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Obama Mocks GOP Critics

Obama greets attendees at a meeting of state officials at the White House today. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Obama yesterday challenged his Republican critics to do more than just say no.

"Opposition is always easy. Saying no to something is easy. Saying yes to something and figuring out how to solve problems and governing, that's hard," he said in a roundtable interview with regional newspaper reporters.

"On this budget debate, for example, if you've got people who on the one hand say, 'We want to bring down the long-term deficit, but we don't want to cut certain programs that are important -- oh, and by the way we don't want to raise taxes' -- well, sounds good, you know, and I'd like to make sure that the Chicago Bulls win the championship every year and the White Sox win the Series. But you know, show me how you're going to do it."

And disputing the growing chatter in Washington that he is trying to do too much at once -- and should concentrate solely on short-term measures to turn the economy around -- Obama said his ambitious goals in such areas as health care and energy policy are essential to laying the foundations for long-term growth.

"I think that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," he said. "Yes, they require some uncomfortable votes. If it was easy, I'm assuming it would have been done 20 years ago or 30 years ago. It's not easy, but it's the right thing to do.....

"The days of growing the economy through an overheated housing market or through people running up exorbitant credit cards bills are over," he said. "We've got to put our growth model on a different footing....

"There are no shortcuts to long-term economic growth, and we can't just keep on doing the same things we were doing before and somehow expect that all of our problems will be solved....

Obama seems well aware that even if the pundit class is quickly growing disillusioned with him, the public is taking a longer view.

"We've been in office all of seven weeks so far. This is a crisis that was eight years in the making, maybe longer in certain aspects of it," he said. "And the buck stops with me and we're responsible, but it's going to take some time, and the truth of the matter is the American people, I think, understand that it's going to take some time," he said.

"If you look at the public polling, they recognize that it's going to take awhile to dig ourselves out of the hole."

Obama did acknowledge concerns about his still-fuzzy plans to rescue the nation's financial markets. "I think the one area where there's still significant uncertainty has to do with the bank issue, and that's obviously a particular concern to Wall Street," he said. "The challenge for us there is ... we're in the process of conducting the stress tests for the banks, to get a better sense of where their capital positions are and how strong they are. And what we don't want to do is prejudge those tests or make a lot of statements that cause a lot of nervousness around banks that are already having difficulty."

It was Obama's second meeting in two months with reporters from regional newspapers, and Obama made no secret of his pleasure in talking to people who didn't necessarily share the obsessions of the national press corps.

"This is my monthly occasion to break out of the Washington bubble," he said. "I enjoy the keen insights of people outside of Washington."

And he spent much of the hour-long session answering smaller-bore questions than he normally faces, about such issues as ethanol, the Mexican border, the Voting Rights Act and the future of NASA.

I haven't been able to track down a complete transcript of the roundtable. (I'll add a link when and if I do.) (UPDATE: Here it is.) The quotes above instead come from a slew of excellent stories written by the reporters who attended.

Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel write: "Addressing his handling of the financial crisis, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that 'the buck stops with me, and we're responsible' but challenged Republican critics to do more than say no....

"'I think what will be interesting is the degree to which my Republican colleagues start putting forward an affirmative agenda that's not based on ideology but on the very real struggles and pain that people are feeling right now around the country and how do we get this economy back on its feet.' [Obama said.]

"Asked whether he thought he had done a good enough job communicating his approach to fixing the financial mess, Obama said, 'I think that we can always do a better job.'

"'Keep in mind it's only been two weeks since I gave a joint session speech to Congress, the day after which everybody said, 'Boy, that was really clear.'...The reviews were pretty good....

"Obama said the main message that he would deliver in the coming days and weeks is 'that it's going to take some time to get out of this deep hole we're in, but we're going to get out.'"

Kevin Diaz writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Speaking slowly and deliberately, like the college professor he was, Obama made clear that his administration is in its infancy and that he still has the public on his side....

"For early signs of hope, Obama pointed to his new housing plan to provide relief to homeowners facing foreclosure. 'You're already starting to see an uptick in refinancings that are providing families with relief,' he said. 'And in certain pockets of the country, you're starting to see housing prices stabilize after a long drop.'"

Michael Riley writes in the Denver Post: "Obama spoke to the reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in a week that saw the emergence of a growing backlash by some moderate Democrats against a White House agenda that contemplates comprehensive health care reform, a major push toward renewable energy and an overhaul of tax policy — all while dealing with the biggest economic crisis in a generation.

"As doubts grow among a core of centrist Democrats in the Senate, Obama signaled he has no intention of backing off. He framed his administration's priorities — specifically the coming fight over the White House's 2010 budget proposal — as an urgent matter of solving problems that have been too-long delayed.

"'Whether we're talking about Republicans or my fellow Democrats, my argument is going to be that these are the right priorities for America, these are the right priorities for long-term economic growth,' Obama said."

James O'Toole writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Obama "said he expected battles in Congress over his budget proposals, but rebutted GOP assertions that the ambitious initiative represented a drastic lurch to the left.

"'For them to suggest that this was some radical assault on the rich makes no sense whatsoever,' he said, noting that a significant portion of the budget's tax increases -- rescinding former President George W. Bush's tax cuts for more affluent taxpayers -- had already been anticipated in Bush administration budgets despite Republican arguments, then and now, that they should be made permanent."

Philip Brasher writes in the Des Moines Register that Obama "says he wants to preserve the nation's ethanol industry while developing new versions of biofuels made from feedstocks other than corn."

Todd J. Gillman writes for the Dallas Morning News: "Mexico's drug war and the risks of cross-border violence deserve top-level attention, President Barack Obama said in an interview today, but it isn't time to send U.S. troops.

"'We've got a very big border with Mexico,' the president said. 'I'm not interested in militarizing the border.'...

"'We're going to examine whether and if National Guard deployments would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense....I don't have a particular tipping point in mind. I think it's unacceptable if you've got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens.'"

Mark K. Matthews writes in the Orlando Sentinel: "President Barack Obama said Wednesday that NASA is an agency afflicted by 'a sense of drift' and that it needs 'a new mission that is appropriate for the 21st century.'"

Bruce Alpert writes in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "President Barack Obama says he has not decided whether to restore the Federal Emergency Management Agency to a stand-alone department but promises that his administration is committed to robust Gulf Coast recovery efforts regardless of the agency's status.

"'We're going to be focused on New Orleans' reconstruction, and we're going to be paying a lot of attention to the systems that are in place to protect from hurricanes in the future,' Obama said during a White House interview Wednesday with The Times-Picayune and other regional newspapers."

Mary Orndorff writes in the Birmingham (Ala.) News: "The part of the 44-year-old Voting Rights Act that requires states such as Alabama to get federal permission before making election-related changes is still a necessary protection for minority voters, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

"Obama, rebutting a sentiment in some Southern states that they no longer need Justice Department supervision, said the scrutiny remains important in places where blacks and whites and Hispanics are especially polarized in their voting patterns. The threat to minorities may no longer be as overtly discriminatory as refusing to register blacks to vote, he said, but may be that they won't have a real chance to elect their candidate of choice.

"'There are probably some parts of the South that ... if you looked at the data, are no longer that polarized. There are other parts that are probably still very polarized,' Obama said."

Neil H. Simon writes for Media General News Service: "President Barack Obama tried Wednesday to quell local community concerns about a potential move of suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay to domestic prisons."

David Goldstein writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "'We would never put people into a situation that elevated the risks for surrounding communities,' the president said,...

"Obama said federal prisons already hold prisoners with terrorist backgrounds.

"'They are a serious risk,' but securing them is not much different than securing other violent offenders, he said."

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 12, 2009; 1:52 PM ET
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Inside the Beltway, the Honeymoon is History
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We have had a democratic majority in congress for two years and seven weeks...
We have had this president for 7 weeks and he has accomplished much, he has doubled the national debt and is well on the way to tripling it inside of his first year in office... If this is the honeymoon, I tremble at the thought of what follows...

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | March 12, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The national reporters inside the Beltway are useless, biased or depraved. Or possibly all three.

As for BHO mocking the republicans... it is simply too easy. The GOP makes it less than a challenge to make right wingers look stupid.

Posted by: crix | March 12, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

"a growing backlash by some moderate Democrats against a White House agenda..."

"As doubts grow among a core of centrist Democrats in the Senate"

Best evidence yet that Obama's on the right track.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 12, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

It's about time he started "calling out" the insurgent GOP opposition for what they are & what they represent...or actually refuse to represent...what's good for the country...

To move his agenda forward he will need to confront and address GOP problem more aggressively...

Posted by: constwkr | March 12, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I really like that Obama's made this point repeatedly over the past few weeks:

"I think what will be interesting is the degree to which my Republican colleagues start putting forward an affirmative agenda **that's not based on ideology**"

He sees how they operate, how they start with unquestionable assumptions (taxes can never be too low, no tax cut is harmful) and then uncritically base new ideas on that assumption. He's telling the GOP in no uncertain terms that they need to come up with some ideas and the explanations for those ideas need to be rooted in reality. Glad to see he's calling them out on their groupthink.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 12, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

It can't be just the Republicans since BHO has a majority House and Senate. Why doesn't he just ram through his agenda w/o Republican support and then live with it? He knows he's going to fail and just wants to set up the Republicans as fall guys.

Posted by: ronjaboy | March 12, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@ronjaboy: unlike the GOP, Democrats don't stand as a unified block of votes waiting for marching orders. The party effectively represents everyone who isn't a Republican, and that's a lot of disparate viewpoints in one tent. The party also became infested with a lot of conservative and "moderate" Democrats during the Bush years. So the dynamic is very different for them.

"He knows he's going to fail and just wants to set up the Republicans as fall guys."

Generally speaking, "fall guys" who bear 90% of the responsibility are more accurately termed "guilty parties". But hey, it's your daydream.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 12, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't see any "mocking." He's clear and explicit about how many of the critics are behaving. They just say no and offer no viable, intelligent plan.

Posted by: AlanGoldberg54 | March 12, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

It can't be just the Republicans since BHO has a majority House and Senate. Why doesn't he just ram through his agenda w/o Republican support and then live with it? He knows he's going to fail and just wants to set up the Republicans as fall guys.

Posted by: ronjaboy | March 12, 2009 2:47 PM


You don't need to be set up. Republicans are fall guys.

You scr*wed this pooch and you can shut up and stand aside while the grownups fix it.

Posted by: Attucks | March 12, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

It is great to have a real president again.

Posted by: lichtme | March 12, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I think the guy got a brain and we should support him.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | March 12, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Well yeah Froomkin, but the President has been in office for 7 weeks and I haven't seen any recovery yet. This whole thing is obviously his fault.

It's called a Microwave, or Fast Food mentality!

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | March 12, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Finally! Call the Regunican'ts what they are: Grumpy Old Men/Women. All I have heard is "This CAN'T be done!"; not "Our ideas are:". Whiners, whiners, whiners; personally I'd like to hear anything but what I've heard so far. My Repugnican't House Represenative said he didn't vote for the stimulus package and gave absolutely no reason for his vote. My Repugnican't Assemblyman said that he would not vote for it and again no viable reason given except that the party doesn't want to partiscipate in government if they're not going to get a gold star. Such children.

Posted by: sailorflat | March 12, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The market is up the last few days.

I guess its time for the press to say Obama must be doing everything right.

The pundits are a joke.

Posted by: troyd2009 | March 12, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I have a great idea. It's the kind of thinking that the republican party has always backed, so they should agree to this. Take all the conservatives and neo-cons, and ship them back to the lands of their national origin. At least then, they'd be so busy learning another language that they'd stop publishing rubbish in the Washington Post for a while.

Give us a break. You guys are out of power now, and we plan to keep it that way, for a long time to come.

Posted by: Eoghan | March 12, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

When the Economy turns
to the Better.
to the Great.

Rush Limbaugh will
CONGRADULATE President Omaba
Grudgingly..BUT he will.

HOWEVER in his Twisted mind..

SOMEHOW make will it look like the Republicans did all the work.

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | March 12, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm with AlanGoldberg54, why the word "mocks" in the headline. According to Merriam-Webster, mock means, "to treat with contempt or ridicule". I hear nothing in Obama's words you quote that contain contempt or ridicule. Quite the contrary, as he usually does, Obama coolly lays out his thoughts and arguments.

And of course, all us regular Americans share the punditocracy's assessment that Obama has failed. I mean, the guy's had a few weeks already to solve all the problems and what has he done? Pass the largest stimulus bill ever, get a budget through Congress, schedule a troop withdrawal in Iraq, repeal Bush's stem cell regulations, clarify his position on signing statements, convene a working group on health care, and attend the Bulls-Wizards game. Nah, nothing there in the way of accomplishments.

Posted by: jrw2 | March 12, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Where is Mr Obama "mocking" the GOP? In their vivid imaginations that they have anything valid to say regarding....well,anything at all, maybe, but He was not "mocking "them,he in fact called them his colleagues and if he called me that I would be more than a little flattered.The short story basically is that the GOP has been ruling the roost for the last ten years or so and Mr Obama suddenly yanked the lollipop from their mouths and quite simply they are suffering from withdrawal.They were addicted to power for so long they are having one heck of a time coming back to earth.Plus they haven't got one positive thing to say, they continue trying to hoodwink the middle and lower class's into their 3 card monty "lower taxes" game but nobody seems to be playing along. We're in a real GOP made jam right now,if they haven't got anything to contribute they should all just shut up and move along.

Posted by: houndog | March 12, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Ya know, you stinking Republicans have done nothing but look for dirt on Democrats and complain about spending for the last 50 days. You want the financial crises fixed but you don't want to spend a dime doing it. You want Obama to get people back to work and at the same time you're telling him to let AIG and the banks fail. That'll really get people back to work. I'm sure it'll help the market to, which you've also been blaming Obama for. I swear to God, all of you are a bunch of screwballs. Obama should sign one of Bush's executive orders declaring all Republicans traitors and ship ya's off to Guam. You clowns are getting paid to help Obama fix this mess and all you're doing is trying to make him look bad. If you think tax cuts and less spending is going to rebuild this country you're off your rocker.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | March 12, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

dr. o, your facts are grossly incorrect.

We have had a democratic majority in congress for two years and seven weeks...
We have had this president for 7 weeks and he has accomplished much, he has doubled the national debt and is well on the way to tripling it inside of his first year in office... If this is the honeymoon, I tremble at the thought of what follows...


You seem to be unaware that the national debt went from $5 trillion to $10 trillion under...drum roll please....George W. Bush.

The federal budget year started October 1, 2008. Who was the president who had veto power?

Posted by: boscobobb | March 12, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Title of Article, "Obama Mocks GOP Critics".

I think Not!

Obama is playing their Game. It's their game, they called it, and now he is playing them on it; and on their own turf, no doubt.

The ball is back in their court.

Aaugh... the game of politics.

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | March 12, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

"We have had a democratic majority in congress for two years and seven weeks...
We have had this president for 7 weeks and he has accomplished much, he has doubled the national debt and is well on the way to tripling it inside of his first year in office... If this is the honeymoon, I tremble at the thought of what follows..."


Let's hear your counter-proposal, genius. I suppose another round of tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas would be more to your liking? Or more deregulation? More trust in the magic of the marketplace?

You = buffoon

Posted by: chrisfox8 | March 12, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Short term federal debt is not a problem. To the contrary. Restoring economic health *requires* short term debt.

Long term debt is a problem. That's why Obama supports debt reduction in the long run.

I know it must be hard to come to terms with a president behaving so crazily. A President taking the exact recommendations of our smartest economists and putting them into action, while ignoring Wingnuts.

But this dangerous world of taking expert advice, is exactly the world we find ourselves in at this moment of terrible crisis.

Posted by: zosima | March 13, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

"The :doubling of the national debt" actually occurred under GWB, and all it got us was an unwanted and unnecessary war in the sands of the Middle East. (Oh, and $5 a gallon gas for a while there.)

BHO has increased the annual operating deficit through three things: 1) adding the costs of GWB's wars to the account, instead of pretending they don't exist; cutting taxes on 95% of Americans; and 3) modestly increasing spending to levels that most serious observers feel is far too small, and will have to be increased significantly fairly soon.

This is apparent from even a cursory review of the Washington Post.

Perhaps you prefer Mr. Boehner's idea that the government should cut back all spending except for the military?

Posted by: jimpharo | March 13, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

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