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Obama Refines Philosophy on Big Government

In what his aides billed as a "major" speech on the economy last week, President-elect Barack Obama made an unapologetic case for the need for government to play a large and aggressive role in turning around the faltering economy.

"Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy -- where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending," said Obama at the time.

In Obama's interview with the Post yesterday, a transcript of which The Fix is still going through for news nuggets, Obama seemed to refine that advocacy for a bigger government.

Answering a question about his plans to encourage Americans to heed the call to service, Obama said:

"A part of my message in my inauguration speech, part of my message in every speech I hope to give over the next four years is that government can't do everything and that everybody has got to play a part."

As an example, Obama cited education where he emphasized that no matter how much government involved itself in reform of the school system, the real burden lay with parents and kids.

"I think there is an opportunity for me to be able to speak about the obligations of parents and of students in ramping up our educational performance," Obama said, adding that his position as the first African-American president will allow him to say some things that past presidents couldn't "particularly to inner city America and to African-American fathers."

What's clear from those comments is that Obama's philosophy of government is not simply "bigger is better."

On the economy, he and his team believe government spending is the only way to solve the problem in the short term and keep the already-fragile economy moving. But, on other domestic concerns -- particularly education -- Obama is seeking to make clear that he is not simply a "big government liberal."

Polling shows a public divided about the role government should play in their lives.

The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed more than six in ten (62 percent) Americans want to see the federal government "do something about" the economy -- a far higher number than other potential priorities including foreign policy (22 percent), taxes/government spending (15 percent) and social issues (7 percent).

At the same time, the NBC/WSJ survey showed that less than one in five Americans had either a "great deal" (6 percent) or "quite a bit" (13 percent) of confidence in the federal government. Roughly half of the sample (47 percent) expressed "some" confidence in government while 23 percent had "very little" confidence and 10 percent had "none at all."

Obama is well aware of the fact that simply touting government as the solution to all that ails the country is not smart politics -- even if there is an increasing sense (post Katrina, post economic collapse) that government does have a role to play in the lives of every day Americans.

Balancing people's desire for government to turn the economy around with their continued wariness about having government run their lives will be a central task of the Obama Administration.

And, it's obviously one he and his inner circle have already spent considerable time thinking about as they seek to find the right balance between too much and too little government.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 16, 2009; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  White House  
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Next: 1,000 Words: The Many Faces of George W. Bush


NOW LET'S GET RID OF FOXNEWS, HANNITY, O'reilly Factor, Glen Beck and Rush. America has finally changed.

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 18, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

"On the economy, he and his team believe government spending is the only way to solve the problem in the short term and keep the already-fragile economy moving"

That's the problem with liberals like him, they only think about the short term and to hell with the long term effects of their actions. And on the flip side conservatives think in the vice versa so when are we going to wake up and put leadership in place that actually thinks things all the way through before they act?

Posted by: SonOfLiberty64 | January 18, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

If Gov't was the answer, East Germany would have been an economic juggernaut, and Cuba to.

Posted by: cr10 | January 17, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Re BHO's views on big government -- sounds good to me...Let's wish him the best.


The Universe


Winners this week

Eric Holder (for showing the Nation what normal AAs look, act, and sound like (in contrast to the media depictions on BET, etc., of AAs as thugs, ministrels, and idiots); should be great AG);

Ms. Wm. J. Clinton (the Hillarians' legendary leader will be confirmed by acclamation (they kinda dispensed with real confirmation hearings); give credit where credit due)

J. Napolitano (with her confirmation as DHS head, may she soon address Gov. Ed Rendell's publicly stated concern for her by getting a life...and maybe a date; Good luck, JNap)

John Roberts (for graciously inviting 44 to the Supreme Court for a meet-and-greet with all the Justices, 'cept Alito (see below under "Losers")

Jack Bauer and 24 (totally out of control two two-hour kickoff, maybe the best ever)

Madoff the Great (for, despite two more hearings to put him behind bars, staying out of jail; current status -- jus' chillin' in luxury digs in NYC)

Ferrante and Teicher (for "the Apartment" and "Exodus"; may their twin pianos always be in tune)

Dean Smith


Alito (for, as reported in HuffPo and everywhere else 'cept the Post, allegedly snubbing 44 by not showing up at Justice Roberts' meet-and-greet for the furst AA President; a sad unfortunate decision to stand on the wrong side of history with past Justices Taney and McReynolds)

"Behind Enemy Lines: Cambodia" starring, well, it had no stars except the guy who played Otter in "Animal House" (a $4.99 waste of on-demand; "Cambodia" looked a lot like a West Virginia industrial parking; memo to BEL producers -- quit going behind enemy lines, just stay put at Fort Bragg; no more sequels like "BEL: East St. Louis," "BEL: Mexico City," or "BEL: Newark"; cut it out)

Billy Packer (off CBS for good; we can now start enjoying "March Madness" B-ball again)

Posted by: broadwayjoe | January 17, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse



CANCEL Risky "Sitting Duck" Obama-Biden Train Excursion

(There is A SERIOUS BASIS FOR concern here. And it's too cold for spectators, anyway...)

• What happened to Homeland Security warnings of "heightened risk" during Presidential transition?

• How about the late November FBI warning about possible Northeast train station attacks?

• "Amtrak Joe" Biden's longstanding warnings about security flaws along the Amtrak Northeast corridor -- why isn't he waving this whistle stop tour to a halt?

It is both mystifying and frightening to contemplate the unnecessary risk to which President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are subjecting themselves by going through with Saturday's planned pre-inauguration "whistle stop" train ride from Philadelphia to Washington.

In his farewell press conference on Monday, President Bush seemed to go out of his way to twice repeat that the greatest threat the nation faces is another terrorist attack. At one point in his presser, he said that by giving official voice to the threat, he was not "trying to set something up."

Here are President Bush's exact words:

"There is an enemy that still is out there.

"You know, people can maybe try to write that off as, you know, 'he's trying to set something up.'

"I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America -- Americans -- again. There just is. That's the reality of the world."

George W. Bush could not have been more plain-spoken, candid and direct. The incoming White House team ignores his words -- which he most likely thought about before uttering them -- at their peril.

OR (if link is disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 16, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Your concern is noted.

You lost. Get over it.

Posted by: DrainYou | January 16, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

DrainYou, my information is from the Mother Jones article. Mother Jones is one of the most respected liberal publications not only in America, but the world. So your assertion that "Republicans" are behind this is bullcrap. A respected liberal publication released this information. Open your closed tiny little partisan mind and READ THE ARTICLE. By the way, I vote for honest Democrats. I even voted for Jimmy Carter when the economy was worst than it is now because he was a good man. Don't you dare label me.

You're a frightening example of partisans so far gone they won't even condemn Holder litigating to keep OxyContin on the market even as it was killing people and destroying lives. Obama can find a better and more honest Democrat than Holder. Your lockstep support is a very mindless one.
Holder will and did sell his soul to the highest bidder. I see that you believe if you shout loud enough rhetoric people may ignore the fact you couldn't refute one scandal I listed.

See the Mother Jones article from 1/14 titled, Why Eric Holder Represents What's Wrong with Washington.

Posted by: CaptainQ | January 16, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

"Obama is well aware of the fact that simply touting government as the solution to all that ails the country is not smart politics."

It is not only not smart politics, it is also not true. Government is useful in setting the rules to the capitalist game, but is not very good at participating in it. Where did that bailout money go, again? Exactly.

Posted by: MOswingvoter | January 16, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

@ CaptainQ | January 16, 2009 4:53 PM

The Republican Party and their minions (you) are terrified by the idea of Eric Holder as Attorney General. Of all of the appointments to Obama’s Cabinet, this is the one that fills the Right with horror and dread. They have been working overtime to block this appointment. Since Holder was nominated, they have been defining him in the press and framing the issues in ways that they think they could use to take him out.

It started with his ties to the Clinton White House and that Marc Rich pardon and now they are working to bring up everything from Elian Gonzalez to Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky and any other nonsense they can throw into the air in the hopes of killing this appointment.


The answer is simple: Holder will investigate the political corruption in Washington.

And for the modern Republican Party an active and righteous Department of Justice prosecuting the crimes of the Bush years is a nightmare that fills them with dread.

Posted by: DrainYou | January 16, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

It was exhausting, it was most of the time maddening, infuriating and often embarrassing and even shameful for our government to be led by George W. Bush and his administration. But we have endured. The country is damaged, but not destroyed. President Obama and the Democratic people, the massive and professional civil service, and especially the American people have a great deal of work and struggle before us to restore our country's honor, prestige, respect, security, prosperity and opportunity.

We're all up to that challenge. But before we embark on that, let's let out a sigh of relief, and if you're inclined, now or later tonight, raise your glass and toast to the effective end of the administration and presidency of George W. Bush.

Posted by: DrainYou | January 16, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

One way to gauge Obama's philosophy is to review the Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, the man who would be the nation's highest law enforcement officer. Let's review Eric Holder's track record:

1) Represented Purdue Pharma (2004) in settlement that allowed OxyContin to stay on the market and continue to kill and disable countless Americans.

2) Represented Merck Pharmaceuticals in a Medicaid fraud case and got them a settlement far below what they had made by overbilling the U.S. government and tax payers.

3) Used his power as deputy attorney general to illegally coerce career Justice Department employees into actually changing their recommendation reports opposing the pardons of the FALN terrorists and Marc Rich. The same FALN terrorists who had killed six Americans and wounded hundreds others by exploding 130 bombs in the United States.

See the Mother Jones article from 1/14 titled, Why Eric Holder Represents What's Wrong with Washington.

Posted by: CaptainQ | January 16, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

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