Didn't we have an election last November? I thought we already went through the primary/general election season and elected Barack Obama. With all the campaign rhetoric I heard last night, Obama has either started his re-election campaign or it hasn't hit him yet that he is President.
I am being too harsh...let's start out positive. According to CNN, President Bush did not have his first press conference until October 2001. Perhaps Obama's pledge of a transparent, open government is actually happening. 13 questions later...and what felt like an hour for each answer...a few of his responses intrigue me.
When asked about the lack of bipartisanship, the President answered "They (the American People) understand that 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".
This is exactly right. IF there is going to be a change in the way things are done in Washington, there are a lot of bad habits that need to be broken...by both Congress AND the White House.
These are serious times, times that require serious leaders providing effective solutions. The problem is that political gamesmanship often trumps doing the right thing. Does anything think that all the House Republicans voted against the stimulus bill because it was bad or looked at as ineffective? No way...it was political posturing, and the start of the Republican counter-offensive of 'small government'.
With a few of the questions being about the economy, the President wanted to get into few specifics, instead pointing out that today's plan roll out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would answer all their questions.
Perhaps it was a good thing that we didn't know anything last night. Take a look at these headlines
- Stocks Decline, Treasuries Gain on Skepticism Over Bank Rescue - Bloomberg
- Geithner Unveils Rescue Plan, but Details Are Scarce - Wall Street Journal
- Administration Officials Met With Laughter At Bailout Briefing - Huffington Post
There were two problems with this: 1) No one who watched last night's press conference was going to tune in today, and 2) the people watching (and assembled press) deserved a preview of what was to come. Everyone knows the recovery is not going to be easy, but for goodness sake, don't treat us like children.
I am reserving comment about the stimulus package until the final bill reaches the President's desk and we know what is going to be in it. From what we know, however, infrastructure/construction are going to be on their way up, and that is a good thing.
Placing work orders that build new schools, roads, bridges, clinics, etc...not only are we going to benefit from having the new structures, but this will put Americans back to work. If we are going to throw money at the problem, we might as well try to get a 2-fer out of this.
Creating new jobs to construct new buildings, which will need people to work in them...do you see how this trickles down (uh oh...better not use that phrase). Do you see how this can snowball into something bigger? I'm not an economist, but I see the logic in this process. It is so....uhmmmm, Reagan-esque (create opportunities for people to start small businesses, they get wealthy and hire others...and the cycle continues).
When asked what metric Americans should use to gauge whether Obama's plans are working, he had a three-part answer
- "I think my initial measure of success is creating or saving 4 million jobs"
- "Are we seeing the credit markets operate effectively"
- "Have we stabilized the housing market"
You are going to hear A LOT about part one. Remember, it is 4 million SAVED or new jobs. Does that mean this is a success if 4 million more people do not wind up unemployed? Is it half-and-half? This may not mean much now, but is was always specific when referring to this. Remember this when he is running again - it is easier to take credit for saving a job (how do you measure that by the way) instead of creating new jobs).
All I am trying to say, for now, is give the plan a chance. We are in the position where SOMETHING has to be done. The votes are in place for bill to pass, and it is going to pass. All the President is trying to do at this point is build momentum (and, I know, strengthen his power for future fights with Republicans). If this doesn't work, we'll know who to hold accountable.
A few other highlights from the press conference
- Helen Thomas from UPI doesn't get to ask the first question, and when she does get called on, asks about safe havens for "so-called terrorists" - at least Obama was smart enough to call them terrorists
- Obama side-stepped the question about allowing pool footage of American coffins returning home - we'll see what the DOD says to the President and find out if it was really a political issue, or one of common sense and decency
- The reporter from Fox News...seated all the way in the back corner of the room - you almost needed a set of binoculars to see him
- In a sign of the time, The Huffington Post (whose reporter was near the front) got to ask a question at the press conference - their question? The possibility of prosecuting members of the Bush Administration
- With the Huffington Post getting to ask a question, this signals that the Internet, and bloggers, are going to play a little larger role in the coverage of this administration; not that broadcast, cable and print media are not important, it is just nice to see this medium respected