President Barack Obama held his first prime-time Presidential news conference on February 9, 2009 in the East Room of the White House. See the full video, transcript and photos here. He began the press conference with a statement on the economy as he discussed his visit that same day to Elkhart, Indiana where he held a town meeting. The town was specifically chosen because it has been hit severely with a high unemployment rate. He cited statistics of job loss to illustrate that the economy is a “full blown crisis.”
The President noted that 3.6 million jobs have been lost in the past year, and that what is more disturbing is that almost half of the job loss has taken place over the past three months, meaning that the crisis is accelerating. He addressed what he characterized as people’s “philosophical” objections to government intervention in the economy, saying that this must be overcome due to the severity of the crisis. He reiterated that it is not just a recession but the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
He urged that Congress pass the stimulus bill, noting that a failure to act “could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” He then took questions on a range of topics from reporters; the majority of questions focused on the proposed economic stimulus package.
“There have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, explaining why he thought so few Republicans have voted for the plan, despite overtures that included inviting them to the White House and including three Republicans in his cabinet. “All those were designed not simply to get some short-term votes, they were designed to build up trust over time,” he said.
As the stimulus debate monopolizes Capitol Hill, the administration is looking ahead to the bank bailout plan, to be announced on Tuesday by Mr. Obama’s Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner.
The past few weeks have been rocky ones for the fledgling Obama administration, as Republicans have successfully cast the stimulus plan as an exercise in pork-barrel spending. The news conference and presidential road trips are an effort by the White House to tap into Mr. Obama’s considerable rhetorical skills, in effect putting him back onto the campaign trail. […]
Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Mr. Obama had to persuade Americans that the recession is “substantially more serious” than was apparent even a few weeks ago and that “it is going to take a series of steps, not just one economic recovery package” to survive it.
The press conference is notable in that it lasted a full hour and was scheduled comparatively early in Obama’s Presidency. In contrast, President George W. Bush President Bush held his first press conference on February 22 at 2:40 pm Eastern time, in the Briefing Room. His first prime time news conference took place on October 11, 2001 which was nine months after he had assumed office and exactly one month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Mr. Obama’s press conference this evening is also notable for the varied number of news organizations given seats.
Major U.S. news organizations were limited to one seat each. Among those also getting a seat: 538.com, Gray Communications, Air America, Ed Schultz (liberal radio talk show host), Al Jazeera, Essence, Saudi Press Agency, Scoop44.com and America Blog.
Here is the Obama press conference video. More Obama pictures below.
Press Conference [Full Video]
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