- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ANALYSIS:

Besieged by an economic crisis he says he inherited and a series of setbacks, President Obama is reprising his optimistic campaign style to sell his massive budget plan that is drawing heat even from his party’s leaders on Capitol Hill.

Promising “a better day will come,” Mr. Obama Tuesday used his still-strong popularity to take on the flow of bad economic news and taxpayer anger over executive bonuses and to say that now is the time to act boldly despite a ballooning deficit.

But the president was using his “bully pulpit” to spar not just with Republicans but Democratic lawmakers, who are trimming and hobbling some of his signature initiatives from his budget, from middle-class tax cuts to plans to combat global warming.

He emphasized the budget is the foundation for “economic recovery” and “lasting prosperity,” talking points that have trickled down to his supporters, who are using campaign-style tactics to rally support for the measure. They knocked on 1 million doors over the weekend.

“If this were easy then we would have already had it done and the budget would have been done, and then we could go home,” Mr. Obama said in his second prime-time press conference of his presidency.

As he fielded questions from reporters, Mr. Obama already was seeking to bypass the traditional media and speak straight to the American people through a “town-hall” forum scheduled for Thursday, when the president will take questions submitted online at WhiteHouse.gov.

” ‘Open for Questions’ is a new experiment for WhiteHouse.gov, the president’s latest effort to open up the White House and give Americans from around the country a direct line to the administration,” the new-media team wrote.

The move follows Mr. Obama’s use of less-traditional forums - outreach to the world via an international newspaper op-ed Tuesday and an appearance on “The Tonight Show” last week - to sell his budget as an investment in the future and to rally global support.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the unusual venues have been used to speak “directly with the American people.”

“The president [wants] to give people a sense of what we’re doing and a sense of where we’re going; that they may or may not like all the decisions that he makes, but I think he believes it’s important that they understand why he’s making the decisions that he is,” Mr. Gibbs said Monday.

Republicans are attacking the Obama agenda, hitting him on everything from the American International Group bonus debacle to a health-insurance proposal that was quickly yanked after drawing the ire of veterans.

But the biggest sparring point is expected to be that his $3.6 trillion 2010 budget greatly adds to the deficit as he uses it to fulfill his signature campaign promises of health care, education and alternative energy. He also projects cutting the deficit in half by 2013.

Already Democrats are balking at the spending and how much it adds to the national debt.

Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Tuesday presented an alternate plan allowing Mr. Obama’s tax cut for workers to expire at the end of 2010, in order to try to cut the deficit.

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