West Wing Briefing

Obama to critics: I told you so

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010; 3:42 PM

BUFFALO -- President Obama had a simple message Thursday for the Republicans who have tried to thwart his economic policies.

I told you so.

In a defense of the often unpopular actions his administration has taken to confront the economic crisis, Obama told employees of an expanding manufacturing company here that he was right and his critics were wrong.

"Today, we are heading in the right direction," Obama said. "Those tough steps we took -- they're working. Despite all the naysayers -- who were predicting failure a year ago -- our economy is growing again."

Standing in front of heavy equipment in a manufacturing bay at a company that has added workers, Obama said his critics should have to admit that the steps he took -- and they opposed -- ended the recession and have begun to add jobs, if slowly.

"I knew that if we didn't act boldly and quickly -- if we didn't defy the politics of the moment and do what was necessary -- we would have risked an even greater disaster," he said, calling out the Republican Party as having been "in power when the crisis happened."

The response from Republicans was swift. They pointed out that White House officials had predicted an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent by now when they were arguing for the president's stimulus package. And they pointed to polls suggesting that the public still does not believe the recovery act has helped them much.

"Last year, the administration rushed a trillion-dollar stimulus bill through Congress because it said we needed it to create jobs," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "Well, more than a year later unemployment is hovering around 10 percent. And taxpayers want their money back."

Obama's trip to Buffalo highlights one of the central dilemmas for any president presiding over a slow economic recovery: how to balance the good news and the bad news, the continuing misery and the hopeful signs.

Just days ago, Obama stood in the Rose Garden at the White House to tout the best job numbers in years -- almost 300,000 jobs created in a single month. Flanked by his economic team, the president used the opportunity to remind Americans how far the country had come since the recession began.

"At the height of the downturn, around the time that I took office, we were losing an average of 750,000 jobs per month," Obama told the people watching his announcement last Friday morning.

But as he has done every time there is good news, the president quickly made a pivot, acknowledging the frustration undoubtedly felt by the unemployed every time they hear that the economy is improving and that the recession is over.

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