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President Points To Progress on Economic Efforts

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President Obama held a prime-time news conference Tuesday addressing the economic recession, his administration's recovery strategy, and other current events during the first 60 days of his presidency.Video by AP

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By Michael D. Shear and Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

President Obama sought to reassure Americans last night that his administration has made progress in reviving the economy and said his $3.6 trillion budget is "inseparable from this recovery."

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After sprinting through his first months in office, Obama is now facing heightened criticism from Republicans, who have called his blueprint irresponsible, and from skeptical Democrats who have already set about trimming back his top budget priorities.

Obama came into office amid lofty expectations and the worst economic crisis in generations, and he succeeded in pushing through a $787 billion stimulus and launching expensive plans to revive the banking system.

Last night, against a backdrop of a broad national anxiety that the economy may still be failing, he attempted to recalibrate the high hopes to more closely fit the challenges he said lie ahead.

Although he spoke sharply once in response to Republican criticism, Obama struck a tone of common purpose throughout his second prime-time news conference, urging the country to be patient as he works on issues as divergent as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the malign impact of lobbying in Washington.

"We haven't immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington," he said from the East Room of the White House. "We have not immediately eliminated wasteful pork projects. And we're not immediately going to get Middle East peace. We've been in office now a little over 60 days.

"What I am confident about is that we're moving in the right direction."

Throughout the evening, Obama returned repeatedly to his belief that patience and determination will win out, declaring that the "whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I'm in this office. I'm a big believer in persistence."

Asked about congressional efforts to chip away at his main facets of his agenda, Obama gave no indication that he would need to abandon core principles.

"We never expected, when we printed out our budget, that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. . . . I have confidence that we're going to be able to get a budget done that's reflective of what needs to happen in order to make sure that America grows."

During the 55-minute news conference, Obama faced no questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, or terrorism. Instead, the president focused consistently on his administration's efforts to boost the economy, presenting his first budget proposal as the critical and most far-reaching step in that process.

In a statement earlier in the day, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama's budget "may be the most irresponsible piece of legislation I've seen in my legislative career. It's an irresponsible plan that only makes the crisis we're in worse. But when it's all said and done, I think it's time for a do-over."


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