Analysis: Obama makes his case for stimulus

February 10, 2009 12:05:23 AM PST
President Barack Obama entered the east room of the White House with a clear objective -- to make a stern case for his $800 billion stimulus package.

"The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life," President Obama said.

Obama's first prime time news conference was part of a carefully choreographed effort to gain public support for his stimulus plan.

Earlier Monday, the president made his pitch in Elkhart, Indiana, where the county's unemployment rate has tripled to 15 percent.

"If there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from," Obama said.

The stimulus bill did advance in the Senate Monday, but only three Republicans supported it, and the Senate's version must still be reconciled with the House bill, which garnered no Republican votes.

"Let's put a lot more energy in the House package, because that's the package that supports the human infrastructure," Democrat Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey said.

Republicans are expected to continue speaking out against the bill, but when asked if he underestimated the ways of Washington, the president said "no."

"I don't think I underestimated it; I don't think the, the American people underestimated it, they understand that there have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington, and it's going to take time to break down some of those bad habits," Obama said.

Monday's news conference did touch on topics unrelated to the economy.

The president called Yankee Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used steroids "depressing news," and said his administration will be looking for openings to start face-to face talks with Iran.

Overall, the president accomplished what he set out to do, according to political strategist Bill Whalen.

"He needed to talk straight to the American people and get his point across about what he wanted to do here, and get out of the whole talk about earmarks, and pork, and strategy and so forth, and sort of reassert the presidential bully pulpit and that's what he did tonight," Whalen said.