Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama's Economic Press Conference

Transcripts can be found here.

The good questions:

1. Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press

Thank you, Mr. President. Your treasury secretary and the Fed chairman were on Capitol Hill today asking for this new authority that you want to regulate big, complex financial institutions.

But given the problems that the financial bailout program has had so far -- banks not wanting to talk about how they're spending the money, the AIG bonuses that you mentioned -- why do you think the public should sign on for another new sweeping authority for the government to take over companies, essentially?

Not that Obama answered the question poorly. He handled it well (by noting that AIG was not regulated like a bank would) and he answered the follow-up well by suggesting that the FDIC's history in regulating banks should bolster our confidence in the government's ability to regulate these non-bank banks.

2. Jake at (I don't know):

Thank you, Mr. President.

Right now on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are writing a budget. And according to press accounts and their own statements, they're not including the middle-class tax cut that you include in the stimulus, they're talking about phasing that out, they're not including the cap- and-trade that you have in your budget, and they're not including other measures.

I know when you outlined your four priorities over the weekend, a number of these things were not in there. Will you sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap-and- trade?

Good one but here's an even better one:

3. Chip Reid:

"Thank you, Mr. President. At both of your town hall meetings in California last week, you said, quote, "I didn't run for president to pass on our problems to the next generation."

But under your budget, the debt will increase $7 trillion over the next 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office says $9.3 trillion. And today on Capitol Hill, some Republicans called your budget, with all the spending on health care, education and environment, the most irresponsible budget in American history. Isn't that kind of debt exactly what you were talking about when you said "passing on our problems to the next generation"?"

and the follow up was just as good:

"But even under your budget, as you said, over the next four or five years, you're going to cut the deficit in half, then, after that, six years in a row, it goes up, up, up. If you're making all these long-term structural cuts, why does it continue to go up in the out-years?"

I love it when reporters expose contradictions. Now, in his response, Obama said we need to grow in order to pay up the debt and in order to grow we have to invest in energy, and transportation or reform health care we won't grow. He doesn't actually answer the question to Mr. Reid's satisfaction but there might not really be such an answer. Obama may even have tacitly accepted the reporter's premise - that he may be passing a problem along to the next generation. The president said he doesn't know what the economic conditions will be like 10 years from now. I guess he believes there is no good option. Passing these problems to future generations may be unavoidable.

That said I want Reid asking questions at every press conference. He knows what he is supposed to do. David Gregory. Move over. Let's ask Mr. Reid if he'd like to host "Meet The Press."

4. Ed Henry of CNN:

Thank you. Mr. President. You spoke again at the top about your anger about AIG. You've been saying that for days now. But why is it that it seems Andrew Cuomo seems to be in New York getting more actual action on it?

And when you and Secretary Geithner first learned about this 10 days, two weeks ago, you didn't go public immediately with that outrage. You waited a few days. And then you went public after you realized Secretary Geithner really had no legal avenue to stop it.

And, more broadly, I just want to follow up on Chip and Jake. You've been very critical of President Bush doubling the national debt. And, to be fair, it's not just Republicans hitting you. Democrat Kent Conrad, as you know, said, quote, "When I look at this budget, I see the debt doubling again."

You keep saying that you've inherited a big fiscal mess. Do you worry, though, that your daughters, not to mention the next president, will be inheriting an even bigger fiscal mess if the spending goes out of control?

Very good "gotcha" question. Obama is being asked whether he understands the public's mood and why Cuomo upstaged him by pro-actively fighting to get the bonuses back while Obama is arguably sitting on his hands.

Obama gave an uncharacteristically snappy answer but the damage was already done and the point about Obama's failure to reign the executives in was made.

5. Stefan Collison:

"Mr. President, you came to office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How realistic do you think those hopes are now, given the likelihood of a prime minister who is not fully signed up to a two-state solution and a foreign minister who has been accused of insulting Arabs?"

The Not Good-Not Bad Questions

1. Lourdes of Univision

"Thank you, Mr. President. Today, your administration presented a plan to help curb the violence in Mexico and also to control any or prevent any spillover of the violence into the United States.

Do you consider the situation now a national security threat? And do you believe that it could require sending national troops to the border? Governor Perry of Texas has said that you still need more troops and more agents. How do you respond to that?"

2. Mike Allen of Politico.com

"Mr. President, are you -- thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. Are you reconsidering your plan to cut the interest rate deduction for mortgages and for charities? And do you regret having proposed that in the first place?"

Glad Obama stuck to his guns on this point.

3. "Thank you, Mr. President. A recent report found that, as a result of the economic downturn, 1 in 50 children are now homeless in America. With shelters at full capacity, tent cities are sprouting up across the country.

In passing your stimulus package, you said that help was on the way. But what would you say to these families, especially children, who are sleeping under bridges and in tents across the country?"

What is he supposed to do? Let everyone move in to the White House?

The bad questions:

1. Chuck Todd of NBC:

Thank you, Mr. President. Some have compared this financial crisis to a war. And in times of war, past presidents have called for some form of sacrifice.

Some of your programs, whether for Main Street or Wall Street, have actually cushioned the blow for those that were irresponsible during this economic period of prosperity or supposed prosperity that you were talking about.

Why, given this new era of responsible that you're asking for, sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?

Obama's response was of course a reasonable one. The middle class working families are already sacrificing. Duh. The autoworkers at GM are sacrificing in terms of pay cuts. California is furloughing its workers. Many have lost their jobs. Should they sacrifice their lives Mr. Todd?

2. Major Garret of FOX News:

Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you.

Taking this economic debate a bit globally, senior Chinese officials have publicly expressed an interest in international currency. This is described by Chinese specialists as a sign that they are less confident than they used to be in the value and the reliability of the U.S. dollar. European countries have resisted your calls to spend more on economic stimulus.

I wonder, sir, as a candidate who ran concerned about the image of the United States globally, how comfortable you are with the Chinese government, run by communists, less confident than they used to be in the U.S. dollar and European governments, some of them center-left, some of them socialist, who say you're asking them to spend too much?

Oh dear. What do we call those who are to the left of the commies? What do we call them? What do they call themselves? Why should we even care?

3. global currency?

The reporter must come from WorldNetDaily.

4. Ann Compton:

"Yours is a rather historic presidency. And I'm just wondering whether, in any of the policy debates that you've had within the White House, the issue of race has come up or whether it has in the way you feel you've been perceived by other leaders or by the American people? Or has the last 64 days before a relatively colorblind time?"

We are in the midst of a financial crisis and she wants to waste everyone's time with this question?

5. John Ward of The Washington Times:

"In your remarks on stem cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem cell research.

I'm just wondering, though, how much you personally wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells, but not a lot with embryonic?"

what is he going to say? That he isn't give a f---?

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