December 23rd, 2010
01:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – CNN got to ask two questions at Wednesday's departure press conference. Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez asked Obama about immigration reform, and garnered a reaction from the president about the failure of Dream Act passage earlier this month. And CNN's White House correspondent Dan Lothian asked a question that was decidedly...Lothianistic.
Take a look.
Q Can you give us an update on that car that you talk about so much about being in the ditch? Can you give us an update as to where it is today? What kind of highway do you think it will be driving on in 2011? Who will really be behind the wheel, given the new makeup in Congress? And what do you think Republicans will be sipping and saying next year? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Dan, you gave some thought to that question, didn’t you?
Q I did. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I do think that the car is on level ground. I mean, the car is the economy. And I think we are past the crisis point in the economy, but we now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth. And my singular focus over the next two years is not rescuing the economy from potential disaster, but rather jumpstarting the economy so that we actually start making a dent in the unemployment rate and we are equipping ourselves so that we can compete in the 21st century.
And that means we’ve got to focus on education, that means we have to focus on research and development, we have to focus on innovation. We have to make sure that in every sector, from manufacturing to clean energy to high-tech to biotech, that we recognize the private sector is going to be the driving force. And what the government can do is to make sure that we are a good partner with them, that we’re a facilitator; that in some cases, we’re a catalyst, when it’s a fledgling industry.
And that means that we’ve got to look at some of our old dogmas - both Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals - to think about what works. If there are regulations that are in place that are impeding innovation, let’s get rid of those regulations. Let’s make sure that we’re also protecting consumers, and we’re protecting the environment and protecting workers in the process. But let’s find ways to do business that helps business.
People were doubtful about the approach that we took to the auto industry, but that was an example of there may be occasions - certainly during crisis - where a timely intervention that’s limited and restricted can end up making a difference.
And so I think Democrats, Republicans, House, Senate, the White House - all of us have to be in a conversation with the private sector about what’s going to ensure that we can export and sell our products instead of just buying exports from someplace else. How do we make sure that the green technologies of the future are made here in America?
And how do we get all these profits that companies have been making since the economy recovered into productive investment and hiring? That's a conversation that I had with the 20 CEOs who came here, and that's a conversation I expect to continue in the months ahead.
But the answer about who drives - the American people are driving the car. They're the ones who are going to be making an assessment as to whether we’re putting in place policies that are working for them. And both parties are going to be held accountable and I’m going to be held accountable if we take a wrong turn on that front.
Q And what will the Republicans be sipping? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You know, my sense is the Republicans recognize that with greater power is going to come greater responsibility. And some of the progress that I think we saw in the lame duck was a recognition on their part that people are going to be paying attention to what they're doing, as well as what I’m doing and what the Democrats in Congress are doing.