March 25, 2009

Don't Mess With An Ocean Liner

Obama Presser Mills.JPG

In O’s press conference #2, CNN’s Ed Henry got in Obama’s face over AIG.

Henry started off asking why Andrew Cuomo was getting more action on the AIG bonuses than Obama and Geithner. Then, getting personal about the deficit (and Prez’s seeming lack of concern about he), he asked Obama if he worried that his daughters might inherit a big fiscal mess. Although Obama, over the course of the hour, was mostly wonkish or professorial in insistently driving home why his budget needed to get passed, this exchange with Henry showed a more forceful Obama.

Look, if this was easy, then, you know, we would have already done it, and the budget would have been voted on, and everybody could go home.  

Right after this came the sharpest exchange with Henry’s follow up:

QUESTION: But on AIG, why did you wait — why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage? It seems like the action is coming out of New York and the attorney general’s office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, “Look, we’re outraged.” Why did it take so long?

OBAMA: It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.

(LAUGHTER)Seems like the new President, not being quite so brand new anymore, is starting to feel more weight. The NYT captures this quality with the photo above from their press conference slide show. (In this instance, having been asked, in a confrontational way again, why he hasn’t “asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery,” Obama responds — rather obviously — that: “folks are sacrificing left and right.”)

Gathering strengths as he went, Obama’s closed with a crystal clear statement of his operating philosophy, segueing into a powerful metaphor of himself as a grand sailing vessel. He said:

…(I)f you stick to it, if you are persistent, then — then these problems can be dealt with.

That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I’m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come as long as I’m in this office. I’m a big believer in persistence.

And we are going to stay with it as long as I’m in this office, and I think that — you look back four years from now, I think, hopefully, people will judge that body of work and say, “This is a big ocean liner. It’s not a speedboat. It doesn’t turn around immediately. But we’re in a better — better place because of the decisions that we made.”

All right? Thank you, everybody.

“All right,” as in, case closed. If Obama is more often characterized as “cool,” the photo (and his close, beyond persistent and “big”) speaks a lot more to “strong.”

(image: Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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