Barack Obama's second press conference, on the economy and more, March 24, 2009 (transcript and your notes)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - 06:09 AM

Note: This is an unedited transcript.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: GOOD EVENING. BEFORE I TAKE QUESTIONS FROM THE CORRESPONDENTS I WANT TO GIVE EVERYONE AN UPDATE ON THE STEPS WE'RE TALKING TO MOVE FROM RECESSION TO RECOVERY AND ULTIMATELY TO PROSPERITY. IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THIS CRISIS DIDN'T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT, AND IT DIDN'T RESULT FROM ANY ONE ACTION OR DECISION. IT TOOK MANY YEARS AND MANY FAILURES TO LEAD US HERE, AND IT WILL TAKE MANY MONTHS AND MANY DIFFERENT SOLUTIONS TO LEAD US OUT. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES, AND THERE ARE NO SILVER BULLETS. THAT'S WHY WE PUT IN PLACE A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY DESIGNED TO ATTACK THIS CRISIS ON ALL FRONTS. IT'S A STRATEGY TO CREATE JOBS, TO HELP RESPONSIBLE HOMEOWNERS, TO RESTART LENDING, AND TO GROW OUR ECONOMY OVER THE LONG TERM.

WE'RE BEGINNING TO SEE SIGNS OF PROGRESS. THE FIRST STEP WE TOOK WAS TO PASS A RECOVERY PLAN TO JUMP START JOB CREATION AND PUT MONEY IN PEOPLE'S POCKETS. THIS PLAN HAS ALREADY SAVED THE JOBS OF TEACHERS AND POLICE OFFICERS. IT'S CREATING CONSTRUCTION JOBS TO REBUILD ROADS AND BRIDGES, AND YESTERDAY I MET WITH A MAN WHOSE COMPANY IS RE-OPENING A FACTORY OUTSIDE OF PITTSBURGH REHIRING WORKERS TO BUILD SOME OF THE MOST ENERGY EFFICIENT WINDOWS IN THE WORLD, AND THIS PLAN WILL PROVIDE A TAX CUT TO 95% OF ALL WORKING FAMILIES THAT WILL APPEAR IN PEOPLE'S PAYCHECKS BY APRIL 1ST. THE SECOND STEP WE TOOK WAS TO LAUNCH A PLAN TO STABILIZE THE HOUSING MARKET AND HELP RESPONSIBLE HOMEOWNERS STAY IN THEIR HOMES. THIS PLAN IS ONE REASON THAT MORTGAGE INTEREST RATES ARE AT NOW NEAR HISTORIC LOWS. WE'VE SEEN A JUMP IN REFINANCING OF MORTGAGES. AS HOMEOWNERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER RATES AND EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW THAT UP TO 40% OF ALL MORTGAGES ARE NOW ELIGIBLE FOR REFINANCING. THIS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF ANOTHER TAX CUT. WE'RE ALSO BEGINNING TO SEE SIGNS OF INCREASED SALES AND STABILIZING HOME PRICES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A VERY LONG TIME. THE THIRD PART OF OUR STRATEGY IS TO RESTART THE FLOW OF CREDIT TO FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES. TO THAT END WE'VE LAUNCHED A PROGRAM DESIGNED TO SUPPORT THE MARKETS FOR MORE AFFORDABLE AUTO LOANS, STUDENT LOANS AND SMALL BUSINESS LOANS, A PROGRAM THAT'S SECURITIZED MORE LENDING IN THE LAST WEEK THAN IN THE LAST FOUR MONTHS COMBINED. YESTERDAY SECRETARY GEITHNER ANNOUNCED A NEW PLAN TO PARTNER GOVERNMENT RESOURCES WITH PRIVATE INVESTMENT TO BUY UP ASSETS TO PREVENT BANKS FROM LENDING MONEY. WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY IN THE WEEKS AHEAD TO ENSURE THE BANKS AMERICANS DEPEND ON HAVE THE MONEY THEY NEED TO LEND EVEN IF THE ECONOMY GETS WORSE. FINALLY, THE MOST CRITICAL PART OF OUR STRATEGY IS TO ENSURE WE DO NOT RETURN TO AN ECONOMIC CYCLE OF BUBBLE AND BUST IN THIS COUNTRY. WE KNOW THAT AN ECONOMY BUILT ON RECKLESS SPECULATION, INFLATED HOME PRICES AND MAXED OUT CREDIT CARDS DOES NOT CREATE LASTING WEALTH. IT CREATES THE ILLUSION OF PROSPERITY AND IT'S ENDANGERED US ALL. THE BUDGET I SUBMITTED TO CONGRESS WILL BUILD OUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY ON A SOLID FOUNDATION SO WE DON'T FACE ANOTHER CRISIS 10, 20 YEARS FROM NOW. WE INVEST IN THE RENEWABLE SOURCES OF ENERGY THAT WILL LEAD TO NEW JOBS, NEW BUSINESS, AND LESS DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL. WE INVEST IN OUR SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS, OUR CHILDREN HAVE THE SKILLS THEY NEED TO COMPETE WITH ANY WORKERS IN THE WORLD. WE INVEST IN REFORM THAT WILL BRIG DOWN THE COST OF HEALTH CARE FOR FAMILIES, BUSINESSES AND OUR GOVERNMENT. IN THIS BUDGET WE HAVE TO MAKE THE TOUGH CHOICES TO CUT OUR DEFICIT IN HALF BY THE END OF MY FIRST TERM, EVEN UNDER THE MOST PESSIMISTIC ESTIMATES. AT THE END OF THE DAY THE BEST WAY TO BRING THE DEFICIT DOWN IN THE LONG RUN IS NOT WITH A BUDGET THAT CONTINUOUS THE SAME POLICIES THAT HAVE LED US TO A NARROW PROSPERITY AND MASSIVE DEBT BUT WITH BROAD ECONOMIC GROWTH BY MOVING FROM BORROW AND SPEND TO SAVE AND INVEST. THAT'S WHY CLEAN ENERGY JOBS AND BUSINESSES WILL DO THAT ALL ACROSS AMERICA. THAT'S WHAT A HIGHLY SKILLED WORK FORCE CAN DO ACROSS AMERICA. THAT'S WHAT AN EFFICIENT HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT CONTROLS COSTS AND ENTITLEMENTS LIKE MEDICARE AND MEDICAID WILL DO. THAT'S WHY THIS BUDGET IS INSEPARABLE FROM THIS RECOVERY. BECAUSE IT IS WHAT LAYS THE FOUNDATION FOR A SECURE AND LASTING PROSPERITY.

THE ROAD TO THAT PROSPERITY IS STILL LONG, AND WE WILL HIT OUR SHARE OF BUMPS AND SETBACKS BEFORE IT ENDS. BUT WE MUST REMEMBER WE CAN GET THERE IF WE TRAVEL THAT ROAD AS ONE NATION, AS ONE PEOPLE. THERE WAS A LOT OF OUTRAGE AND FINGER-POINTING LAST WEEK AND MUCH IS UNDERSTANDABLE. I'M AS ANGRY ANYBODY ABOUT THE BONUSES THAT WENT TO THE SAME INDIVIDUALS WHO BROUGHT OUR FINANCIAL SYSTEM TO ITS KNEES. PARTLY BECAUSE IT'S YET ANOTHER SYMPTOM OF THE CULTURE THAT LED US TO THIS POINT. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS TO LEARN FROM THIS CRISIS IS THAT OUR ECONOMY ONLY WORKS IF WE RECOGNIZE THAT WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. THAT WE ALL HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES TO EACH OTHER AND TO OUR COUNTRY. BANKERS AND EXECUTIVES ON WALL STREET NEED TO REALIZE THAT ENRICHING THEMSELVES ON THE TAXPAYER'S DIME IS INEXCUSABLE. THE DAYS OF OUTSIZED REWARDS AND RECKLESS SPECULATION THAT PUTS US ALL AT RISK HAVE TO BE OVER. AT THE SAME TIME THE REST OF US CAN'T AFFORD TO DEMONIZE EVERY INVESTOR OR ENTREPRENEUR WHO SEEKS TO MAKE A PROFIT. THAT DRIVE FUELS OUR PROSPERITY. IT IS WHAT WILL ULTIMATELY GET THESE BANKS LENDING AND OUR ECONOMY MOVING ONCE MORE. WE'LL RECOVER FROM THIS RECESSION, BUT IT WILL TAKE TIME, IT WILL TAKE PATIENCE, AND IT WILL TAKE AN UNDERSTANDING THAT WHEN WE ALL WORK TOGETHER, WHEN EACH OF US LOOKS BEYOND OUR OWN SHORT TERM INTERESTS TO THE WIDER SET OF OBLIGATIONS WE HAVE TOWARDS EACH OTHER, THAT'S WHEN WE SUCCEED, THAT'S WHEN WE PROSPER, AND THAT'S WHAT IS NEEDED RIGHT NOW. LET'S LOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE WITH A RENEWED SENSE OF COMMON PURPOSE, RENEWED DETERMINATION AND MOST IMPORTANTLY RENEWED CONFIDENCE THAT A BETTER DAY WILL COME.

ALL RIGHT. WITH THAT, LET ME TAKE SOME QUESTIONS, AND I'VE GOT A LIST HERE, LET'S START OFF WITH JENNIVER LOVEN, AP

JENNIFER LOVEN (AP): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. YOUR TREASURY SECRETARY AND THE FED CHAIRMAN WERE ON CAPITOL HILL TODAY ASKING FOR THIS NEW AUTHORITY THAT YOU WANT TO REGULATE BIG, COMPLEX, FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS. GIVEN THE PROBLEMS THAT THE FINANCIAL BAILOUT PROGRAM HAS HAD SO FAR, BANKS NOT WANTING TO TALK ABOUT HOW THEY'RE SPENDING THE MONEY, THE AIG BONUSES THAT YOU MENTIONED, WHY DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC SHOULD SIGN ON FOR ANOTHER NEW SWEEPING AUTHORITY FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE OVER COMPANIES ESSENTIALLY?

MR. OBAMA: WELL, KEEP IN MIND IT'S PRECISELY BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF THIS AUTHORITY THAT THE AIG SITUATION HAS GOTTEN WORSE. UNDERSTAND THAT AIG'S NOT A BANK. IT'S AN INSURANCE COMPANY. IF IT WERE A BANK AND IT HAD EFFECTIVELY COLLAPSED, THEN THE FDIC COULD STEP IN AS IT DOES WITH THE WHOLE HOST OF BANKS LIKE WITH INDYMAC AND IN A STRUCTURED WAY RENEGOTIATE CONTRACTS, GET RID OF BAD ASSETS, STRENGTHEN CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS, RESELL IT ON THE PRIVATE MARKETPLACE. SO WE'VE GOT A REGULAR MECHANISM WHEREBY WE DEAL WITH FDIC INSURED BANKS. WE DON'T HAVE THAT SAME CAPACITY WITH AN INSTITUTION LIKE AIG, AND THAT'S PART OF THE REASON WHY IT HAS PROVED SO PROBLEMATIC. A LOT OF PEOPLE UNDERSTANDABLY SAY IF WE'RE PUTTING ALL THIS MONEY IN THERE, AND IF IT'S SUCH A BIG SYSTEMIC RISK TO ALLOW AIG TO LIQUIDATE, WHY IS IT THAT WE CAN'T RESTRUCTURE SOME OF THESE CONTRACTS? WHY CAN'T WE DO SOME OF THE THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE IN A MORE ORDERLY WAY? THE REASON IS BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT OBTAINED THIS AUTHORITY. WE SHOULD HAVE OBTAINED IT MUCH EARLIER SO THAT ANY INSTITUTION THAT POSES A SYSTEMIC RISK THAT COULD BRING DOWN THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM WE CAN HANDLE AND WE CAN DO IT IN AN ORDERLY FASHION THAT QUARANTINES IT FROM OTHER INSTITUTIONS. WE DON'T HAVE THAT POWER RIGHT NOW. THAT'S WHAT SECRETARY GEITHNER WAS TALKING ABOUT, AND I THINK THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE STRONG SUPPORT FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND FROM CONGRESS TO PROVIDE THAT AUTHORITY SO THAT WE DON'T FIND OURSELVES IN THE SITUATION WHERE WE HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN EITHER ALLOWING AN ENORMOUS INSTITUTION LIKE AIG, WHICH IS NOT JUST INSURING OTHER BANKS BUT IS ALSO INSURING PENSION FUNDS AND PUTTING PEOPLE'S 401(K)S AT RISK IF IT GOES UNDER. THAT'S ONE CHOICE, AND THE OTHER CHOICE IS TO ALLOW THEM TO TAKE TAXPAYER MONEY WITHOUT THE KIND OF CONDITIONS WE'D LIKE TO SEE ON IT. THAT'S WHY I THINK THE AUTHORITY IS SO IMPORTANT.

Q: WHY SHOULD THE PUBLIC TRUST THE GOVERNMENT TO HANDLE THAT AUTHORITY WELL?

MR. OBAMA: AS I SAID BEFORE, IF YOU LOOK AT HOW THE FDIC HAS HANDLED A SITUATION LIKE INDY BANK, FOR EXAMPLE, IT ACTUALLY DOES THESE KINDS OF RESOLUTIONS EFFECTIVELY WHEN IT HAS THE TOOLS TO DO IT. WE DON'T HAVE THE TOOLS RIGHT NOW.

CHUCK TODD (NBC): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. SOME HAVE COMPARED THIS FINANCIAL CRISIS TO A WAR, AND IN TIMES OF WAR PAST PRESIDENTS HAVE CALLED FOR SOME FORM OF SACRIFICE. SOME OF YOUR PROGRAMS, WHETHER FOR MAIN STREET OR WALL STREET, HAVE CUSHIONED THE BLOW FOR THOSE THAT WERE IRRESPONSIBLE DURING THIS ECONOMIC PERIOD OF PROSPERITY OR SUPPOSED PROSPERITY THAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT. WHY -- GIVEN THIS ANYWAY AIR OF RESPONSIBILITY YOU'RE ASKING FOR, WHY HAVEN'T YOU ASKED FOR SOMETHING SPECIFIC THE PUBLIC SHOULD BE SACRIFICING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY?

MR. OBAMA: WELL, LET ME -- LET ME TAKE THAT QUESTION IN A COUPLE OF PHASES. FIRST OF ALL, IT'S NOT TRUE THAT WE HAVE NOT ASKED SACRIFICES FROM PEOPLE GETTING TAXPAYER MONEY. WE HAVE IMPOSED SOME VERY STIFF CONDITIONS. THE ONLY PROBLEM THAT WE'VE HAD SO FAR ARE CONTRACTS THAT WERE PUT IN PLACE BEFORE WE TOOK OVER, BUT MOVING FORWARD, ANYBODY, ANY BANK, FOR EXAMPLE, THAT IS RECEIVING CAPITAL FROM THE TAXPAYERS IS GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE VERY STRICT CONDITIONS IN TERMS OF HOW IT PAYS OUT EXECUTIVES AND DIVIDENDS AND HOW IT'S REPORTING ITS LENDING PRACTICES. WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE'S SOME STIFF CONDITIONS IN PLACE. WITH RESPECT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, I THINK FOLKS ARE SACRIFICING LEFT AND RIGHT. YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF PARENTS WHO ARE CUTTING BACK ON EVERYTHING TO MAKE SURE THAT THEIR KIDS CAN STILL GO TO COLLEGE. YOU'VE GOT WORKERS WHO ARE DECIDING TO CUT AN ENTIRE DAY'S WORTH OF PAY SO THAT THEIR FELLOW CO-WORKERS AREN'T LAID OFF. I THINK THAT ACROSS THE BOARD PEOPLE ARE MAKING ADJUSTMENTS LARGE AND SMALL TO ACCOMMODATE THE FACT THAT WE'RE IN VERY DIFFICULT TIMES RIGHT NOW. WHAT I'VE SAID HERE IN WASHINGTON IS THAT WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SOME TOUGH CHOICES. WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SOME TOUGH BUDGETARY CHOICES. WHAT WE CAN'T DO, THOUGH, IS SACRIFICE LONG-TERM GROWTH, INVESTMENTS THAT ARE CRITICAL TO THE FUTURE, AND THAT'S WHY MY BUDGET FOCUSES ON HEALTH CARE, ENERGY, EDUCATION, THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT CAN BUILD A FOUNDATION FOR LONG TERM ECONOMIC GROWTH AS OPPOSED TO THE FLEETING PROSPERITY THAT WE'VE SEEN OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. I MEAN, WHEN YOU HAVE AN ECONOMY IN WHICH THE MAJORITY OF GROWTH IS COMING FROM THE FINANCIAL SECTOR, WHEN AIG'S SELLING A DERIVATIVE IS COUNTED AS AN INCREASE IN THE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, THEN THAT'S NOT A MODEL FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH. WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS INVEST IN THINGS THAT ALLOW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE'S CAPACITY FOR INGENUITY AND INNOVATION AND THEIR ABILITY TO TAKE RISKS BUT MAKE SURE THE RISKS ARE GROUNDED IN GOOD PRODUCTS AND GOOD SERVICES THAT THEY BELIEVE THEY CAN MARKET TO THE REST OF THE COUNTRY, THAT THOSE MODELS OF ECONOMIC GROWTH ARE WHAT WE'RE PROMOTING, AND THAT'S WHAT I THINK OUR BUDGET DOES.

CHUCK TODD: YOU'VE DESCRIBED THIS AS AN ECONOMIC CRISIS LIKE NOTHING WE'VE SEEN SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

MR. OBAMA: AS I SAID, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE MAKING A HOST OF SACRIFICES IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL LIVES. WE ARE GOING THROUGH AN EXTRAORDINARY CRISIS, BUT WE BELIEVE THAT TAKEN -- IF YOU TAKE THE STEPS WE'VE ALREADY TAKEN WITH RESPECT TO HOUSING AND SMALL BUSINESSES, IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT WE'RE DOING IN TERMS OF INCREASING LIQUIDITY IN THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM, THAT THE STEPS THAT WE'RE TAKING CAN ACTUALLY STABILIZE THE ECONOMY AND GET IT MOVING AGAIN. WHAT I'M LOOKING FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO DO IS THEY ARE GOING TO BE DOING WHAT THEY'VE ALWAYS DONE, WHICH IS WORKING HARD, LOOKING AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, MAKING SURE THAT DESPITE THE ECONOMIC HARD TIMES THAT THEY'RE STILL CONTRIBUTING TO THEIR COMMUNITY, THEY'RE STILL PARTICIPATING IN VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES. THAT THEY ARE PAYING ATTENTION TO THE DEBATES GOING ON IN WASHINGTON, AND THE BUDGETS THAT WE'RE PUTTING FORWARD AND SOME OF THE DECISIONS THAT WE'RE HAVING TO MAKE ARE GOING TO BE TOUGH DECISIONS. WE'RE GOING TO NEED THE SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AND THAT'S WHAT I'VE TRIED TO DO, IS BE OUT FRONT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE EXPLAINING IN CLEAR TERMS EXACTLY WHAT WE'RE DOING.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. RIGHT NOW ON CAPITOL HILL SENATE DEMOCRATS ARE WRITING A BUDGET, AND ACCORDING TO PRESS ACCOUNTS AND THEIR OWN STATEMENTS, THEY'RE NOT INCLUDING THE MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUT THAT YOU INCLUDE IN THE STIMULUS. THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT PHASING THAT OUT. THEY'RE NOT INCLUDING THE CAP IN TRADE YOU HAVE IN YOUR BUDGET, AND THEY'RE NOT INCLUDING OTHER MEASURES. I KNOW WHEN YOU OUTLINED YOUR FOUR PRIORITIES OVER THE WEEKEND, A NUMBER OF THESE THINGS WERE NOT IN THERE. WILL YOU SIGN A BUDGET IF IT DOESN'T CONTAIN A MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUT AND CAP IN TRADE?

MR. OBAMA: I'VE EMPHASIZED REPEATEDLY WHAT I EXPECT OUT OF THE BUDGET. I EXPECT SERIOUS EFFORTS AT HEALTH CARE REFORM AND WE'RE DRIVING DOWN COSTS FOR FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES AND ULTIMATELY FOR THE FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS THAT ARE GOING TO BE BROKE IF WE CONTINUE ON THE CURRENT PATH. I'VE SAID THAT WE'VE GOT TO HAVE A SERIOUS ENERGY POLICY THAT FREES OURSELVES FROM DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL AND MAKES CLEAN ENERGY THE PROFITABLE KIND OF ENERGY. WE'VE GOT TO INVEST IN EDUCATION K THROUGH 12 AND BEYOND TO UPGRADE THE SKILLS OF THE AMERICAN WORKER SO WE CAN COMPETE IN THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY. I'VE SAID THAT WE'VE GOT TO START DRIVING OUR DEFICIT NUMBERS DOWN. NOW, WE NEVER EXPECTED WHEN WE PRINTED OUT OUR BUDGET THAT THEY WOULD SIMPLY XEROX IT AND VOTE ON IT. WE ASSUMED THAT IT HAS TO GO THROUGH THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. I HAVE NOT YET SEEN THE FINAL PRODUCT COMING OUT OF THE SENATE OR THE HOUSE, AND WE'RE IN CONSTANT CONVERSATIONS WITH THEM. I AM CONFIDENT THAT THE BULLET BUDGET WE PUT FORWARD WILL HAVE THOSE PRINCIPLES IN PLACE. WHEN IT COMES TO THE MIDDLE CLASS TAX CUT, WE HAD THAT IN THE RECOVERY, AND WE KNOW THAT'S IN PLACE FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT TWO YEARS. WE HAD IDENTIFIED A SPECIFIC WAY TO PAY FOR IT. IF CONGRESS HAS BETTER IDEAS IN TERMS OF HOW TO PAY FOR IT, THEN WE'RE HAPPY TO LISTEN. WHEN IT COMES TO CAP AND TRADE, THE BROADER PRINCIPLE IS THAT WE'VE GOT TO MOVE TO A NEW ENERGY ERA. AND THAT MEANS MOVING AWAY FROM POLLUTING ENERGY SOURCES TOWARDS CLEANER ENERGY SOURCES. THAT IS A POTENTIAL ENGINE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH. CAP AND TRADE IS THE BEST WAY, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, TO ACHIEVE SOME OF THOSE GAINS BECAUSE WHAT IT DOES IS STARTS PRICING THE POLLUTION SENT INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. THE WAY IT'S STRUCTURED HAS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT REGIONAL DIFFERENCES AND PROTECT CONSUMERS FROM HUGE SPIKES IN ELECTRICITY PRICES. SO THERE ARE A LOT OF TECHNICAL ISSUES THAT ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE SORTED THROUGH. OUR POINT ON THE BUDGET IS LET'S GET STARTED NOW, WE CAN'T WAIT, AND MY EXPECTATION IS THAT THE ENERGY COMMITTEES OR OTHER RELEVANT COMMITTEES IN BOTH THE HOUSE AND SENATE ARE GOING TO BE MOVING FORWARD A STRONG ENERGY PACKAGE. IT WILL BE AUTHORIZED AND WE WILL GET IT DONE, AND I WILL SIGN IT.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC): YOU'RE WILLING TO SIGN A BUDGET THAT DOESN'T HAVE THOSE TWO PROVISIONS?

MR. OBAMA: NO. WHAT I HAVE SAID IS I HAVEN'T SEEN THE PROVISIONS IN THERE. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT I WANT TO SEE HEALTH CARE, ENERGY, EDUCATION, AND SERIOUS EFFORTS TO REDUCE OUR BUDGET DEFICIT. AND THERE ARE GOING TO BE A LOT OF DETAILS STILL BEING WORKED OUT, BUT I HAVE CONFIDENCE WE WILL GET A BUDGET DONE THAT'S REFLECTIVE OF WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN ORDER TO MAKE SURE THAT AMERICA GROWS.

CHIP REID (CBS): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. AT BOTH TOWN HALL MEETINGS IN CALIFORNIA YOU SAID "I DIDN'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT TO PASS ON PROBLEMS TO THE NEXT GENERATION." BUT UNDER YOUR BUDGET THE DEBT WILL INCREASE $7 TRILLION OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS. THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE SAYS $9.3 TRILLION. AND TODAY ON CAPITOL HILL SOME REPUBLICANS CALLED YOUR BUDGET WITH ALL THE SPENDING ON HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION AND ENVIRONMENT THE MOST IRRESPONSIBLE BUDGET IN AMERICAN HISTORY. ISN'T THAT KIND OF DEBT EXACTLY WHAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT WHEN YOU SAID PASSING ON OUR PROBLEMS TO THE NEXT GENERATION?

MR. OBAMA: FIRST OF ALL, I SUSPECT THAT SOME OF THOSE REPUBLICAN CRITICS HAVE A SHORT MEMORY. BECAUSE, AS I RECALL, I'M INHERITING A $1.3 TRILLION ANNUAL DEFICIT FROM THEM. THAT'S POINT NUMBER ONE. POINT NUMBER TWO. BOTH UNDER OUR ESTIMATES AND UNDER THE CBO ESTIMATES, BOTH -- THE MOST CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE OUT THERE, WE DRIVE DOWN THE DEFICIT OVER THE FIRST FIVE YEARS OF OUR BUDGET. THE DEFICIT IS CUT IN HALF, AND FOLKS AREN'T DISPUTING THAT. WHERE THE DISPUTE COMES IN IS WHAT HAPPENS IN A WHOLE BUNCH OF OUT YEARS, AND THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BUDGET AT THAT WE PRESENTED AND THE BUDGET THAT CAME OUT OF CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE IS ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT GROWTH. THEY'RE ASSUMING A GROWTH RATE OF 2.2. WE'RE ASSUMING A GROWTH RATE OF 2.6. THOSE SMALL DIFFERENCES END UP ADDING UP TO A LOT OF MONEY. OUR ASSUMPTIONS ARE PERFECTLY CONSISTENT WITH WHAT BLUE CHIP FORECASTERS OUT THERE ARE SAYING. NOW, NONE OF US KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN SIX OR EIGHT OR TEN YEARS FROM NOW. HERE'S WHAT I DO KNOW. IF WE DON'T TACKLE ENERGY, IF WE DON'T IMPROVE OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM, IF WE DON'T DRIVE DOWN THE COSTS OF HEALTH CARE, IF WE'RE NOT MAKING SERIOUS INVESTMENTS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND OUR INFRASTRUCTURE, THEN WE WON'T GROW 2.6%, WE WON'T GROW 2.2%. WE WON'T GROW. SO WHAT WE'VE SAID IS, LET'S MAKE THE INVESTMENTS THAT ENSURE THAT WE MEET OUR GROWTH TARGETS, THAT PUT US ON A PATHWAY TO GROWTH AS OPPOSED TO A SITUATION IN WHICH WE'RE NOT MAKING THOSE INVESTMENTS AND WE STILL HAVE TRILLION DOLLAR DEFICITS. THERE'S AN INTERESTING REASON WHY SOME OF THESE CRITICS HAVEN'T PUT OUT THEIR OWN BUDGET. WE HAVEN'T SEEN AN ALTERNATIVE BUDGET OUT OF THEM, AND THE REASON IS BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT, IN FACT, THE BIGGEST DRIVER OF LONG-TERM DEFICITS ARE THE HUGE HEALTH CARE COSTS THAT WE'VE GOT OUT HERE THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TACKLE. AND WE -- AND THAT IF WE DON'T DEAL WITH SOME OF THE STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS IN OUR DEFICIT, ONES THAT WERE HERE LONG BEFORE I GOT HERE, THEN WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO SEE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS IN THOSE OUT YEARS. SO WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO EMPHASIZE IS LET'S MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE MAKING THE INVESTMENTS THAT WE NEED TO GROW TO MEET THOSE GROWTH TARGETS. AT THE SAME TIME WE'RE STILL REDUCING THE DEFICIT BY A COUPLE OF TRILLION DOLLARS. WE ARE CUTTING OUT WASTEFUL SPENDING IN AREAS LIKE MEDICARE. WE'RE CHANGING PROCUREMENT PRACTICES WHEN IT COMES TO THE PENTAGON BUDGET. WE'RE LOOKING AT SOCIAL SERVICE PROGRAMS AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS THAT DON'T WORK AND ELIMINATE THEM, AND WE WILL GO LINE BY LINE THROUGH THIS BUDGET. WHERE WE FIND PROGRAMS THAT DON'T WORK WE WILL ELIMINATE THEM. IT IS GOING TO BE AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK FOR US TO BALANCE OUR BUDGET IF WE DON'T TAKE ON RISING HEALTH CARE COSTS, AND IT'S AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK TO BALANCE OUR BUDGET OR EVEN APPROXIMATE IT IF WEREN'T BOOSTING OUR GROWTH RATES. THAT'S WHY OUR BUDGET FOCUSES ON THE INVESTMENTS WE NEED TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

Q: UNDER YOUR BUDGET, AS YOU SAID, OVER THE NEXT FOUR OR FIVE YEARS, YOU'RE GOING TO CUT THE DEFICIT IN HALF. THEN AFTER THAT, SIX YEARS IN A ROW IT GOES UP, UP, UP. IF YOU'RE MAKING ALL THESE LONG-TERM STRUCTURAL CUTS, WHY DOES IT CONTINUE TO GO UP IN THE OUT YEARS?

MR. OBAMA: LOOK, IT IS GOING TO TAKE A WHOLE HOST OF ADJUSTMENTS. WE COULDN'T REFLECT ALL OF THOSE ADJUSTMENTS IN THIS BUDGET. LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT ENTITLEMENTS AND MEDICARE AND MEDICAID. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM LONG TERM IS MEDICARE AND MEDICAID, BUT WHATEVER REFORMS WE INITIATE ON THAT FRONT, AND WE'RE VERY SERIOUS ABOUT WORKING ON A BIPARTISAN BASIS TO REDUCE THOSE DEFICITS OR REDUCE THOSE COSTS, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO SEE THOSE SAVINGS REFLECTED UNTIL MUCH LATER. SO A BUDGET IS A SNAPSHOT OF WHAT WE CAN GET DONE RIGHT NOW UNDERSTANDING THAT EIGHT, TEN YEARS FROM NOW WE WILL HAVE HAD A WHOLE SERIES OF NEW BUDGETS AND WE HAVE TO MAKE ADDITIONAL ADJUSTMENTS. ONCE WE GET OUT OF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS, THEN IT WILL BE ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT FOR US TO TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AND SAY, ARE WE GROWING AS FAST AS WE NEED TO GROW? ARE THERE FURTHER CUTS TO MAKE? WHAT OTHER ADJUSTMENTS DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE A SUSTAINABLE BUDGET LEVEL? BUT KEEP IN MIND JUST TO GIVE ONE OTHER EXAMPLE, AS A PERCENTAGE OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, WE ARE REDUCING NON-DEFENSE DISCRETIONARY SPENDING TO ITS LOWEST LEVEL SINCE THE '60S. LOWER THAN IT WAS UNDER REAGAN, LOWER THAN IT WAS UNDER CLINTON, LOWER THAN IT WAS UNDER BUSH. OR BOTH BUSHES. AND SO IF WE'RE GROWING, IF WE ARE DOING WHAT'S NECESSARY TO CREATE NEW BUSINESSES AND TO EXPAND THE ECONOMY AND WE'RE MAKING SURE THAT WE'RE ELIMINATING SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS THAT AREN'T WORKING, THEN OVER TIME THAT GAP CAN CLOSE. LOOK, I'M NOT GOING TO LIE TO YOU. IT IS TOUGH. AS I SAID, THAT'S WHY THE CRITICS TEND TO CRITICIZE, BUT THEY DON'T OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE BUDGET. BECAUSE EVEN IF WE WERE NOT DOING HEALTH CARE, WE WERE NOT DOING ENERGY, WE WERE NOT DOING EDUCATION, THEY'D STILL HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF PROBLEMS IN THOSE OUT YEARS ACCORDING TO CBO PROJECTIONS. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS WE WILL NOT HAVE INVESTED IN WHAT'S NECESSARY TO MAKE THIS ECONOMY GROW.

LOURDES MELUZA (UNIVISION): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. TODAY YOUR ADMINISTRATION PRESENTED A PLAN TO HELP CURB THE VIOLENCE IN MEXICO AND ALSO TO CONTROL ANY OR PRESENT ANY SPILLOVER OF THE VIOLENCE INTO THE UNITED STATES. DO YOU CONSIDER THE SITUATION NOW A NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT, AND DO YOU BELIEVE THAT IT COULD REQUIRE SENDING NATIONAL TROOPS TO THE BORDER? GOVERNOR PERRY OF TEXAS SAID THAT YOU STILL NEED MORE TROOPS AND MORE AGENTS. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

MR. OBAMA: FIRST OF ALL, LET'S FOCUS ON WHAT WE DID TODAY. IT'S VERY SIGNIFICANT. WE ARE SENDING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT TO PROVIDE MORE EFFECTIVE SURVEILLANCE. WE ARE PROVIDING HUNDREDS OF ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL THAT CAN HELP CONTROL THE BORDER, DEAL WITH CUSTOMS ISSUES. WE'RE COORDINATING VERY EFFECTIVELY WITH THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT AND PRESIDENT CALDERON WHO HAS TAKEN ON THE EXTRAORDINARY DIFFICULT TASK OF DEALING WITH DRUG CARTELS THAT HAVE GOTTEN COMPLETELY OUT OF HAND. THE STEPS WE'VE TAKEN ARE DESIGNED IT MAKE SURE THAT THE BORDER COMMUNITIES IN THE UNITED STATES ARE PROTECTED AND YOU'RE NOT SEEING A SPILLOVER OF VIOLENCE AND THAT WE'RE HELPING THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT DEAL WITH A VERY CHALLENGING SITUATION. NOW, WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE SITUATION. IF THE STEPS WE'VE TAKEN DO NOT GET THE JOB DONE, THEN WE WILL DO MORE. ONE LAST POINT THAT HE WANT TO MAKE ABOUT THIS. AS I SAID, PRESIDENT CALDERON HAS BEEN VERY COURAGEOUS IN TAKING ON THE DRUG CARTELS. WE HAVE TO ALSO TAKE STEPS EVEN AS HE IS DOING MORE TO DEAL WITH THE DRUG CARTELS SENDING DRUGS INTO THE UNITED STATES, WE NEED TO DO MORE TO MAKE SURE THAT ILLEGAL GUNS AND CASH AREN'T FLOWING BACK TO THESE CARTELS. THAT'S PART OF WHAT'S FINANCING THEIR OPERATIONS AND ARMING THEM. THAT'S WHAT MAKES THEM SO DANGEROUS, AND THIS IS SOMETHING WE TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO WORK ON DILIGENTLY IN THE MONTHS TO COME.

KEVIN BARON (STARS AND STRIPES): MR. PRESIDENT, WHERE DO YOU PLAN TO FIND SAVINGS IN THE DEFENSE AND VETERANS ADMINISTRATION BUDGETS WHEN SO MANY ITEMS ARE READY FOR THE CHOPPING BLOCK SEEM POLITICALLY INTENIBLE, FROM MAJOR WEAPON SYSTEMS TO WOUNDED WARRIOR CARRIER COSTS OR INCREASED OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN OR THE SIZE OF THE MILITARY ITSELF.

MR. OBAMA: COUPLE OF POINTS I WANT TO MAKE. THE BUDGET THAT WE PUT FORWARD REFLECTS THE LARGEST INCREASE IN VETERANS FUNDING IN 30 YEARS. THAT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. CHUCK ASKED EARLIER ABOUT SACRIFICES. I DON'T THINK ANYBODY DOUBTS THE EXTRAORDINARY SACRIFICES THAT MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM HAVE ALREADY MADE. WHEN THEY COME HOME, THEN, THEY HAVE EARNED THE BENEFITS THAT THEY RECEIVE. AND UNFORTUNATELY, OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS ALL TOO OFTEN THE VA HAS BEEN UNDERRESOURCED WHEN IT COMES TO DEAL WITH POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER OR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY, DEALING WITH SOME OF THE BACKLOGS IN ADMISSION TO VA HOSPITALS. SO THERE ARE A WHOLE HOST OF VETERANS ISSUES THAT I THINK EVERY AMERICAN WANTS TO SEE PROPERLY FUNDED, AND THAT'S WHAT'S REFLECTED IN OUR BUDGET. WHERE THE SAVINGS SHOULD COME IN -- I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH SECRETARY GATES ON THIS. WE'LL BE DETAILING IT MORE IN THE WEEKS TO COME. IS HOW DO WE REFORM OUR PROCUREMENT SYSTEM SO THAT IT KEEPS AMERICA SAFE, AND WE'RE NOT WASTING TAXPAYER DOLLARS? THERE IS UNIFORM ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT THE PROCUREMENT SYSTEM RIGHT NOW DOESN'T WORK. THAT'S NOT JUST MY OPINION. THAT'S JOHN MCCAIN'S OPINION. THAT'S CARL LEVIN'S OPINION. THERE ARE A WHOLE HOST OF PEOPLE WHO ARE STUDENTS OF THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS THAT WILL SAY IF YOU'VE GOT A WHOLE RANGE OF BILLION-DOLLAR -- MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR SYSTEMS THAT ARE -- WHERE WE SEE COST OVERRUNS OF 30% OR 40% OR 50% AND THEN STILL DON'T PERFORM THE WAY THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO OR PROVIDING OUR TROOPS WITH KINDS OF TOOLS THAT THEY NEED TO SUCCEED ON THEIR MISSIONS, THEN WE HAVE A PROBLEM. NOW, I THINK EVERYBODY IN THIS TOWN KNOWS THAT THE POLITICS OF CHANGING PROCUREMENT IS TOUGH BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, LOBBYISTS ARE VERY ACTIVE IN THIS AREA. CONTRACTORS ARE VERY GOOD AT DISPERSING THE JOBS AND PLANTS IN THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT WIDELY. SO WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS VERY CAREFULLY, BE MORE DISCIPLINED THAN WE'VE BEEN IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. AS I'VE SAID, WE'VE ALREADY IDENTIFIED POTENTIALLY $40 BILLION IN SAVINGS JUST BY SOME OF THE PROCUREMENT REFORMS THAT ARE PRETTY APPARENT TO A LOT OF CRITICS OUT THERE. WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE TO FIND SAVINGS IN A WAY THAT ALLOWS US TO PUT THE RESOURCES WHERE THEY'RE NEEDED BUT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE NOT SIMPLY FATTENING DEFENSE CONTRACTORS. ONE LAST POINT. IN ORDER FOR US TO GET A HANDLE ON THESE COSTS, IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE ARE HONEST IN WHAT THESE COSTS ARE. THAT'S WHY IT WAS SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUE COSTS OF THE IRAQ WAR AND THE AFGHAN WAR, BECAUSE IF THOSE COSTS ARE SOMEHOW OFF THE BOOKS AND WE'RE NOT THINKING ABOUT THEM, IT'S HARD TO MAKE SOME OF TOUGH CHOICES THAT NEED TO BE MADE.

ED HENRY (CNN): YOU SPOKE ABOUT YOUR ANGER ABOUT AIG. YOU'VE SAID THAT FOR DAYS NOW. WHY IS IT THAT ANDREW CUOMO IN NEW YORK IS GETTING MORE ACTION ON THIS, WHEN YOU AND SECRETARY GEITHNER LEARNED ABOUT THIS TEN DAYS, TWO WEEKS AGO, YOU DIDN'T GO PUBLIC IMMEDIATE LE WITH THE OUTRAGE. YOU WAITED A FEW DAYS AND WENT PUBLIC AFTER YOU REALIZED SECRETARY GEITHNER HAD NO LEGAL AVENUE TO STOP IT. MORE BROADLY I WANT TO FOLLOW-UP ON CHIP AND JAKE. YOU'VE BEEN VERY CRITICAL OF PRESIDENT BUSH DOUBLING THE NATIONAL DEBT. TO BE FAIR, IT'S NOT JUST REPUBLICANS HITTING YOU. DEMOCRAT KENT CONRAD SAID "WHEN I LOOK AT THIS BUDGET, I SEE THE DEBT DOUBLING AGAIN." YOU SAY YOU'VE INHERITED A BIG FISCAL MESS. DO YOU WORRY YOUR DAUGHTERS NOT TO MENTION THE NEXT PRESIDENT WILL INHERIT AN EVEN BIGGER FISCAL MESS IF THE SPENDING GOES OUT OF CONTROL?

MR. OBAMA: OF COURSE I DO, ED. THAT'S WHY WE'RE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO REDUCE AT THAT DEFICIT. LOOK, IF THIS WERE EASY THEN WE WOULD HAVE ALREADY HAD IT DONE, AND THE BUDGET WOULD HAVE BEEN VOTED ON AND EVERYBODY COULD GO HOME. THIS IS HARD. THE REASON IT'S HARD IS BECAUSE WE'VE ACCUMULATED A STRUCTURAL DEFICIT THAT'S GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME, AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT NEXT YEAR OR THE YEAR AFTER OR THREE YEARS FROM NOW. WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS BEND THE CURVE ON THESE DEFICIT PROJECTIONS, AND THE BEST WAY FOR US TO DO THAT IS TO REDUCE HEALTH CARE COSTS. THAT'S NOT JUST MY OPINION, THAT'S THE OPINION OF ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO LOOKED AT OUR LONG-TERM FISCAL SITUATION. NOW, HOW ARE WE GOING TO REDUCE HEALTH CARE COSTS? BECAUSE THE PROBLEM IS NOT JUST IN GOVERNMENT-RUN PROGRAMS. THE PROBLEM IS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AS WELL. IT'S EXPERIENCED BY FAMILIES. IT'S EXPERIENCED BY BUSINESSES. SO WHAT WE'VE SAID IS, LOOK, LET'S INVEST IN HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES, LET'S INVEST IN PREVENTATIVE CARE, LET'S INVEST IN MECHANISMS THAT LOOK AT WHO'S DOING A BETTER JOB CONTROLLING COSTS WHILE PRODUCING GOOD QUALITY OUTCOMES IN VARIOUS STATES AND LET'S REIMBURSE ON THE BASIS OF IMPROVED QUALITY AS OPPOSED TO SIMPLY HOW MANY PROCEDURES YOU'RE DOING. LET'S DO A WHOLE HOST OF THINGS, SOME OF WHICH COST MONEY ON THE FRONT END, BUT OFFER THE PROSPECT OF REDUCING COSTS ON THE BACK END. NOW, THE ALTERNATIVE IS TO STAND PAT. AND TO SIMPLY SAY, WE ARE JUST GOING TO NOT INVEST IN HEALTH CARE, WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE ON ENERGY, WE'LL WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT TIME THAT GAS GETS TO $4 A GALLON WE WILL NOT IMPROVE OUR SCHOOLS, AND WE'LL ALLOW CHINA OR INDIA OR OTHER COUNTRIES TO LAP OUR YOUNG PEOPLE IN TERMS OF OUR PERFORMANCE. WE WILL SETTLE ON LOWER GROWTH RATES, AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO CONTRACT BOTH AS AN ECONOMY AND OUR ABILITY TO PROVIDE A BETTER LIFE FOR OUR KIDS. THAT, I DON'T THINK, IS THE BETTER OPTION. NOW, AM I COMPLETELY SATISFIED WITH ALL THE WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE ON DEFICITS? NO. THAT'S WHY I CONVENED A FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY SUMMIT THAT STARTED IN THIS ROOM TO START LOOKING AT ENTITLEMENTS AND TO START LOOKING AT THE BIG DRIVERS OF COSTS OVER THE LONG TERM. NOT ALL OF THOSE ARE REFLECTED IN OUR BUDGET PARTLY BECAUSE THE SAVINGS WE ANTICIPATE WOULD BE COMING IN YEARS OUTSIDE OF THE TEN-YEAR BUDGET CYCLE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

ED HENRY (CNN): ON AIG WHY DID YOU WAIT DAYS TO EXPRESS YOUR OUTRAGE. IT TOOK YOU DAYS TO COME PUBLIC? IT SEEMS LIKE THE OUTRAGE IS COMING OUT OF NEW YORK AND THE ATTORNEY GENERALS OFFICE, IT TOOK YOU DAYS TO COME OUT--

MR. OBAMA: IT TOOK A COUPLE OF DAYS BECAUSE I LIKE TO KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT BEFORE I SPEAK. ALL RIGHT?

MAJOR GARRETT (FOX): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. THANK YOU. I'D LIKE TO TAKE THIS ECONOMIC DEBATE A BIT GLOBALLY. SENIOR CHINESE OFFICIALS HAVE AN INTEREST IN INTERNATIONAL CURRENCY. THIS IS A SIGN FROM CHINESE ECONOMISTS THAT THEY'RE LESS CONFIDENT IN THE VALUE AND RELIABILITY OF U.S. DOLLAR. EUROPEAN COUNTRIES HAVE RESISTED YOUR CALLS TO SPEND MORE ON ECONOMIC STIMULUS. AS A CANDIDATE WHO RAN CONCERNED ABOUT THE IMAGE OF UNITED STATES GLOBALLY HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU ABOUT CHINESE GOVERNMENT, RUN BY COMMUNISTS, LESS CONFIDENT THAN THEY USED TO BE IN THE U.S. DOLLAR, AND EUROPEAN ECONOMIES, SOME OF THEM CENTER-LEFT, SOME OF THEM SOCIALIST, THAT SAY YOU'RE ASKING THEM TO SPEND TOO MUCH.

MR. OBAMA: FIRST OF ALL, I HAVEN'T ASKED THEM TO DO ANYTHING. WHAT I'VE SUGGESTED IS THAT ALL OF US ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE STEPS IN ORDER TO LIFT THE ECONOMY. WE DON'T WANT A SITUATION IN WHICH SOME COUNTRIES ARE MAKING EXTRAORDINARY EFFORTS, AND OTHER COUNTRIES AREN'T WITH THE HOPE THAT SOMEHOW THE COUNTRIES THAT ARE MAKING THOSE IMPORTANT STEPS LIFT EVERYBODY UP. SO SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO TAKE LEADERSHIP. IT'S NOT JUST ME, BY THE WAY. I WAS WITH KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA TODAY, WHO WAS VERY FORCEFUL IN SUGGESTING THAT COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD, THOSE WITH THE CAPACITY TO DO SO, TAKE THE STEPS THAT ARE NEEDED TO FILL THIS ENORMOUS HOLE IN GLOBAL DEMAND. GORDON BROWN, WHEN HE CAME TO VISIT ME, SAID THE EXACT SAME THING. SO THE GOAL AT THE G-20 SUMMIT THING IS TO DO A COUPLE OF THINGS. NUMBER ONE, SAY TO ALL COUNTRIES LET'S DO WHAT'S NECESSARY IN ORDER TO CREATE JOBS AND TO GET THE ECONOMY MOVING AGAIN. LET'S AVOID STEPS THAT COULD RESULT IN PROTECTIONISM THAT WOULD FURTHER CONTRACT GLOBAL TRADE. LET'S FOCUS ON HOW ARE WE GOING TO MOVE OUR REGULATORY PROCESS FORWARD IN ORDER THAT WE DO NOT SEE THE KINDS OF SYSTEMIC BREAKDOWNS THAT WE'VE ALREADY SEEN. THAT MEANS NOT JUST DEALING WITH BANKS BUT ALSO SOME OF THE OTHER FINANCIAL FLOWS THAT ARE OUT HERE CURRENTLY UNREGULATED. WE HAVE TO UPDATE REGULATIONS THAT DATE BACK TO THE 1930S AND WE HAVE TO DO COORDINATION WITH OTHER COUNTRIES IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THAT. AS FAR AS CONFIDENCE IN THE U.S. ECONOMY OR DOLLAR, I WOULD POINT OUT THAT THE DOLLAR IS EXTRAORDINARILY STRONG RIGHT NOW. THE REASON THE DOLLAR IS STRONG RIGHT NOW IS BECAUSE INVESTORS CONSIDER THE UNITED STATES THE STRONGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD WITH THE MOST STABLE POLITICAL SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. THERE'S A GREAT DEAL OF CONFIDENCE THAT ULTIMATELY, ALTHOUGH WE'RE GOING THROUGH A ROUGH PATCH, THAT THE PROSPECTS FOR THE WORLD ECONOMY ARE VERY, VERY STRONG. AND LAST POINT I WOULD MAKE IN TERMS CHANGING AMERICA'S IMAGE IN THE WORLD, I HAVEN'T LOOKED AT THE LATEST POLLING AROUND THE WORLD, BUT I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT THE RESPONSE THAT PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO OUR ADMINISTRATION AND THE STEPS WE'VE TAKEN ARE ONES THAT ARE RESTORING A SENSE OF CONFIDENCE AND THE ABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES TO ASSERT GLOBAL LEADERSHIP. THAT WILL JUST STRENGTHEN. EXCUSE ME.

MAJOR GARRETT (FOX): IS THERE A NEED FOR GLOBAL CURRENCY?

MR. OBAMA: I DON'T BELIEVE THERE'S A NEED FOR GLOBAL CURRENCY.

MIKE ALLEN (POLITICO): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. ARE YOU RECONSIDERING YOUR PLAN TO CUT THE INTEREST RATE DEDUCTION FOR MORTGAGES AND FOR CHARITIES? DO YOU REGRET HAVING PROPOSED THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

MR. OBAMA: NO. I THINK IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. WHERE WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SOME DIFFICULT CHOICES. HERE'S WHAT WE DID WITH RESPECT TO TAX POLICY. WHAT WE SAID WAS THAT OVER THE LAST DECADE THE AVERAGE WORKER, THE AVERAGE FAMILY HAVE SEEN THEIR WAGES AND INCOMES FLAT. EVEN AT TIMES WHERE SUPPOSEDLY WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ECONOMIC BOOM. AS A PRACTICAL MATTER THEIR INCOMES DIDN'T GO UP. AND SO WHAT WE SAID IS LET'S GIVE THEM A TAX CUT, SOME RELIEF, SOME HELP. 95% OF AMERICAN FAMILIES. NOW, FOR THE TOP 5%, THEY'RE THE ONES WHO TYPICALLY SAW HUGE GAINS IN THEIR INCOME. I FALL IN THAT CATEGORY, AND WHAT WE'VE SAID IS, FOR THOSE FOLKS LET'S NOT RENEW THE BUSH TAX CUTS AND GO BACK TO THE RATE THAT EXISTED BACK IN -- DURING THE CLINTON ERA WHERE WEALTHY PEOPLE WERE STILL WEALTHY AND DOING JUST FINE. AND LET'S LOOK AT THE LEVEL AT WHICH PEOPLE CAN ITEMIZE THEIR DEDUCTIONS WHAT WE'VE SAID IS LET'S GO BACK TO THE RATE THAT EXISTED UNDER RONALD REAGAN. PEOPLE ARE STILL GOING TO BE ABLE TO MAKE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS. IT JUST MEANS IF YOU GIVE $100 AND YOU'RE IN THIS TAX BRACKET, AT A CERTAIN POINT INSTEAD OF WRITING OUT 36 OR 39%, YOU'RE WRITING OFF 28%. NOW, IF IT'S A REALLY CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION, I'M ASSUMING THAT SHOULDN'T THE DETERMINING FACTOR AS TO WHETHER YOU GIVE THAT $100 TO THE HOME HOMELESS SHELTER DOWN THE STREET. THIS PROVISION WOULD AFFECT 1% OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. THEY WOULD STILL GET DEDUCTIONS, BUT THEY WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO WRITE OFF 39%. IN THAT SENSE IT WILL EQUALIZE. WHEN I GIVE $100, I GET THE SAME AMOUNT OF DEDUCTION AS WHEN A BUS DRIVER WHO IS MAKING $50,000 A YEAR OR $40,000 GIVES THAT SAME $100. RIGHT NOW HE WRITES OFF 28% AND I WRITE OFF 39%. I DON'T THINK THAT'S FAIR. I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA. I THINK IT IS A REALISTIC WAY FOR US TO RAISE SOME REVENUE FROM PEOPLE WHO BENEFITED ENORMOUSLY OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. IT'S NOT GOING TO CRIPPLE THEM. THEY'LL STILL BE WELL-TO-DO. AND YOU'LL ULTIMATELY -- IF WE'RE GOING TO TACKLE THE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WE'VE GOT, THEN IN SOME CASES THOSE UNFORTUNATELY HAVE TO PAY A LITTLE MORE.

MIKE ALLEN (POLITICO): IT'S NOT THE WELL-TO-DO PEOPLE BUT THE CHARITIES. ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT THE CHARITIES ARE WRONG THIS WOULD DISCOURAGE GIVING?

MR. OBAMA: YES, I AM. IF YOU LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE, THERE'S VERY LITTLE EVIDENCE THIS HAS A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON CHARITABLE GIVING. WHAT DOES IS A FINANCIAL CRISIS IN AN ECONOMY CONTRACTING. SO THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT I CAN DO FOR CHARITABLE GIVING IS TO FIX THE ECONOMY, TO GET BANKS LENDING AGAIN, TO GET BUSINESSES OPENING THEIR DOORS AGAIN AND TO GET PEOPLE BACK TO WORK AGAIN. THEN I THINK CHARITIES WILL DO JUST FINE.

KEVIN CHAPPELLE (EBONY): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. A RECENT REPORT FOUND THAT AS A RESULT OF THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN 1 IN 50 CHILDREN ARE HOMELESS IN AMERICA. WITH SHELTERS AT FULL CAPACITY, TENT CITIES ARE POPPING UP ACROSS THE COUNTRY. IN PASSING YOUR STIMULUS PACKAGE, YOU SAID THAT HELP WAS ON THE WAY. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THESE FAMILIES, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN SLEEPING UNDER BRIDGES AND TENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY?

MR. OBMA: THE FIRST THING I'D SAY IS THAT I'M HEARTBROKEN THAT ANY CHILD IN AMERICA IS HOMELESS. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT I CAN DO ON THEIR BEHALF IS TO MAKE SURE THEIR PARENTS HAVE A JOB. THAT'S WHY THE RECOVERY PACKAGE SET AS A FIRST PRIORITY ON YOU TO SAVE AND CREATE 10.5 MILLION JOBS AND HOW CAN WE PREVENT LAYOFFS FOR TEACHERS AND POLICE OFFICERS? HOW CAN WE MAKE SURE WE'RE INVESTING IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE FUTURE TO PUT PEOPLE BACK TO WORK RIGHT AWAY. HOW DO WE MAKE SURE WHEN PEOPLE DO PEOPLE LOSE THEIR JOBS, THAN THEIR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE IS EXTENDED AND THEY CAN KEEP THEIR HEALTH CARE? THERE'S A HOST OF STEPS TO PROVIDE A CUSHION FOR FOLKS THAT HAVE FALLEN ON HARD TIMES AND TO SPUR IMMEDIATE PROJECTS THAT PUT PEOPLE BACK TO WORK. IN THE MEANTIME WE HAVE TO WORK CLOSELY WITH THE STATES TO MONITOR AND TO HELP PEOPLE STILL FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS. THE HOMELESS PROBLEM WAS BAD EVEN WHEN THE ECONOMY WAS GOOD. PART OF THE CHANGE IN ATTITUDES THAT I WANT TO SEE ARE IN WASHINGTON AND ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY IS A BELIEF THAT NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES TO BE WITHOUT A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS IN A COUNTRY AS WEALTHY AS OURS. WE WILL INITIATE A RANGE OF PROGRAMS AS WELL TO DEAL WITH HOMELESSNESS. ONE AREA IN PARTICULAR I WANT TO FOCUS ON IS THE ISSUE OF VETERANS. THE RATE OF HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS IS MUCH, MUCH HIGHER THAN FOR NON-VETERAN POPULATIONS. SO WE'VE GOT A NUMBER OF INCREASES THAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR IN OUR BUDGET ON FUNDING DIRECTLY ADDRESSES THE ISSUE OF HOMELESS VETERANS THAT WILL PROVIDE SOME REAL HELP.

ANN COMPTON (ABC): CAN I ASK YOU ABOUT RACE? YOURS IS A RATHER HISTORIC PRESIDENCY, AND I'M JUST WONDERING WHETHER IN ANY OF THE POLICY DEBATES YOU'VE HAD WITHIN THE WHITE HOUSE, THE ISSUE OF RACE HAS COME UP, OR WHETHER IT HAS IN THE WAY YOU FEEL YOU'VE BEEN PERCEIVED BY OTHER LEADERS OR BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE? HAS THE LAST 64 DAYS BEEN A RELATIVELY COLOR BLIND TIME?

MR. OBAMA: I THINK THAT THE LAST 64 DAYS HAS BEEN DOMINATED BY ME TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIX THE ECONOMY. THAT AFFECTS BLACK, BROWN, AND WHITE. YOU KNOW, OBVIOUSLY, AT THE INAUGURATION I THINK THAT THERE WAS JUSTIFIABLE PRIDE ON THE PART OF THE COUNTRY THAT WE HAD TAKEN A STEP TO MOVE US BEYOND SOME OF THE SEERING LEGACIES OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN THIS COUNTRY. BUT THAT LASTED ABOUT A DAY. RIGHT NOW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE JUDGING ME EXACTLY THE WAY I SHOULD BE JUDGED. THAT IS, ARE WE TAKING THE STEPS TO IMPROVE LIQUIDITY IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETS, CREATE JOBS, GET BUSINESSES TO RE-OPEN, KEEP AMERICA SAFE? THAT'S WHAT I'VE BEEN SPENDING MY TIME THINKING ABOUT.

JOHN WARD (WASHINGTON TIMES): THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. IN YOUR REMARKS ON STEM-CELL RESEARCH EARLIER THIS MONTH, YOU TALKED ABOUT A MAJORITY CONSENSUS IN DETERMINING WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO TO FEDERALLY FUND EMBRYONIC STEM-CELL RESEARCH. HOW MUCH DO YOU PERSONALLY WRESTLE WITH THE MORALE LIT OR ETHICS OF THIS FUNDING THIS RESEARCH? ESPECIALLY SINCE SCIENCE HAS SHOWN A LOT OF PROGRESS WITH ADULT STEM CELLS BUT NOT A LOT WITH EMBRYONIC.

MR. OBAMA: I WRESTLE WITH THESE ISSUES EVERY DAY. AS I MENTIONED IN AN INTERVIEW A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO, BY THE TIME THE ISSUE REACHES MY DESK, IT'S A HARD ISSUE. IF IT WAS EASY SOMEBODY ELSE WOULD HAVE SOLVED IT AND IT WOULDN'T HAVE REACHED ME. I BELIEVE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR US TO HAVE STRONG, MORAL GUIDELINES, ETHICAL GUIDELINES WHEN IT COMES TO STEM-CELL RESEARCH OR ANYTHING THAT TOUCHES ON, YOU KNOW, THE ISSUES OF POSSIBLE CLONING OR ISSUES RELATED TO, YOU KNOW, THE HUMAN LIFE SCIENCES. I THINK THOSE ISSUES ARE ALL CRITICAL, AND I'VE SAID SO BEFORE. I WRESTLE WITH IT ON STEM CELL AND WRESTLE WITH IT ON ISSUES LIKE ABORTION. I THINK THAT THE GUIDELINES THAT WE PROVIDED MEET THAT ETHICAL TEST. WHAT WE HAVE SAID IS THAT FOR EMBRYOS THAT ARE TYPICALLY ABOUT TO BE DISCARDED, FOR US TO BE ABLE TO USE THOSE IN ORDER TO FIND CURES FOR PARKINSON'S OR FOR ALZHEIMER'S OR, YOU KNOW, ALL SORTS OF OTHER DEBILITATING DISEASES. JUVENILE DIABETES, THAT IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, AND THAT'S NOT JUST MY OPINION. THAT IS THE OPINION OF A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ALSO AGAINST ABORTION. NOW, I AM GLAD TO SEE PROGRESS IS BEING MADE IN ADULT STEM CELLS. IF THE SCIENCE DETERMINES THAT WE CAN COMPLETELY AVOID A SET OF ETHICAL QUESTIONS OR POLITICAL DISPUTES, THEN THAT'S GREAT. I HAVE NO INVESTMENT IN CAUSING CONTROVERSY. I'M HAPPY TO AVOID IT IF THAT'S WHERE THE SCIENCE LEADS US. BUT WHAT I DON'T WANT TO DO IS PREDETERMINE THIS BASED ON A VERY RIGID IDEOLOGICAL APPROACH, AND THAT'S WHAT I THINK IS REFLECTED IN THE EXECUTIVE ORDER I SIGNED.

JOHN WARD (WASHINGTON TIMES): I HAVE FOLLOW-UP, THOUGH. DO YOU THINK THAT SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS IS ENOUGH TO TELL US WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT DO?

NO, THERE'S AN ETHICAL AND MORAL ELEMENT THAT HAS TO BE A PART OF THIS. SO AS I SAID, I DON'T TAKE DECISIONS LIKE THIS LIGHTLY. THEY'RE ONES I TAKE SERIOUSLY, AND I RESPECT PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON THIS ISSUE. BUT I THINK THAT THIS WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, AND THE ETHICAL THING TO DO. AND AS I SAID BEFORE, MY HOPE IS THAT WE CAN FIND A MECHANISM ULTIMATELY TO CURE THESE DISEASES IN A WAY THAT GAINS 100% CONSENSUS. WE CERTAINLY HAVEN'T ACHIEVED THAT YET, BUT I THINK ON BALANCE THIS WAS THE RIGHT STEP TO TAKE.

STEFAN COLLISON (AFP): MR. PRESIDENT, YOU CAME TO OFFICE PLEDGING TO WORK FOR PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS. HOW REALISTIC DO YOU THINK THOSE HOPES ARE NOW, GIVEN THE LIKELIHOOD OF A PRIME MINISTER NOT FULLY SIGNED UP TO A TWO-STATE SOLUTION AND A FOREIGN MINISTER ACCUSED OF INSULTING ARABS?

MR. OBAMA: IT'S NOT EASIER THAN IT WAS. I THINK IT'S JUST AS NECESSARY. WE DON'T YET KNOW WHAT THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE. WE DON'T YET KNOW WHAT THE SHAPE OF PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP IS GOING TO BE COMPRISED OF. WHAT WE DO KNOW IS THIS, THAT THE STATUS QUO IS UNSUSTAINABLE. THAT IT IS CRITICAL FOR US TO ADVANCE A TWO-STATE SOLUTION WHERE ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS CAN LIVE SIDE BY SIDE IN THEIR OWN STATES WITH PEACE AND SECURITY. AND BY ASSIGNING GEORGE MITCHELL THE TASK OF WORKING A SPECIAL ENVOY, WHAT WE'VE SIGNALED IS WE'RE GOING TO BE SERIOUS FROM DAY ONE IN TRYING TO MOVE THE PARTIES IN A DIRECTION THAT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT REALITY. HOW EFFECTIVE THESE NEGOTIATIONS MAY BE, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE, BUT, YOU KNOW, WE WERE HERE FOR ST. PATRICK'S DAY AND YOU RECALL THAT WE HAD WHAT HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY SWORN ENEMIES CELEBRATING HERE IN THIS VERY ROOM. YOU KNOW, LEADERS FROM THE TWO SIDES OF NORTHERN IRELAND THAT, YOU KNOW, A COUPLE OF DECADES AGO OR EVEN A DECADE AGO, PEOPLE WOULD HAVE SAID COULD NEVER ACHIEVE PEACE. HERE THEY WERE JOINTLY APPEARING AND TALKING ABOUT THEIR COMMITMENT EVEN IN THE FACE OF VIOLENT PROVOCATION. WHAT THAT TELLS ME IS THAT IF YOU STICK TO IT, IF YOU ARE PERSISTENT, 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. I BELIEVE THAT WHEN IT COMES TO DOMESTIC AFFAIRS, IF WE ACKNOWLEDGE WE MAKE MISTAKES AND DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER AND WE'RE INHERITING VERY KNOTTY PROBLEMS THAT WE CAN PASS HEALTH CARE, WE CAN FIND BETTER SOLUTIONS TO OUR ENERGY CHALLENGES, WE CAN TEACH OUR CHILDREN MORE EFFECTIVELY, WE CAN DEAL WITH A VERY REAL BUDGET CRISIS THAT IS NOT FULLY DEALT WITH IN MY BUDGET AT THIS POINT. BUT IT MAKES PROGRESS. I THINK WHEN IT COMES TO THE BANKING SYSTEM, IT WAS JUST A FEW DAYS AGO OR WEEKS AGO WHERE PEOPLE WERE CERTAIN THAT SECRETARY GEITHNER COULD NOT DELIVER A PLAN. TODAY THE HEADLINES ALL LOOK LIKE, WELL, ALL RIGHT. THERE'S A PLAN. I'M SURE THERE WILL BE MORE CRITICISM AND WE'LL HAVE TO MAKE MORE ADJUSTMENTS, BUT WE'RE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. WHEN IT COMES TO IRAN, WE DID A VIDEO SENDING A MESSAGE TO THE IRANIAN PEOPLE AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN. SOME PEOPLE SAID, WELL, THEY DID NOT IMMEDIATELY SAY WE'RE ELIMINATING NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND STOP FUNDING TERRORISM. WELL, WE DIDN'T EXPECT THAT. WE EXPECT WE WILL MAKE STEADY PROGRESS ON THIS FRONT. WE HAVEN'T IMMEDIATELY ELIMINATED THE INFLUENCE OF LOBBYISTS IN WASHINGTON. WE HAVE NOT IMMEDIATELY ELIMINATED WASTEFUL PORK PROJECTS, AND WE'RE NOT IMMEDIATELY GOING TO GET MIDDLE EAST PEACE. WE'VE BEEN IN OFFICE NOW A LITTLE OVER 60S DAYS. WHAT I AM CONFIDENT ABOUT IS WE'RE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, AND THAT THE DECISIONS WE'RE MAKING ARE BASED ON HOW TO GET THE ECONOMY MOVING AND HOW TO PUT AMERICANS BACK TO WORK, HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR PEOPLE ARE SAFE AND HOW ARE WE GOING TO CREATE NOT JUST PROSPERITY HERE BUT WORK WITH OTHER COUNTRIES FOR GLOBAL PEACE AND PROSPERITY? WE'RE 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.

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