- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The White House on Tuesday admitted it has inadequately explained the nature of the economic crisis and the need for a rescue plan, but the administration also said the complexity of the problem and the media, not President Bush, are to blame for the lack of clarity.

The administration said it will focus on persuading the public and members of Congress that the basic elements of the original plan remain the solution to the problem.

“Our communications challenge is explaining why the [London Interbank Offer Rate] is at all relevant to Americans’ ability to get an auto loan, or a small businesses’ ability to maintain their payroll rate,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

The president has made several statements this week and last, including a prime-time address to the nation last Wednesday, in an attempt to sell his $700 billion plan to Congress and the public.

But Mr. Fratto downplayed the importance of Mr. Bush’s public statements.

“There has always been far too much made of any one president’s powers of persuasion on an issue,” he said.

Mr. Fratto said numerous times during the White House daily briefing that the current economic crisis is “a very complicated issue,” and said that the media had incorrectly labeled the administration’s rescue plan as a “bailout.”

“It’s undeniable that the media chose that branding of this debate,” Mr. Fratto said. “I’m not bashing the media, but I’m saying this was, that was unfortunate to take the language of the critics to brand what this policy debate is about.”

Many members of Congress who voted against the plan on Monday cited opposition to a bailout for wealthy executives on Wall Street.

“It is not a bailout for Wall Street. It is certainly not a bailout of Wall Street CEO’s,” Mr. Fratto said.

But he also said that “we do have a solution that will fix the problem, and that’s the original proposal that was made by [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson.”

Mr. Fratto added that the additions made to the original proposal last week “strengthened” the plan and said “we’d like to keep that whole package together,” despite the fact that the House rejected it Monday.

“Hopefully we can do a better job of making clear what our goal is,” he said. “We’re investing in an asset class that has value and will have a return for taxpayers.”

Also on Tuesday morning, presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain both called the president to discuss the way forward, the White House said.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Democratic nominee spoke to the president specifically about his plan to increase the limit for banking insurance offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from $100,000 to $250,000.

“They spoke about the need to push for a package that Congress can agree on. Senator Obama specifically brought up his proposal to increase the amount of money that is federally insured in order to more fully protect small businesses and families concerned about their savings, believing that such a proposal can broaden the coalition supporting the package,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Mr. Fratto said both men “offered constructive ideas.”

“The president appreciated hearing from them.”

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