The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with, and everyone else fronts, President Obama’s second prime-time news conference, where he defended his proposed $3.6 trillion budget plan, which is beginning to make its way through Congress. “The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation so that we don’t face another crisis like this 10 or 20 years from now,” he said. Obama focused much of his attention on the economy, adding that there are already signs of improvement but emphasizing numerous times that the American people need to be patient. “We will recover from this recession, but it will take time,” Obama said.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with the Obama administration announcing a plan to send hundreds of federal agents and intelligence analysts to the country’s southern border to help combat Mexican drug-related violence and prevent it from seeping into the United States. It marks “the most determined U.S. effort in years to counter the powerful and dangerous cartels” that are enmeshed in a deadly battle with the Mexican government that has already killed more than 7,000 people over the last 15 months. The New York Timesleads with the White House’s proposal to allow the government to take control of any financial institution that is in trouble and is considered big enough to create trouble in the broader financial system. The government already has that power with banks and other deposit-taking institutions, but the proposal would extend that authority to other financial institutions, such as insurance companies and hedge funds. House Democrats say they hope to act on legislation soon. If the measure is approved, “it would represent one of the biggest permanent expansions of federal regulatory power in decades,” notes the NYT.
The NYT states that Americans who tuned in last night to Obama’s news conference didn’t see a “fiery and inspirational speaker” or a “conversational president” but rather “Barack Obama the lecturer.” Barely moving from a flat tone of voice, “he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs … sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.” The LAT points out that the night was devoid of any “particularly memorable moments” as it seemed the president was determined to “present himself as a steady hand at the helm.”
There was only one point when Obama seemed to lose his calm demeanor, which came after a reporter asked why it had taken him so long to express anger over the AIG bonuses. “Well, it took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak,” he tartly replied.
On the subject of the bonuses, his voice may not have sounded angry, but he assured Americans that he was, although he also emphasized that the country “can’t afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit.” He also defended efforts to seek authority to take over nonbank financial institutions, stating that it is “precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse.”
In his one overtly partisan tone of the evening, Obama said Republican critics of his budget have “a short memory, because as I recall, I’m inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them.” Obama will meet with Democratic senators today to discuss the budget, and insisted yesterday he is open to compromise on some issues but highlighted that he wants Congress to move on his four top priorities. “The bottom line is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit,” he said.
The WSJ points out that Obama “hit on a new theme for his administration: Persistence,” which he emphasized will be his way of handling the numerous problems facing the country. “That whole philosophy of persistence … is one that I’m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come,” he said. “I’m a big believer in persistence.”
In a front-page piece, the LAT’s Mary McNamara writes that Obama is “a child of television” and “it is television he trusts.” He snubbed the Washington press corps and didn’t attend the annual Gridiron Club dinner, but he made an appearance on ESPN, late-night television, 60 Minutes, and then his second prime-time news conference. Obama’s “on-screen persona at its best plays to the American desire for a real-guy president a la Michael Douglas in An American President.” Obama seems determined to build a personal relationship with the American public, and “[s]hort of his own Facebook page, television is as close as it gets.” When watching the president from the comfort of your own home, Obama is “just a regular guy—someone you might know, the parent of one of your daughter’s friends,” writes McNamara. “Except that, oh yeah, he’s also the president.”
In addition to the resources that will be deployed to the Mexican border, the administration also highlighted that it will step up efforts to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States as well as weapons smuggling from the United States. In total, the administration said it will spend $700 million this year in a variety of efforts, and probably more in the future. Still, many in Mexico, as well as several government officials from border states, say this isn’t enough to counter the growing drug-related violence. Indeed, many of the moves that were announced yesterday involved expansions of programs that were started by former President Bush. The WP highlights that the plan was “notable for what it omitted” because it didn’t ask for any new troops or funding from Congress. But one Mexican official says he got assurances from the White House that “more is coming up in the near future.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Mexico today, in the first of several top-level visits from U.S. officials, which will include Obama next month. “They will find a country mired in a deepening slump, miffed by signs of protectionism in its largest trading partner, and torn apart by a drug war for which many in Mexico blame customers in the United States,” notes the NYTin a front-page piece. The troubles in Mexico mean that the Obama administration will have to make changes to its policies toward the country’s southern neighbor “earlier than it might have wished.”
The WSJ is alone in fronting news that Israel’s Labor Party voted to join the coalition government of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. The move immediately added diversity to Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition to include at least one part that is a strong advocate for peace with Palestinians. And, in fact, the written agreement between the two sides included a pledge to pursue peace. The vote to join the coalition created a huge rift in the Labor Party, but it technically gave Netanyahu a bloc of at least 66 votes in the 120-member parliament. Ehud Barak, the party’s leader, would remain as defense minister.
The NYT’s op-ed page publishes a resignation letter that Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president at AIG’s financial products unit, sent to the company’s CEO on Tuesday. DeSantis says he wasn’t in any way involved in the credit-default swaps that led to AIG’s downfall, and highlights that “[m]ost of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.” DeSantis agreed to work for an annual salary of $1 and was repeatedly reassured that his 12 months of “hard work dismantling the company” would be rewarded. Many employees “are now angry about having been misled by AIG’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.” DeSantis says he will donate all of the $742,006.40, after taxes, to “organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn” and promises to send receipts as proof. “I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least [Connecticut] Attorney General [Richard] Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be ‘shoved out the door.’ “