Obama fed up with GOP

President Barack Obama looked comfortable enough at his first White House news conference, but he sounded like a man fed up with one thing: Republicans lecturing him about his $820 billion economic stimulus plan.

Obama repeatedly reminded a national television audience that federal spending and deficits soared under George W. Bush’s presidency. He used the point to undermine GOP lawmakers opposing his plan and calling it too costly and wasteful.

"It’s a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they’ve presided over a doubling of the national debt," Obama said. "I’m not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility."

"What I won’t do," he said at another point, "is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place."

An East Room, prime-time news conference is a powerful weapon, and the new president used it to enumerate the ways he differs from his predecessor.

Bush and his Republican allies in Congress relied too heavily on tax cuts, "especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans," Obama said, using past decisions to hit current critics who want more tax reductions and less spending in the stimulus plan. "We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it’s only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now," he said.

On foreign policy, Obama also stressed his departures from Bush’s ways.

"We do not torture" and "we abide by the Geneva Conventions," he said, alluding to the Bush administration’s controversial interrogation policies.

Defending his plans to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, Obama called it a region that "served as the base to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans." In other words, he was saying, Afghanistan is directly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — unlike Iraq, which Bush invaded.

To be sure, Bush’s record gave Obama several opportunities for reviews and comparisons that needed little embellishment. But he indulged in some familiar tricks and dodges from the bully pulpit all the same.

At least three times he suggested that some unspecified number of his Republican critics want to "do nothing" about the economic crisis. GOP leaders consistently have said they want the government to act, but they think Obama’s plan is too heavy on spending and too light on tax cuts.

Asked why he used dire language earlier in the day in Indiana, suggesting the downward economic spiral could be irreversible, Obama did not answer directly, and emphasized his optimism. "I’m absolutely confident that we can solve this problem," he said, "but it’s going to require us to take some significant, important steps."

Obama alternated between "we" and "I" in describing tasks and challenges. "We averted catastrophe by passing the TARP legislation," he said of the massive financial bailout plan that Congress approved while Bush was still president. But without sufficient oversight, he said, "we didn’t get as big of a bang for the buck as we should have."

"My immediate task is making sure that the second half of that money, $350 billion, is spent properly," Obama said, seeming to shoulder the new burden himself. "That’s my first job."

In the news conference’s most poignant moment, he reminded Americans how heavy a burden the presidency can be.

"The most sobering moment is signing letters to the families of our fallen heroes," he said. "It reminds you of the responsibilities that you carry in this office and — and the consequences of the decisions that you make."

In perhaps his most upbeat moment, he reverted to "we" and the promise of better days.

"My hope is that after a difficult year," he said, "businesses start investing again" and "consumers start feeling that their jobs are stable and safe, and they start making purchases again, and, if we get things right, then, starting next year, we can start seeing significant improvement."

"I am the eternal optimist," Obama said in his final remarks, someone trying to provide the "civility and rational argument" that Americans want in their leaders.


Charles Babington covers the White House for The Associated Press.


  1. AustinRanter

    I don’t know Bix…

    The MO for the America voters aren’t very good when it comes to voting out deadwood, on-the-take, parasites incumbent politicians who are eager to start screaming out appologies and promising their constituents a new car in every garage and a chicken in every pot when they know that they are even a tiny bit on the ropes for relection.

    If we could have national elections for Congressional members…things might be a little different. Hmmm, wait…then it would be even worse. The folks would just have a larger audience to bribe. Never mind.

  2. Bix12

    I don’t blame the man for losing his patience–after everything he has done to demonstrate the seriousness of his desire for non-partison unity, the Republicans have gone against him from every direction short of physically attacking him–it’s thoroughly disgusting, and their atrocious behaviour will backfire on them–wonderfully so, I might add.

    Boehner, Graham, McConnell, Kyl…and especially that whining, conniving, lying, piece-of-feces John McCain (who’s been sneakily attempting to poison this bill since day one) all will be swept out of office come 2010–they’ve made the fatal mistake of under-estimating President Barack Obama, as well as ignoring just how closely the American public is monitoring the development of this stim. bill. They are blowing it badly, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Good riddance to the beltway bourgeois-bashers–2011 will be a great year!

  3. Bix12

    AustinRanter–2 or 3 or 4 years ago, I would’ve (and did) agree with you completely…I was, and to a large degree still am, a very cynical fellow–however, that being said…or rather, owned up to…jaded as I am, I have actually begun to be hopeful that the old same ol’ same ol’ is on the wane & there is a new, more informed, less gullible generation on the rise in this country.

    I credit the internet as being the vehicle responsible for this shift in the way voters are participating in the process. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of informed (informed being the operative word) young Americans engaged, and engaging, in their civic duties…meaning not only are they aware of the issues, they are doing something about them (voting).

    There is a massive shift in the political paradigm, and I, for one, welcome it gladly.

  4. AustinRanter

    Bix…Hope you’re right. I’m just not there yet. I do agree that the Internet has impacted the world, but I’m not yet convinced that the larger voting age population is really making close inspection of all of the issues. I believe that far too many are being swayed by talking-head biased commentators whose opinions are just that…opinions rather than facts. In a lot of cases many read abrasive headlines conjured up to sell a point of view of the media rather than their story source’s information.

    “We the people” just have a profound history of being reactive rather than proactive.

    This bill, as I last looked at it, is about 648 pages long. And I suspect that that is about 640 pages more than many of the voters that I’m referring to will even consider looking scantly at it, much less invest time to scrutinize the bill. It’s difficult for me to try to muster through. I get angry about half way through each page and want to rant and rave about this insane mess this country is in. It’s really an emotional bang.

    As my grandma use to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”