WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009— -- As U.S. auto giant Chrysler heads toward bankruptcy protection, Vice President Joe Biden said the company would emerge stronger but warned that economic conditions would likely get worse before they get better.
Amid news that talks between the automaker's lenders and the Treasury Department had broken down, Biden said he shared President Obama's optimistic view that the Detroit automaker was destined for better days.
Plans are already in place, so "if, in fact, bankruptcy is declared today, it would be a relatively short process and that Chrysler would come out of the process as a sustainable company, not a liquidated company, and so that's our hope, that's our expectation," Biden said on "Good Morning America" today.
With the clock ticking for Chrysler to come up with a plan to remain viable, Obama said Wednesday evening that he was "very hopeful, more hopeful" than a month ago that the automaker would get it done. He also expressed confidence in General Motors.
"I would love to get the U.S. government out of the auto business as quickly as possible," the president said. "We have a circumstance in which a bad recession compounded some great weaknesses already in the auto industry."
Like the president, Biden is bullish on the overall economy, which shrunk 6.1 percent in the first quarter.
"Remember that we said it was an alarming but not unpredictable rate," he said. "The plans we've put in place to begin to turn this economy around are going to take some time, so it wasn't a shock. ... There will be a rise in unemployment, that is the process of coming out of this recession. We think we're putting in place building blocks ... to have the economy built not on artificial bubbles but on sustained growth."
Speaking during a prime-time news conference Wednesday night to mark the 100th day of his administration, the president talked not only about what he considers his achievements but what he considers the most pressing issues of the day -- swine flu, Bush administration interrogation memos and the nation's economy -- and his administration's plans for the future.
But it was a more personal question about his perspective on the office of the presidency that really got him going.
Asked by a reporter what has surprised, enchanted, humbled and troubled him the most about his job, 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 has to deal 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 slow pace of change in Washington. Obama campaigned on bringing change to the nation's capital and said Wednesday night 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 is 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.
Biden this morning had some different responses to the same question.
He told "GMA's" Robin Roberts that he's surprised most by how quickly the administration has had to make decisions. "What's surprised me is the pace -- and I've been in Washington a long time -- of decisions that have had to be made across the board," he said.
Biden said he's disappointed with his Republican counterparts, saying they seem to have an "offset determination not to cooperate. "What's troubled me is the failure ... to get the kind of cooperation we hoped we would get on major issues from some of our Republican colleagues," he said.
At the same time, however, he is humbled by the response of the U.S. people. "People are really banking on us changing the day and it really is humbling," he said.
As for what enchanted him the most, Biden said, "My wife on the night of the inauguration. She was gorgeous."
And on the subject of Sen. Arlen Specter's switching to the Democratic party after 29 years as a Republican from Pennsylvania, he said, "I started on Arlen six years ago, but that was Arlen's decision. He's an independent guy."
Biden deviated slightly from official swine flu warnings, suggesting on NBC's "Today" show" that Americans should avoid all mass transit, a slightly stronger precaution than what the president suggested Wednesday.