The polished, measured, scripted Barack Obama came into office so used to controlling his message, he recreated the White House press conference with new rules and a very complicit media corps. Now that there’s mostly nothing but bad news from and for his administration, the press is getting more cynical, and Obama hardly ever holds a press conference.
But he did the other day. It was mostly awkward and unimpressive. But USA Today’s live-time blogging on that Presser was rather lively and interesting.
Obama starts by blaming the Republicans, and there’s no news in that. Nor in his remarks about “growing the economy.” Then come the questions.
The Associated Press asks: Why shouldn’t the elections be a referendum on your stewardship of the economy?
Obama repeated his line that if voters judge the economy as is, Democrats won’t do well — but if they consider the best policies to get us out of this mess, the Democrats will do very well indeed. He repeats — at length — his economic plan, arguing it will bear fruit down the line. Says we are digging out of a “huge hole” created by the Republicans. “The policies that we have put in place are leading us in the right direction,” he says.
Reuters follows up: Can you compromise with Republicans on tax cuts in order to a get a jobs bill?
“Certainly there is room for discussion,” Obama replies at first. But he says the Republicans have been too busy “playing politics.”
This is ringing hollow, too. Almost goes without saying. Although…
Chip Reid of CBS News asks: Why wait until election season to roll out a new economic plan? Aren’t you just playing politics too?
Obama says that when he came into office in early 2009, he had to put together an emergency plan to address the fiscal crisis, including tax cuts. The economy is recovering, but is not as strong as he would like — hence the new plan, including new tax incentives to encourage hiring…
Is this a second stimulus, Chip asks as a followup.
Obama says everything he’s doing is designed to “stimulate growth and jobs.”
He’s practically doing gynmastics to avoid using the word “stimulus.” But it is what it is. And people are getting more nervous about what it is.
Looking ahead with trepidation, Americans are thinking: Never have so many of us owed so much.
Add to that
the facts that the recession has reduced household wealth by $10 trillion and that only 25 percent of Americans expect their incomes to improve next year
and people do not want to hear about another big spending plan. But we are.
Democrats who say that another stimulus is necessary for job creation but who dare not utter the word “stimulus” are sending three depressing messages: The $862 billion stimulus did not work; the public so loathes the word that another stimulus will not happen; therefore prosperity is not “just around the corner,” as Herbert Hoover supposedly said (but did not).
This president is not inspiring confidence, among the people in general and the business sector that could (under the right circumstances) grow the economy.
Obama is desperately urging consumers and investors to have confidence in his understanding of economics. They may, however, remember his characteristic certitude that “Cash for Clunkers” was “successful beyond anybody’s imagination.”