White House changes tune on stimulus

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The Obama administration has in recent days blamed the press for creating the impression that there is tension between them and European countries over the goals of the upcoming G-20 summit in London, which starts on Wednesday.

The White House says they are not pushing for any countries to commit to new spending, and yesterday sounded exasperated by questions about a rift between them and countries such as Germany, France and others.

During a conference call yesterday with reporters, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs defended the stimulus spending undertaken already by members of the G-20.

“If you look at what has been done by the nations that comprise the G-20, which is 85 percent of the people in the world, roughly, you’ve already had economic recovery and stimulus that equals about 1.8 percent of GDP in those 20 nations,” Gibbs said, adding that that is similar in size to President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill.

“There’s already been significant action taken across the globe, and we think that’s positive for getting the global economy moving again,” Gibbs said.

But contrast Gibbs’ words yesterday with what he said on March 11 at the White House briefing: “A number of the countries that we’re going to visit that take part in the G-20 have not put a great deal of money forward to stimulate the economy.”

Sounds like a change in position.

Also, check out my piece in the paper today on the president’s challenges while he is out of the country for a week in keeping the American people reassured that he’s still focused on their problems. Here is the story top:

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President Obama will speak to the country with a giant megaphone Sunday morning, hoping that it’s loud enough to echo through much of the week, when he will be out of the country.

Mr. Obama’s first extended trip abroad will be more than a test of his diplomatic verve, it also renders him unable to continue his near-exclusive focus on America’s economy, at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. His appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” - along with a slew of top administration officials on other shows who will virtually blanket the airwaves for most of the morning - is a down payment on the week ahead.

And the White House says it is committed to keeping Mr. Obama and his domestic-economy agenda in front of the American people while he is in Britain, France, the Czech Republic and Turkey for a total of eight days.

“Even though the president is six times zones away and separated by 5,000 miles of ocean, he’ll make it clear that he remains as focused as ever on getting the economy moving and easing the burden on the millions of American families affected by the economic crisis,” said White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.

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Geithner, by the way, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this morning that Treasury has about $135 billion left in the TARP, out of an original $700 billion. Dow Jones had estimated last week that the fund was down to about $50 billion, after Geithner refused to tell members of Congress how much remained.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times

Follow me on Twitter // jward@washingtontimes.com // Read my latest articles here // My YouTube channel

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