Obama Will Point to Positive Economic Signs

Posted March 24, 2009 at 3:14pm

Having lost a week of valuable message time to the American International Group scandal, President Barack Obama will try to reclaim control of the bully pulpit with a prime-time news conference Tuesday night.

According to White House officials, Obama in his opening remarks will talk about recent steps to rescue the financial system — including Monday’s announcement of a plan to buy up toxic assets — as pieces of a comprehensive strategy that he has described in the past as a multi-legged stool.

The president will point to positive results that he believes are already coming in, noting that the financial markets are beginning to stabilize and credit is being freed up. He will note that mortgage rates are at an all-time low, that rates are similarly low for auto loans, and that small businesses have an excellent opportunity for access to new capital.

The president will also use his second prime-time news conference to trumpet his embattled budget. Republicans have already given it a thumbs down, and even Democrats are straying amid a Congressional Budget Office report predicting the plan could cost $2.3 trillion more over 10 years than Obama’s Office of Management and Budget has forecast.

With the budget under attack, Obama will stress his commitment to his top initiatives and his view that they are critical to the nation’s economic health, pointing to proposals to overhaul the nation’s health system and provide new funding for energy and education programs.

The president will also “restate his commitment to cutting the deficit in half in five years— using “honest budgeting— that includes spending on the Iraq War and sets aside money for natural disasters.

While Obama will talk budget, many questions can be expected to focus on the insurer AIG — under fire for heaping huge bonuses on executives while receiving federal money — with the press likely to continue chasing a story that has prompted outrage around the country.

Reporters may also quiz Obama about his latest moves to bail out the financial system, including a call Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for new powers to seize control of failing non-bank financial institutions before they need a bailout.

Obama almost certainly wants budget questions, since he can pivot off of them to describe his proposals. But, given the CBO’s higher forecast and the millions Obama has devoted to the financial rescue effort, reporters may well focus on costs.