The White House is working hard to squeeze every ounce of political advantage it can get out of the media attention given to the end of President Obama's first 100 days in office. There's the prime-time press conference scheduled for tonight, of course, and then there was a town hall this morning in Arnold, Missouri, essentially a little celebration the president threw for himself.
For the most part, though, there wasn't anything really special about this town hall, at least not compared to the usual fare when the president holds an event like this. His address to the crowd -- billed as a progress report -- was basically a stump speech:
I just want everybody to understand you're who I'm working for every single day in the White House. I've heard your stories. I know you sent me to Washington because you believed in the promise of a better day. And I don't want to let you down.
You believed that after an era of selfishness and greed that we could reclaim a sense of responsibility on Wall Street and in Washington as well as on Main Street. You believed that instead of huge inequalities and an economy that's built on a bubble we could restore a sense of fairness to our economy and build a new foundation for lasting growth and prosperity.
You believed that a time of war we could stand strong against our enemies and stand firmly for our ideals and show a new face of American leadership to the world. That's the change you believed in. That's the trust you placed in me. It's something I will never forget, the fact that you made this possible...
Obama also repeated familiar messages about not going "back to an economy that's built on a pile of sand" and about the "five pillars" he's proposing as the foundation of new economic growth.
A question-and-answer session held afterwards played out similarly, largely because the questions didn't pose much of a challenge to the president. But he did say one thing that will make a bit of news, at least with conservatives who'll be unhappy about it. Talking about the nation's deficit, Obama brought up -- as he often does -- the role his predecessor played in growing it to its current size, and mentioned the necessity of taking action to right the economy. And then he quipped:
So, you know, when you -- when you see, you know -- those of you who are watching certain news channels, that -- on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around... let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security... But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is that because of the recovery act, because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got.