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On-Message Obama

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.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 24, 2009; 10:22 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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I was little disappointed too; but I think that he offered something far more valuable that a professorial speech - I think that I caught a glimpse of the soul and motivation of this President.

Whether you agree with his policies or not, it's clear that he is working very, very hard to improve the quality of life of the middle-class families. He looked tired! I got the sense that he feels alone in his vision for America's future but will persevere on his own until we begin to toil with him. While we're focusing on AIG bonuses and trillion dollar deficits that we fear with burden our children, he's afraid that America will lose it's preeminence in the world if it becomes an unhealthy, less educated, drug addicted, technologically arcane population - in which case, low deficits won't really matter. He’s trying to lead us to the water, but we’re too afraid to drink and may end up dying from thirst in the process.

I think that he should take some time out, spend a few days at Camp David and write speech that will ask us to summon the courage to face our past, present, and future. The problem with our society is that we have spent time, money and resources on the wrong things – deadlier weapons instead of international development, unilateral wars instead of diplomatic negotiations, larger prisons instead of better schools, rigid ideology instead of critical thought, and conspicuous consumption instead of long-term investments and now we are suffering the consequences of our choices. He needs to ask us envision what America could look like in 5, 10, or 15 years if we continue down this path and weigh that scenario against his proposals.

President Obama also needs to reassure us that he will modify his budget proposals if the economy doesn’t rebound as expected; and that he will tackle entitlement programs. The truth is that the United States never decreased its debt during the 20th century; it only stabilized during Clinton’s second term.

He has a tough road ahead.

Posted by: Eve1978 | March 25, 2009 3:05 AM | Report abuse

Dear JC, the only way you're going to like everything the President says is to be President yourself so go ahead, make my day, please run to be our first gay stud President, but like the current occupant of the WH, get rid of that cocky laugh.

Posted by: rufkd | March 25, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Mr Capehart,

You're kidding me right? "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?"

What other financial institutions do you think he has a choice to play ball with? The small local bank down the road that has zero global presence or influence?

Suck it up! The banks screwed us bigtime, but they are the only game in town for the moment - Obama's administration is NOT finished with them yet.

So when he does come out and place restrictions on them in the near future, I presume you will come out in support of his plan and not poo poo it as doing too much - that's the choice everyone has.

Posted by: dominic_crotty | March 25, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Obama's investments in growth are fine. I'm sure we'll be giving everyone who can't work free health care, paid for by those of us who work. With regard to $4 gas, it's coming sooner than we think, and I don't know of any windmill powered cars that will do much for us. Come to think of it, I haven't seen any airliners or 18 wheelers with extension cords long enough to make the switch to plug ins practical.

Where will the money come from to pay for all this? The middle class, of course. Even if you CONFISCATED all the money from all the "rich people" Obama despises so much, you can't pay for all these nanny state programs. The first nose under the tent has "Cap and Trade" printed on it. See Harry Reid's remarks today about Cap and Trade coincidentally providing enough revenue to fund health care.

Volcker has now been charged with finding ways to "collect more taxes." Anyone who thinks this means tax breaks needs his head examined. This new special panel is going to bleed more from the 250K plus bunch, and begin to eat into the 200K - 250K range because even that rug wearing OMB guy knows the various plans don't generate enough revenue to fund all this junk. When the porkulous bill is shown to have generated 500,000 jobs, not 3 million, and tax receipts are 20% below the projections, the gigantic wealth eating worm that is our government will need to reach out and get its slimy body even more firmly around the middle class wallet.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | March 25, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Todd, Edwards and Compton made fools of themselves. Given the opportunity to question the leader of the free world 2 strutted and posed and the other fumbled and asked some question about the campaign and race when so many of us out here want to know about jobs and economy.

The network press reps disgraced themselves and your "disappointment" is irrelevant

Posted by: jnolan4 | March 26, 2009 4:24 AM | Report abuse

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