I said he needed to do three things well.
1) The President needs be specific and quantify. On this, he didn't give the sort of specifics that one would hope. He hammered the point home that this stimulus would create $4 million jobs. This was a number he used over and over. Yet, I don't think anyone that listened to the whole press conference, as I did, could explain how this was going to happen. As I have surmised the President has lost control of the debate over this bill because his opponents have been able to quantify that which they don't like about the bill.
The President alluded to putting green technology into government buildings and modernizing the information technology in health care. He mentioned both of these in a vague way. It is unclear how many jobs will be created with either and both of these programs.
Now, it should be mentioned that when someone can't be specific and they can't quantify it often means they really don't have their proverbial arms around the situation. That, his opponents can find a laundry list of specific programs that they find objectionable while the President can only find vague reasons for why the stimulus will work should give everyone pause about whether or not the President has a handle on the situation.
2) Quit blaming the other side and the previous administration.
On this one he failed miserably. President Obama continued to blame Bush. He took several shots at the Republicans. He alluded that Republicans were opposed to this bill simply on ideology. He said it was hypocritical that Republicans now stand for fiscal discipline. While we can debate whether or not the President is correct, it is very un statesmanlike for him to be this partisan. It's a sign of your own weak argument when you are constantly attacking the other side.
At more than one point, President Obama said that some claim that doing nothing is better than his plan. Then, President Obama often said that most economists have dismissed this. This is a red herring on two levels. First, there is no consensus among economists about what to do, and many legitimate economists that believe doing nothing is a legitimate option. Furthermore, the Republican alternative is far from doing nothing. This is in fact what happens when the President gets into such partisan debates. President Obama appears to be determined to get into the mud of debate and politics. It is the sort of mud that is perfect for campaigns. Yet, it is not very Presidential.
3) Address the many elephants in the room.
First, he needed to address the growing deficit that this would cause. People view this deficit in two ways. First, they see this leading to out of control inflation soon, and in the long term, they see debt being left to our children. The President did address this and he made allusions that our government would eventually need to exercise some fiscal restraint. While this is somewhat assuring, I would have been more assured by a firmer stance that called for balanced budget and even a commitment to pay down some of this debt. The President has NEVER even acknowledged that this would eventually turn quite inflationary.
The other elephant in the room is the fear by some that this stimulus is really a way to permanently make government larger and transform our economy. This wasn't addressed but that's because it wasn't asked. That this wasn't asked along without one question regarding the potential hyper inflation of all this spending is yet another example of the failure of the press to ask nearly enough probative questions. There was however a question about what the President thought of Alex Rodriquez' admission today that he cheated. That might be a good question in another venue, but I think the American people would have been better served with a question about what the President will do to stem the tide of inflation caused by out of control spending.
Overall, I would give the President a C, and I don't think this press conference has done anything to change the dynamic of the debate.
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