Video: Obama talks unemployment, Wall Street protests

  1. Transcript of: Obama talks unemployment, Wall Street protests

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to other news, chiefly the US economy . President Obama held a news conference this morning at the White House . A lot of the questioning focused on unemployment and the very public show of anger building around the country. Our chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd , was there.

    Group of Protesters: Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs?

    CHUCK TODD reporting: With growing disillusionment toward Wall Street and Washington as the backdrop, President Obama tried to show some empathy.

    President BARACK OBAMA: I think people are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.

    TODD: But he also defended the decisions he made to save the financial industry .

    Pres. OBAMA: I used up a lot of political capital, and I've got the dings and bruises to prove it, in order to make sure that we prevented a financial meltdown and that banks stayed afloat.

    TODD: And he responded to a question about why no one on Wall Street has gone to jail.

    Pres. OBAMA: A lot of that stuff wasn't necessarily illegal. It was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless.

    TODD: The goal for this press conference was to sell his $450 billion jobs plan, but the president spent much of his time explaining why he can't get it passed.

    Pres. OBAMA: So there may be some skepticism that I personally can persuade Republicans to take actions in the interest of the American people . But that's exactly why I need the American people to try to put some pressure on them.

    TODD: And he blamed Congress for the country's skepticism about Washington .

    Pres. OBAMA: Until they see Congress actually putting country ahead of party politics and partisanship, they're going to be skeptical, and doesn't matter how many times I preach to them.

    TODD: Minutes before the president entered the East Room , House Speaker John Boehner asked his own question.

    Representative JOHN BOEHNER: Well, Mr. President, why have you given up on the country and decided to campaign full time instead of doing what the American people sent us all here to do?

    TODD: While he didn't address the question directly, the president denied he was trying to pull a Harry Truman .

    Pres. OBAMA: If Congress does something, then I can't run against a do-nothing Congress . If Congress does nothing, then it's not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town.

    TODD: The White House is pulling out all the stops to try to fix their economic brand these days, even using the Clinton card tomorrow. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton guest-hosts the president's jobs council meeting, Brian .

    WILLIAMS: All right, Chuck Todd at the White House tonight. Chuck ,

President Barack Obama
Jason Reed  /  REUTERS
President Barack Obama answers a question during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Oct. 6, 2011. staff and news service reports
updated 10/6/2011 4:40:37 PM ET 2011-10-06T20:40:37

President Barack Obama directly challenged Republicans Thursday to explain their opposition to his new jobs bill, arguing the $447 billion package could prevent a double-dip recession.

The newlegislation, introduced last month by the president, "could guard against another downturn," Obama said, warning that "the problems Europe is having today could have a very real effect on our economy when it's already fragile."

The jobs bill is due for a vote in the Senate next week; the president challenged GOP senators to explain why they would vote against the measure when, Obama reasoned, it contains a number of proposals that Republicans had previously supported.

Video: Obama makes aggressive plea for jobs bill (on this page)
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"Any senator out there who's thinking about voting against this jobs bill when it comes up for a vote needs to explain exactly why they would oppose something we know would improve our economic situation at such an urgent time," Obama said.

The event was Obama's first news conference since announcing his $447 billion jobs bill in early September.

Since then, Obama has been traveling the country trying to rally public support for the bill. He used Thursday's news conference to urge Congress to pass the measure.

Video: Obama urges Congress to pass jobs bill (on this page)

Thursday's news conference comes against an increasingly political backdrop, as the president has pivoted to single out lawmakers for their opposition to his agenda. If they failed to pass his legislation, Obama said, political consequences await.

The president acknowledged that the economy had weakened since the beginning of the year, a stumble Obama attributed to the protracted debt ceiling fight in Congress, debt crises in Europe, the Japanese tsunami, and populist uprisings this spring in the Middle East. Obama characterized his jobs bill as an "insurance policy" against a second downturn.

Still, Obama acknowledged that the economy was "still going to have challenges," even if his bill becomes law.

Story: Obama acknowledges Wall Street protests as a sign

Senate Democratic leaders were expected to attend a meeting at the White House early Thursday evening to discuss the measure.

Obama said he viewed it as important that Congress vote on his package as a whole, which Senate Democrats revised this week to include a 5 percent surtax on millionaires in order to secure support on their side of the aisle. Obama said he was "comfortable" with the surtax.

Republicans, especially in the House, have pushed to break the bill up into individual pieces, and vote on the measures they find more palatable. They also reject the new taxes and closed loopholes contained within the president's bill to finance its pricetag. Senate Republicans will additionally push Thursday for a vote on the president's initial jobs package, a ploy meant to underscore its lack of support in the chamber.

Video: Politics Panel: White House Happenings

Obama admitted a sense of skepticism about his ability to win over Republicans, but said that if the legislation fails as a whole, the administration would continue to push for votes, "piece by piece," on separate components of the bill.

The fight in Congress comes against the backdrop of extended demonstrations in New York led by the left-leaning "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Obama nodded to the demonstrators Thursday by saying they gave a voice to broader frustration about the state of the economy and the conduct of the financial sector.

"I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works," Obama said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013


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