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Economy
10:58 am
Fri June 8, 2012

Obama Urges Congress To Take Action On Economy

Originally published on Mon June 11, 2012 2:03 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One thing about the economic pain Spain, and other EU countries, are now experiencing - it's offering something of a break to President Obama in this campaign season, where he's trying to fend off Republican attacks on his handling of the sluggish American economy. In a White House press conference this morning, the president was able to point to Europe's financial woes as a drag on the economy here in the U.S.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If there's less demand for our products in places like Paris or Madrid, it could mean less businesses - or less business for manufacturers in places like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee.

MONTAGNE: The president also scolded Congress for not doing more to help the economy, and challenged it to pass a jobs creation bill, among other steps. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us from the White House, to tell us more about Mr. Obama's remarks. Good morning, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So let's start with Europe. What was the president's advice to fix the problem?

SHAPIRO: Kind of the same advice that he has given Congress here in the U.S. He says you can't just cut your way out of a recession. He argues that you have to combine short-term investments in things like infrastructure and education, with long-term solutions to debts and deficits. But he also said these are tough decisions, and that it's going to be tough for the European Union to reach a consensus on what to do.

OBAMA: The challenge they have is, they've got 17 governments that have to coordinate - 27, if you count the entire European Union, not just the eurozone. So imagine dealing with 17 congresses instead of just one. That makes things more challenging.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, let's talk about the one Congress that we, here in the U.S., do have. What was President Obama's message to them?

SHAPIRO: Well, as you mentioned, he urged them, again, to act on his jobs package. He says look, this country's infrastructure needs to be updated. There are construction workers looking for jobs; interest rates are an all-time low. Put that all together, and there is no better time to act. He also said this is the last moment that we should be laying off teachers and firefighters, so we should be giving money to the states.

The problem, from Congress' perspective, is that the action President Obama describes is spending, and Congress is in no mood to do that. House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to speak with reporters in less than an hour. We don't know, for sure, what he's going to say. But it's a pretty good bet that President Obama's latest version of this jobs message will not be greeted anymore warmly five months before the presidential election, than it was any of the previous times he made this argument.

MONTAGNE: Well, the White House has also been getting criticized for some national security leaks - about drone strikes and cyberattacks on Iran. Did the president address any of these leaks, and if they came from the White House?

SHAPIRO: Yeah, he dismissed the notion that they came from the White House. He referred us to comments by the reporters who wrote those books and stories, including the classified information. Those reporters have said their information did not come from the White House. The president also said: Since I've been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks.

And it is true, objectively speaking, that this administration has gone after reporters for national security leaks - more aggressively than the Bush administration did. And then finally, President Obama had this message for people who accuse his White House of strategically leaking information to get an election year boost. Here's what he said:

OBAMA: The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong and - you know, people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office, and how the people around me here approach this office.

SHAPIRO: When he was asked whether there was an investigation into these specific leaks, he didn't answer outright. But he did say: Whenever there is classified information that is put out into the public, we try to find out where that came from.

MONTAGNE: Ari, thanks much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ari Shapiro, speaking to us from the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.