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The Progress Report

Posted March 25, 2009 | 11:39 AM (EST)

Obama Meets The Press Again


by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers

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Last night, President Obama held his second prime-time press conference from the White House, where he sought "to reassure the nation that he could solve the crisis that has gripped the economy for more than a year." Before taking questions, Obama delivered a prepared "update" on the steps that his administration is "taking to move this economy from recession to recovery, and ultimately to prosperity." "We've put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts," said Obama. "It's a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending, and to grow our economy over the long term. And we're beginning to see signs of progress." After noting his stimulus, housing, and financial rescue plans, Obama said that "the most critical part" of his recovery strategy is the budget he proposed to Congress last month, which he said "will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation so that we don't face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now." "That's why this budget is inseparable from this recovery, because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity," said Obama. But the budget proposal was the main target of the press corps, with four of the 13 questions asked focusing on its elements. Responding to claims that he is "passing on our problems to the next generation," Obama steadfastly made the case for his budget, saying that "the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run" is "with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow-and-spend to one where we save and invest."

FOUR BASIC PRINCIPLES: In his weekly video address this past weekend, Obama said that as Congress takes up his budget, he expected that the final product will maintain "four basic principles": putting America on "a path to a clean, renewable energy future," renewing a "commitment to a complete and competitive education for every American child," making "a serious investment in health care reform," and reducing the deficit in the long term. Noting press reports of some pushback from Senate Democrats, ABC News' Jake Tapper asked Obama last night if he would "sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap-and- trade." Obama replied that he never expected Congress to take his budget proposal and "simply Xerox it and vote on it," but he is "confident" that the final budget will have his four principles in place. Asked by CBS News' Chip Reid about the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) more pessimistic assessment of the deficit Obama's budget would create, Obama said that his administration's assessment and the CBO's assessment simply differed on "assumptions about growth," with Obama assuming a growth rate of 2.6 and the CBO assuming a growth rate of 2.2. He then returned to the four basic principles, saying, "Here's what I do know: If we don't tackle energy, if we don't improve our education system, if we don't drive down the costs of health care, if we're not making serious investments in science and technology and our infrastructure, then we won't grow 2.6 percent; we won't grow 2.2 percent. We won't grow."

'FOLKS ARE SACRIFICING LEFT AND RIGHT':
One of the odder questions posed to Obama was NBC News's Chuck Todd's query about why he hadn't "asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery." As Center for American Progress Action Fund fellow Matt Yglesias notes, Obama responded with a "progressive answer," saying that "folks are sacrificing left and right." "You've got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college," said Obama. "You've got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day and entire day's worth of pay so that their fellow co-workers aren't laid off. I think that across the board people are making adjustments, large and small, to accommodate the fact that we're in very difficult times right now." Indeed, Obama's assessment of Americans' sacrifice was emphasized later in the press conference when Ebony magazine's Kevin Chappell asked about a recent report, which "found that as a result of the economic downturn, one in 50 children are now homeless in America." "Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours," replied Obama, pledging to initiate "a range of programs as well to deal with homelessness."

EXPANDING THE MEDIA UNIVERSE: As with his first press conference, Obama went out of his way to take questions from news outlets beyond the major newspapers and television networks. Though he began with the tradition of taking the first question from the AP, followed by the three major networks, Obama also took questions from outlets such as the Spanish-language network Univision, the military's Stars and Stripes newspaper, Agence France-Presse, and Ebony magazine. As Politico's Michael Calderone noted, "Obama skipped over the nation's top newspapers" as "there were no questions from the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or USA Today." "The president covered a range of topics, including his commitment to addressing the economic crisis, by calling on a wide range of outlets -- including some that rarely, if ever, are given the opportunity to pose a question at a presidential news conference," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the AP. As with his first prime time presser, Obama also opened up the conference to new media, admitting more online reporters, including The Progress Report's Faiz Shakir, who had polled his audience for suggestions of questions