In his first prime-time press conference President Obama pushed the stimulus again, using his recent time in Elkhart, Indiana, where he unemployment is 15.3 percent and “local TV stations have started running public service announcements to tell people where to find food banks,” to stress the present danger of “doing nothing,” which is characterized as the only alternative to the Democratic bills in Congress. (Full transcript here.)
He said he and Congressional Democrats stood ready to work with Republicans, to whom he said he’d made “a series of overtures,” but said “there seems to be a set of folks who — I don’t doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing.”
“What I won’t do,” he added, “is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested, and they have failed. And that’s what part of the election in November was all about.”
As to critics who suggested that “suggested that FDR was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal,” he said, “They’re fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.”
Questioning was mildly probing. He denied that he was “talking down the economy,” and said he was instead arguing that to “delay acting on an economy of this severity” may lead to a “negative spiral” that would worsen the situation.
Asked about lack of Republican cooperation, Obama said, “there have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington, and it’s going to take time to break down some of those bad habits,” and that accusations of overspending and pork indicated that some officials were “playing politics instead of actually trying to solve problems for the American people.” Asked for signs we could watch for to make sure the stimulus, if enacted, is working, he mentioned liquidity of credit, but said, “I don’t have a crystal ball.”
He admitted that maybe he hadn’t played things cagey enough on the stimulus bill: “I mean, I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them, and maybe that’s the lesson I learned.”
Other questions involved Iran, Pakistan, freedom of media coverage in Afghanistan, and the bank bailout, all answered in a more or less expected fashion — though, when asked about the possible prosecution of Bush Administration officials, he said “nobody’s above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen” — but also that “I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backward.”