Feb. 24, 2009 -- The Obama administration is going into tonight's pivotal speech to Congress with the belief that President Obama has accomplished more in the first 30 days in office than any modern president.
The president will give the nation a "sober assessment" about the status of the country's economy tonight as he assures Americans that there are "better days ahead," according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Obama will address a joint meeting of Congress tonight in a speech that will be shown live on national television, giving the president a chance to sketch out his agenda for the country after having authorized a massive $787 billion stimulus package as well as a $75 billionhomeowner bailout.
It will also allow the administration to brag a bit.
"President Obama has accomplished more in 30 days than any president in modern history," a senior White House official said today in a background briefing.
Besides the economic spending, the senior official pointed to the passage of children's health insurance, and requirements in the stimulus bill that made major changes in energy, education and tax policies, the official said, describing the bill as a "major paydown" on what candidate Obama ran on.
The provisions in the bill promoting energy independence, the official said, constitute "the largest energy independence investment policy ever in the U.S.," and maybe even in the world.
Despite the boasts by Team Obama, the country's struggling economy will dominate tonight's speech. And if the president or the nation needed any reminding about the gravity of the fiscal meltdown, the insurance giant AIG has joined Citigroup in returning to Washington for yet even more help in surviving its mountain of bad debt despite having already received tens of billions of dollars in federal rescue funds.
In addition, the stock market plummeted Monday to its lowest level in more than a decade.
Watch President Obama's Speech on ABC TV or Streamed Live on ABCNews.com at 9 p.m. ET
Tonight's speech will be the latest step in an Obama offensive to win support for his economic strategy, which has been to spend trillions of dollars to stimulate the country's economy while promising to cut the nation's deficit in half by the end of his first term.
So far, 60 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the economy, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Gibbs told "Good Morning America" today said that Obama would give the nation "a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face."
While being frank, the president will also try to be upbeat, telling the country "we have met many big challenges before and he believes that we're on the right path. And there are better days ahead for this country."
"We're going to get this economy moving again and getting people back to work," Gibbs told "GMA." And that's the plan the president will talk about tonight."
Gibbs also tried to assure banks and investors yet again that there are no immediate plans to nationalize banks.
"We're going to help banks get through a crisis if necessary to do so, but no one envisions nationalizing banks or running them as we do the post office," Gibbs said.
The Three Objectives for Obama's Speech
Obama has three objectives for his speech tonight, administration officials said, starting with explaining to America the gravity of the situation without appearing pessimistic.
"We learned from the Great Depression that an inspiring leader is important, someone whose voice can shine through the darkness," said Amity Shlaes, author of "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression."
A source told ABC News that the president will express confidence the country can emerge from the crisis, but the effort must be bipartisan and will include making tough choices.
Second, he must also explain the administration's short-term solutions, spelling out for Americans why the federal government is investing $787 billion in a stimulus plan while also soaking up billions of dollars more in shares of faltering companies like Citigroup and Bank of America.
Third, Obama will have to describe for Americans the road ahead, which will allow him to talk about other programs, such as developing alternative energy, education, health care and containing costs for programs like Social Security.
It is a balancing act that must combine toughness, vision, clarity and optimism.