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Obama on Washington, Washington on Obama

By Dan Froomkin
11:40 AM ET, 03/26/2009

From President Obama's remarks last night at a Democratic fundraiser at the Warner Theater:

"Every once in a while we like to get out of this town. (Laughter.) Not because I don't enjoy Washington, but because it is important to get out of the hall of mirrors here -- (laughter) -- and listen to what's happening with the American people The same concerns that I read about -- I've taken the habit of reading a sampling of letters that are sent to the White House every single night, just to remind myself of why we worked so hard and why we are here. All of these letters, all of these comments and questions I get at town halls, they ask the same question: What are you going to do in Washington to -- to not give us a hand out, but give us a hand up; to help us figure out how we can manage through these difficult times? We are willing to work hard, we are willing to take our responsibilities seriously; we just want to make sure that our families have their chance at the American Dream.

"[O]ver the past two months, we’ve been working to answer that question with a comprehensive strategy to attack the crisis on all fronts. And I know that in Washington sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day cable chatter, and be distracted by the petty and the trivial, and everybody is keeping score -- are they up, are they down? You know, one day I'm a genius; one day I'm a bum. (Laughter.) Every day there's a new winner, a new loser....

"So what we understand is there are going to be days where things don't go exactly the way we planned, and days where things go smoothly. There are going to be days where the market goes up, and days where the market goes down. But that's not how we measure success. We measure economic recovery in a different way. And we're seeing progress all across America -- because we measure recovery by how many Americans can bring home a paycheck that helps them make ends meet....

"We measure recovery whether -- by whether families can keep their own piece of the American Dream."

And is "We can't wait" the new "Yes we can"?

Obama: "Now, let me just say that there are those who say, you know, you're taking on too much; say the budget is too ambitious, we should only focus on one problem at a time."

Audience: "Nooo!"

Obama: "But we know -- we're smarter than that. (Applause.) We know the challenges are too big to ignore. That single mom out there trying to figure out whether she can have health care for her family -- she doesn't think -- "

Audience Member: "She can't wait."

Obama: "She cannot wait. (Applause.) I'm not going to wait until we've got another $4-a-gallon gasoline before suddenly everybody says, why don't we have an energy policy? We can't wait. (Applause.) I'm not going to wait until suddenly we find out that our children can't compete for the jobs of the future. That's why we're going to fix education now, not later. We can't wait. (Applause.)"

Meanwhile, Dan Balz wonders on washingtonpost.com: "Will slow and steady win the race?"

Balz writes: "It might be too much to call him the plodding president. But there is a distinct clash between the culture of cable, which demands instant action from and renders instant judgments on politicians, and the style of the new president, which is to try mightily to resist succumbing to those pressures.

"It's easy to think of this president as the embodiment of the Internet age. His campaign skillfully exploited new media to build a nationwide network of donors, volunteers and advocates. This is the president who demanded that he keep his BlackBerry, which is symbolic of the always-on, always-connected culture that accelerated the flow of information.

"But he learned from his campaign that the velocity of information can instantly change the conventional wisdom, for better or worse, and that there is no more to be gained from trying to anticipate those shifts than from trying to time the market....

"Obama's press conference was a reminder that he hopes to operate on a different clock than the 24/7 media culture that surrounds him and his advisers. Part of that is strategic, an effort to buy time. He has said from the moment he was elected that it would take a long time to fix the problems of the economy and repeated that in his opening statement on Tuesday night. 'It will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out,' he said. 'There are no quick fixes and there are no silver bullets.'...

"Whether things are truly moving in the right direction -- and whether, if they are, it is thanks to his policies or other, larger forces at work in the economy -- are questions that can't yet be answered. Obama's message Tuesday was interpreted as 'trust us and give us time' -- but what he really seemed to be saying was, 'I trust myself.'"

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