Obama Refuses the Bait

By Jennifer Parker

Apr 2, 2009 3:37pm

The president’s schedule for his first international summit has been packed. He’s fighting a cold.  But President Barack Obama still managed to have some fun at the final press conference — his most informal as president — setting off a frenzy when he decided to depart from the script and take a few random questions from the floor. No big surprises at the fifty-minute session, but as I watched the president today, I was struck by how much he’s learned about managing expectations. At his first prime time press conference back in February, Obama set up his Treasury Secretary for a fall when he seemed to promise that Timothy Geithner would have an answer to the "toxic asset" crisis the next day.  Problem was, the plan wasn’t ready. Since then, the administration has managed a string of hits: a smooth rollout of the public-private partnerships to buy up those bad bank assets; a surprisingly tough move on GM and Chrysler; and a G-20 summit that under promised (thanks, in part, to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s loose talk about leaving early) and over delivered (aided by the European Central Bank’s decision to lower interest rates again). The markets are loving it, but Obama’s not taking any of it for granted.  Maybe he senses just how brutal tomorrow’s employment report is likely to be.  When ABC’s Jake Tapper asked the president if he was now confident about avoiding a global depression, Obama didn’t take the bait.  Stressing twice that there are no "guarantees" in life, Obama settled on a familiar metaphor: "The patient is stabilized," he said, "pretty good care is being applied…[but] the wounds still have to heal." It must have been tempting at that moment to take more of a victory lap.  And the president seemed for a moment to flirt with the thought.  That he didn’t says a lot about how he got to that podium today. –George Stephanopoulos

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