- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009


The economy is fundamentally sound despite the temporary “mess” it’s in, the White House said Sunday in the kind of upbeat assessment that Barack Obama had mocked as a presidential candidate.

Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies pleaded for patience with an administration hitting the two-month mark this week. After weeks projecting a dismal outlook on the economy, administration officials - led by the president himself in recent days - swung their rhetoric toward optimism in what became Wall Street’s best stretch since November.

During the fall campaign, Mr. Obama relentlessly criticized his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, for declaring, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.” Mr. Obama’s team painted the veteran senator as out of touch and failing to grasp the challenges facing the country.

But on Sunday, that optimistic message came from economic adviser Christina Romer. When asked during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether the fundamentals of the economy were sound, she replied: “Of course they are sound.”

“The fundamentals are sound in the sense that the American workers are sound, we have a good capital stock, we have good technology,” she said. “We know that - that temporarily we’re in a mess, right? We’ve seen huge job loss, we’ve seen very large falls in GDP. So certainly in the short run we’re in a - in a bad situation.”

Just a week ago, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag declared that “fundamentally, the economy is weak.” Days later, Mr. Obama told reporters that he was confident in the economy.

“If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we’re going to get through this,” Mr. Obama said, striking a tone that his top aides mimicked.

Despite the new enthusiasm at the White House and on Wall Street, there was little solid evidence to suggest that an end was in sight to the severe recession that has already cost 4 million American jobs, driven down home values and sent foreclosures soaring. Meanwhile, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said he was concerned about the safety of the estimated $1 trillion his country has invested in U.S. government debt.

Mr. Obama sought to downplay the worries.

“There’s a reason why even in the midst of this economic crisis you’ve seen actual increases in investment flows here into the United States,” Mr. Obama said Saturday in the Oval Office. “I think it’s a recognition that the stability not only of our economic system, but also our political system, is extraordinary.”

The seesaw message from the new administration drew sharp criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Mr. Obama’s team was exploiting the economic situation for political gain.

“They’re taking advantage of a crisis in order to do things that had nothing to do with getting us into the crisis in the first place,” the Kentucky Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

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