- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saying “we are off to a good start, but it is just a start,” President Barack Obama marked his 100th day in office Wednesday by laying the groundwork for a “New Foundation for growth” that would support a recession-wracked economy that was “built on a pile of sand.”

Obama used a prime-time news conference Wednesday evening in Washington to reassure Americans that the country was on the right track. The news conference was airing on NBC and MSNBC and streaming live on msnbc.com.

“We are off to a good start, but it is just a start,” Obama said. “I am proud of what we have achieved, but I am not content. I am pleased with our progress, but I am not satisfied.”

“Even as we clear away the wreckage of this recession, I have also said that we cannot go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand — on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on overleveraged banks and outdated regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of us all,” the president said.

“We must lay a New Foundation for growth — a foundation that will strengthen our economy and help us compete in the 21st century,” he said, only hours after the Senate voted to approve a nonbinding budget resolution that mirrors most of Obamas previously stated priorities.

The phrase New Foundation was capitalized in the text of Obamas remarks, as though the administration hoped it would be adopted as an identifying slogan for Obamas presidency.

The president opened by promising Americans that his government was doing “everything we can” to counter the spread of swine flu, which the World Health Organization classified Wednesday as a category 5 emergency, the second-highest level.

He repeated his controversial recommendation earlier this week that schools where cases of swine flu had been confirmed should consider closing, and he urged parents and businesses to “think about contingency plans” to deal with that many children suddenly left at home during the school year.

But he ruled out, for now, closing the U.S. southern border with Mexico, where the outbreak originated. He likened such measures to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.

Until the picture becomes clearer, Obama said, his best advice was what doctors had been telling Americans for days: Wash your hands regularly and stay home if you are sick.

And he praised his predecessor, President George W. Bush, for putting in place a sound infrastructure for dealing with a pandemic, especially its program to to stockpile medication.

But he obliquely slammed Bush in response to a question about the CIAs harsh interrogation techniques when questioning detainees from the U.S. war in Iraq.

Obama did not directly say whether he believed the Bush administration “sanctioned torture,” but he came close to endorsing that viewpoint.

“What I’ve said, and what I will repeat, is waterboarding violates our ideals,” he said. I do believe waterboarding is torture.

Stopping such practices, he said, “will makes us stronger and will make us safer over the long term.”

Obama said he was “very comfortable” with his decision to ban waterboarding, an interrogation tactic intended to make the subject believe he is drowning.

“Part of what makes us, I think, still a beacon to the world is that we are willing to hold true to our ideals even when its hard, not just when its easy,” he said.

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