Obama Provides a Glimpse at His Perspective on the Presidency

President addresses swine flu, torture and economy in 100th day news conference.

ByABC News
April 29, 2009, 4:10 PM

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009— -- In a White House press conference marking the 100th day of his administration, President Barack Obama came prepared to talk about the most pressing issues of the day -- swine flu, Bush administration interrogation memos and the nation's economy.

But it was a more personal question about his perspective on the office of the presidency that really got him talking.

Asked by a reporter what has surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled him the most about his position, Obama seemed taken aback at such an off-topic question.

Obama asked the reporter to go through the list again to make sure he had it all straight. "Now let me write this down," he said.

The president said he was most surprised by the sheer volume of things his team is dealing with -- "the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time."

"You know, the typical president, I think, has two or three big problems. We've got seven or eight big problems," he said.

The president said he was less troubled and more sobered by the fact that change in Washington does not come quickly. Obama campaigned on bringing change to the nation's capital and said tonight that a break from politics as usual, even when dealing with "really big crises," has not happened as much as he would like.

Obama demurred on what has enchanted him but said he is "profoundly impressed" by the men and women in the armed services and said he was humbled by the realization that no matter how "extraordinarily powerful" the presidency is, it is part of "a much broader tapestry of American life."

"I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want or, you know, turn on a switch and suddenly, you know, Congress falls in line," Obama said.

This is Obama's third prime-time press conference and while it was scheduled to coincide with the 100th day of his administration, the president made it clear he was looking forward to the next 100 days and beyond.

The first question posed to the president was about the outbreak of swine flu in the United States and around the world. Obama reiterated that while the virus is a "cause for deep concern," it is not a cause for panic.

Obama said his advisors have not recommended closing the border between the United States and Mexico, likening it to "closing the barn door after the horses are out."

The president said he has requested an immediate $1.5 billion in emergency funding from Congress to support efforts to monitor and track the virus and build the government's supply of antiviral drugs and medical equipment.