President Obama is standing by his concession Monday in an interview with ABC News that Americans aren’t better off than they were four years ago before the near collapse of the financial system and a deep economic recession — both of which occurred at the tail end of President George W. Bush’s term.
At a fundraiser in Dallas, Obama returned to the point he made in the interview, that Americans are still suffering through hard economic times.
“Of course they’re still hurting,” he said. “Every night I get letters and emails from families who are struggling.”
He listed among his successes the auto bailout and Wall Street reform, noting Republican opposition to both.
The President doesn’t regret acknowledging the truth, namely, that the economy is still flagging and is unlikely to quickly rebound any time soon, White House spokesman Jay Carney also told reporters Tuesday while traveling to Texas on Air Force One.
“It would be wrong to somehow suggest that the hole created by that recession was not very deep … or that somehow we’ll emerge from it overnight,” Carney said.
But Carney also noted that “four years ago was 2007 — prior to the point where the policies of the previous administration plunged us into the greatest recession since the Great Depression.”
Most Americans, Carney said, understand that the recession the President was confronted with when he took office had hit a crisis point with the economy contracting by 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and losing more than 750,000 jobs in January 2009, the month Obama took office.
“So it is simply a statement of fact that the economy that was — that existed when this President took office — was the worst that this country has experienced since the Great Depression,” Carney continued. “And it got worse before this President’s policies began to take effect and began making it better.”
During an interview Monday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Obama how he would convince many Americans that they are better off than they were four years ago, and Obama stated flatly: “Well, I don’t think they’re better off than they were four years ago.”
In the same interview that he declared himself the “underdog,” Obama noted slow but steady progress in stabilizing the economy during his time in the Oval Office and predicted that he would prevail at the ballot box because voters prefer his vision for economic recovery better than Republican plans.
“I think that what we’ve seen is that we’ve been able to make steady progress to stabilize the economy,” Mr. Obama said, “but the unemployment rate is still way too high. And that’s why it’s so critical for us to make sure that we are taking every action we can take to put people back to work.”
The admission caught some political observers off guard because it so simply and honestly negates the standard President Ronald Reagan set in 1980 when he unseated President Jimmy Carter. But Obama’s willingness to accept the economic reality and his underdog status appears to be part of coordinated message of accepting responsibility rather than blaming the current problems on the previous administration.
Vice President Joe Biden startled supporters last week by telling a Florida radio station that the Obama administration, not the Bush administration, is responsible for the state of the economy.
“There’s a lot of people in Florida that have good reason to be upset because they’ve lost jobs,” Biden told WLRN’s Phil Latzman in an interview. “Even though 50 some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that’s not relevant.”
“What’s relevant is, we’re in charge. And right now, we are the ones in charge, and it’s gotten better but it hasn’t gotten good enough. And in states like Florida it’s even been more stagnant because of the real estate market,” Biden continued.
“And so I don’t blame them for being mad. We’re in charge, so they’re angry.”