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From Newsweek

Patience, People. Patience.

Obama calmly explains economic recovery will take more time.


Susan Walsh / AP

The gifted orator that he is, President Obama can still get deep in the weeds when it comes to a topic as thorny as the economy. Considering 9.6 percent unemployment, increasing frustration over slow economic growth and a public uneasy about Obama’s span of tax-cutting and stimulus-spending policies, what’s a president to do?

Ask for more time. At his full press conference Friday morning, the president admitted that economic progress has been “painfully slow” but assured that his plan of targeting spending and a new stimulus to improve transportation infrastructure would work, if only people had the patience to let it work. "For all the progress we've made, we're not there yet.” Part of the blame, he said, goes to Senate Republicans for holding up—for the sake of politics—a fairly agreeable bill that includes tax cuts for middle class. But Obama accepted his raps, knowing it comes with the job. "Because I am president, and the Democrats have control of the House and Senate, it's understandable that people are saying, 'What have you done?'"

The conference spanned myriad topics, including health-care reform, the war in Afghanistan, and the controversial plan to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. Plus, to his apparent chagrin, he fielded several questions about the right-wing pastor who has threatened to burn copies of the Quran. Obama’s most passionate moment came at the very end, while he addressed the state of Islam in America. Citing the role of Muslim Americans who are fighting for the U.S. overseas, or for young Muslims who see a country becoming more hostile toward them, he stated “there should be no us and them; it’s just us.”

Obama took every question and offered a reasonable, if calculated, response. But when one reporter asked a more existential question, Obama was at a brief loss. “How have you changed Washington?” a clear reference to his 2008 campaign theme. The sour economy impeded efforts to show real progress, Obama said, but the effects of health care and Wall Street reforms, as well as a massive troop drawdown in Iraq, put the country on better footing.

His partisans may not think so. New reports show that congressional Democrats, fearful of losing their majority in one if not both chambers, are running away from the president, as well as things like health-care reform, which in the short term has mildly bent the cost curve up, rather than down as the White House had promised. When asked why Obama gave an answer akin to shrugging and saying “that’s politics,” citing local political and demographic factors that drive local opinion.

But it all came back to the economy, which Obama addressed over and over with his characteristic calm. At one point even linguistics entered the debate, when someone wanted to know why his administration was avoiding the word stimulus—a term shown to be unpopular due to the slow application of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "Look," Obama said, “I'm as frustrated as anybody by it.” For some reason, that doesn’t seem too hard to believe.

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