President Barack Obama conceded Friday that voters may blame him and Congressional Democrats for the state of the economy, but he insisted that his party can prevail in November if it shows that its ideas are moving the country in the right direction.
Despite making progress in stabilizing the economy, “We’re not there yet,” Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
“People are angry. And since I’m the president and Democrats have controlled the House and the Senate, it’s understandable that people are saying, you know, What have you done?'” he said.
The goal for Democrats, the president said, is to hammer the message that their policies got the country out of the mess created by Republicans over the past eight years.
“If you want policies that are moving us out, even though you may be frustrated, even though change isn’t happening as fast as you’d like, then I think Democrats are going to do fine in November,” he said.
Obama said he understood why some Democrats are running against health care reform — his party’s signature issue in Congress — back in their districts.
“We’re in a political season where every candidate out there has their own district, their own makeup, their own plan, their own message,” he said. “They’re going to be taking polls of what their particular constituents are saying and trying to align with that oftentimes. You know, that’s how political races work.”
On another front, Obama lamented that he has been unable to deliver on one of his campaign promises: closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within the first year of his presidency.
“We have succeeded on delivering a lot of campaign promises that we made. One where we’ve fallen short is closing Guantánamo. I wanted to close it sooner. We have missed that deadline,” he said.
The president said the lack of progress is “not for lack of trying,” however, but because of the politics of the issue. He vowed to work with Democrats and Republicans to set up an “appropriate” system of prosecuting Guantánamo detainees.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was “disappointed” that Obama did not propose extending all of the Bush tax cuts — including those for the wealthy — during his remarks. Most Democrats have endorsed extending only middle-class tax cuts and letting those for couples making more than $250,000 expire.
McConnell said Obama’s position is akin to “raising taxes on hundreds of thousands of small businesses and families across the country.” He criticized the president for spending “a lot of time blaming others and talking about more government spending” instead of reaching out to Republicans for solutions.
But the Senate GOP leader said he agreed “wholeheartedly” with Obama that “we need to do everything we can to fight al-Qaida.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner took aim at Obama’s “half-hearted proposals” on boosting the recovery and “full-throated political attacks” over the lack of GOP ideas on the economy. The Ohio Republican called on Obama to get behind a new GOP proposal for spurring economic growth: freezing all tax rates for two years and cutting government spending to 2008 levels.
“If the president is serious about focusing on jobs, he should be willing to sit down with Republicans and discuss this new idea to get the economy moving again,” he said.