With Republicans seizing upon remarks he made earlier in the day that "the private sector is doing fine" - arguing that they show a president out of touch with an ailing economy - President Obama sought to clarify his remarks Friday afternoon.
"It's absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine," the president said while sitting alongside Philippines President Benigno Aquino in the Oval Office. "That's the reason I had a press conference. That's why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger. The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak, too many homes underwater and that's precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference."
Decrying the "political games" that in his view necessitated the further elucidation, the president said "if you look at what I said this morning" what he was specifically addressed was that "we've actually seen some good momentum in the private sector. That has not been the biggest drag on the economy."
That said, the president said that there were many other problems with the economy, including small business owners have difficulties securing financing, and state and local governments laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters. That's why, he said, he was pushing for his "Jobs Bill" that independent economists argue would create a million jobs.
"So let me be as clear as I can be: the economy needs to be strengthened," the president said, "that's why I had a press conference. I believe that there are a lot of Americans who are hurting right now, which is what I've been saying for the last year, two years, three years. What I've been saying since I came into office. And the question then is what are we going to do about it?"
The president said "what I'm interested in hearing from Congress and Mr. Romney is what steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference. And so far what we've heard are additional tax cuts that the folks who are doing fine as opposed to taking steps that would actually help deal with the weaknesses in the economy and promote the economic growth that we'd all like to see."