Transcript: Charles Gibson Interviews Barack Obama

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind, for example, some want to put more infrastructure in the bill, and they're also complaining that it doesn't spin out fast enough. In some cases, there are contradictions there. I mean, we may want to spend on a whole bunch of great infrastructure, but it may take seven or eight years to do it, in which case we're vulnerable for the criticism that it's not spinning out fast enough. I think that in a package of this sort, that has to go to Congress with 535 opinions, at least, then there's going to be some give and take.

What I've said is that any good idea thrown out there to improve this legislation I'm for. But I want to be absolutely clear here that the overwhelming bulk of the package is sound, is designed to put people back to work, help states that are in desperate straits, help families who are losing jobs and health care, and it's designed to make sure that we've got green energy jobs for the future. In fact, most of the programs that have been criticized as part of this package amount to less than one percent of the overall package. And it makes for good copy, but here's the thing -- we can't afford to play the usual politics at a time when the economy continues to worsen.

CHARLES GIBSON: And talking of politics, you have said you want bipartisanship in this bill, you want Republican support. You didn't get any in the House, and the leader of the House, the speaker of the House, said, well, yes, we wrote the bill and, yes, we won the election.

Is that kind of an in-your-face trash-talking to the Republicans?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think what Speaker Pelosi also said was that she wanted to sit down with them and talk to them and, in fact, included some of their ideas in the package. I mean, keep in mind, when I first released the framework for our plan, we were complimented by the Republicans for the fact that about $300 billion of the package was in the form of tax cuts. I was criticized by members of my own party.

Now, that hasn't changed much. The only thing that's changed is the politics of it. And I'm less concerned about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake. I'm interested in solving the problem for the American people as quickly as possible. And I think that we have an obligation to make sure this money is spent wisely. I want this thing to move through the Senate. I want the House and the Senate bills to be reconciled.

We can scrub it of any problems that are in there. But what I don't want to do is to delay creating jobs for people who are losing work, providing families some direct relief in the form of middle class tax cuts, in the form of tax breaks for small businesses, and I want to make sure that we are investing this money in a way that's going to not just put people back to work right now, but will continue to pay high dividends in the future.

CHARLES GIBSON: A couple of quick questions. There are "Buy America" provisions in this bill. A lot of people think that could set up a trade war, cost American jobs. You want them out?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I want provisions that are going to be a violation of World Trade Organization agreements or in other ways signal protectionism. *** I think that would be a mistake right now. That is a potential source of trade wars that we can't afford at a time when trade is sinking all across the globe.

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