Who would have thought a press conference would provide actual answers to hard questions? From the transcript of Obama's first press conference:
What is your strategy for engaging Iran, and when will you start to implement it?
I think that if you look at how we've approached the Middle East, my designation of George Mitchell as a special envoy to help deal with the Arab-Israeli situation, some of the interviews that I've given, it indicates the degree to which we want to do things differently in the region. Now it's time for Iran to send some signals that it wants to act differently as well, and recognize that even as it has some rights as a member of the international community, with those rights come responsibilities.
[ i.e. ball's now in Iran's court ]
when we ask your advisers about the lack of bipartisanship so far — zero votes in the House, three in the Senate — they say, well, it's not the number of votes that matters, it's the number of jobs that will be created. Is that a sign that you are moving away, your White House is moving away from this emphasis on bipartisanship?
That doesn't negate the continuing efforts that I'm going to make to listen and engage with my Republican colleagues, and hopefully the tone that I've taken, which has been consistently civil and respectful, will pay some dividends over the long term. There are going to be areas where we disagree, and there are going to be areas where we agree.
[ i..e. I hope to get agreement on other matters, but on budget issues I'm resigned to party-line votes ]
if your plan works the way you want it to work, it's going to increase consumer spending. But isn't consumer spending or overspending how we got into this mess? And if people get money back into their pockets, do you not want them saving it or paying down debt first before they start spending money into the economy?
I don't think it's accurate to say that consumer spending got us into this mess. What got us into this mess initially were banks taking exorbitant, wild risks with other people's monies based on shaky assets. And because of the enormous leverage where they had $1 worth of assets and they were betting $30 on that $1, what we had was a crisis in the financial system. That led to a contraction of credit, which in turn meant businesses couldn't make payroll or make inventories, which meant that everybody became uncertain about the future of the economy, so people started making decisions accordingly — reducing investment, initiated layoffs — which in turn made things worse.
[ i..e it's a liquidity crisis, not a moral failing ]
Won't the government need far more than the $350 billion that's remaining in the financial rescue funds to really solve the credit crisis?
Ultimately, the government cannot substitute for all the private capital that has been withdrawn from the system. We've got to restore confidence so that private capital goes back in. [Else where, he explained that the main problem was the lack of clear set of rules about which banks would be rescued and which wouldn't, so come hear Tim Geithner explain the rules so that banks are confident enough to start lending again ]
how can the American people gauge whether or not your programs are working?
1. job creation. [ 4 million jobs ]
2. credit markets operate effectively? [ can people and companies with good credit get loans? ]
3. Housing [stem the rate of foreclosure and start stabilizing housing values over time]
It's good to know that the administration knows what the problem is, has a plan to address the problem, can explain why it chose that plan and how to evaluate it. For example, at some other point, Obama explains why he chose $800b for the stimulus plan. It's because economists estimate that there will be $1000b of demand contraction this year; so he's trying to replace that with government stimulus.
Scientific reasoning behind policy decisions ... about time!