minutes would have gone a long way to making sense of the extraordinary actions the Obama administration has taken since January and will have to take in the months and years ahead.
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