President Obama became Professor Obama at his prime-time news conference last night.
He gave lengthy disquisitions about the nation's economic problems, all designed to reassure the country that he knows what ails the economy and has a solution to deal with it and a host of other problems. "We haven't immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington," he told reporters and a national TV audience. "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."
He said his $3.6 trillion budget, now under consideration by Congress and under fire from a variety of legislators, is necessary for economic recovery "because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity."
Obama was calm and relaxed throughout his 55-minute encounter with the news media. Pressed at one point on why he had not expressed immediate outrage and anger at American International Group for granting bonuses to executives despite receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout funds, Obama seemed miffed. "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," he said sternly.
More broadly, he offered a lesson in capitalism. "Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayers' dime is inexcusable, that the days of outsized rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over," he said. He added: "At the same time, the rest of us can't afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit. That drive is what has always fueled our prosperity, and it is what will ultimately get these banks lending and our economy moving once more."
The president argued, as he has many times, that his main objectives are to defend national security, save the financial system, overhaul healthcare, promote energy independence from fossil fuels, strengthen education, and eventually get the deficit under control.
It was Obama's second prime-time news conference of his presidency and came on his 64th day in office.
Reaction from opposition Republicans was negative. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House GOP leader, argued: "The Obama budget lays the foundation for heaping massive amounts of debt on our children and grandchildren. According to the CBO [Congressional Budget Office], the president's budget will add $9.3 trillion to the deficit over 10 years."