By Dan Froomkin
12:25 PM ET, 02/ 9/2009
President Obama apparently didn't go to Northern Indiana today to sell his stimulus package to economically struggling Americans. No, according to his top aides, he went there to get Washington to understand what those Americans are going through.
Senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters on Air Force One: "One thing that we learned over two years is that there’s a whole different conversation in Washington than there is out here. If I had listened to the conversation in Washington during the campaign for president, I would have jumped off a building about a year and a half ago."
He continued (according to a pool report by Peter Baker of the New York Times): "The American people are desperate for us to act. They understand that we’re in crisis. They’re living it every single day. Obviously the place we are going to today is one of the more severely hit communities. But all communities are. They’re not into the machinations that folks in Washington are. They’re not sweating this detail or that detail. They’re certainly not buying into the argument that, you know, the New Deal was a failure and we shouldn’t intervene.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later said: "We lost on cable television virtually every day last year. So, you know, there's a conventional wisdom to what's going on in America via Washington, and there's the reality of what's happening in America.
"I think today's trip in large part is -- this is not explaining to Indiana what's going on in Washington; this is taking Washington to show them what's going on in Indiana and all over the country -- and why people are hurting. You've seen the unemployment rate in this town triple in a year because of -- you've seen what the downturn of the economy has done to jobs and employment. And I think they are eager to know what's being done in Washington besides the same old, ordinary Washington arguments. They want to know what's going to be done to help them....
"I just spoke about bringing to Washington the viewpoint of what's happening in America. I think it's -- I think there's a myopic viewpoint in Washington. And I think Washington needs to understand what happens in Florida, and Indiana, and Michigan, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- states that have seen huge in unemployment; 598,000 jobs -- 20,000 -- Americans lost 20,000 jobs a day last month. That's what we're highlighting."
I'll be back after the town hall with more observations -- and some questions I hope Obama will answer at tonight's press conference.