CBS ‘Early Show’ Fact Checks Obama Press Conference

Bill Plante, CBS On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen took an unusually critical tone toward President Obama’s first press conference on Monday night: "President Obama takes to prime time to pitch his nearly trillion-dollar rescue plan...But does the president have his facts straight? And what does a trillion dollars really buy you? We'll tell you."

In a later report on the press conference correspondent Bill Plante challenged some of the president’s assertions, including: "Most economists, almost unanimously, recognize government is an important element of introducing some additional demand into the economy." Plante countered: "In fact, several hundred economists argued for more tax cuts, rather than more spending." Plante also questioned Obama’s denial of any earmarks in the so-called "stimulus" bill: "Even so, the bill does call for some specifics that sound a lot like earmarks. $2 billion for a clean coal power plant. $2 billion for hybrid car batteries. $255 million for a Coast Guard icebreaker."

Following Plante’s report, co-host Harry Smith interviewed White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Smith did not ask anything that made much news, but did present some challenge: "Watched the president's press conference last night. It was very interesting. Part of the tone was, ‘it’s our way or the highway.’ Does the president really believe that the Republicans’ objections are merely obstructionist?"

After Smith spoke to Gibbs, correspondent Michelle Gielan did a brief report on other uses of the the nearly $1 trillion price tag of the bill: "A $1 trillion economic recovery plan would represent 7% of the U.S. economy. $1 trillion is also more than double the size of the largest U.S. budget deficit in history, $455 billion recorded in fiscal 2008...With $1 trillion, one could build more than 1,200 Yankee Stadiums or 25 for each of the 50 U.S. states. And finally, a stack of 1,000 dollar bills totaling $1 trillion would be more than 67 miles high."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

JULIE CHEN: President Obama takes to prime time to pitch his nearly trillion-dollar rescue plan.

BARACK OBAMA: If there's anyone out there who still doesn't believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down because they don't know where their next paycheck is coming from.

CHEN: But does the president have his facts straight? And what does a trillion dollars really buy you? We'll tell you.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First, though, the Obama administration today releases new rules on the second half of the bank bailout program. The government plans on teaming up with investors to buy toxic assets from banks and additional federal funds would be used to unfreeze credit markets. Meanwhile, President Obama travels to Fort Myers, Florida, today, to present his economic stimulus plan directly to the public. Last night he held his first news conference, where he spoke in depth about the plan and the economy. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has a reality check. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Morning, Harry. The president warned members of Congress that if they didn't enact his bill, that what is now a crisis could turn into a catastrophe. He took on the Republicans who charged that the bill is loaded with wasteful spending that won't create jobs. The president argued that the bill may not be perfect, but it is necessary.

BARACK OBAMA: Most economists, almost unanimously, recognize government is an important element of introducing some additional demand into the economy.

[GRAPHIC ON SCREEN: Claim: Most Economists argue for more spending; Fact: False: Economists want more tax cuts]

PLANTE: In fact, several hundred economists argued for more tax cuts, rather than more spending. But the president dismissed that as the-

OBAMA: Failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place.

PLANTE: The president told voters in Elkhart, Indiana, Monday, that the stimulus would be good for a local highway there. Yet he insisted the bill has none of the pet projects known as earmarks.

OBAMA: Not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.

[GRAPHIC ON SCREEN: Claim: The stimulus package has no earmarks; Fact: True: But there are pork-like projects]

PLANTE: Even so, the bill does call for some specifics that sound a lot like earmarks. $2 billion for a clean coal power plant. $2 billion for hybrid car batteries. $255 million for a Coast Guard icebreaker. Bottom line, says the president-

OBAMA: That it will save or create up to 4 million jobs.

PLANTE: But that's very hard to tell because it's very hard to put a number, and those are uncertain figures. Now, today the president continues selling his stimulus plan by going to Fort Myers, Florida, where the housing market has completely tanked. Harry.

SMITH: Bill Plante at the White House this morning, thanks. Joining us from Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Mr. Gibbs, good morning.

ROBERT GIBBS: Harry, how are you?

SMITH: Very well. Watched the president's press conference last night. It was very interesting. Part of the tone was, 'it's our way or the highway.' Does the president really believe that the Republicans' objections are merely obstructionist?

GIBBS: No, I think what the president said last night is, look, there are some philosophical agreements that he'll never be able to change on the other side of the aisle-

SMITH: Disagreements.

GIBBS: But as you saw yesterday, Democrats and Republicans worked together in order to move this process forward, and we hope we'll work together today to get this bill out of the Senate and one step closer to the president's desk.

SMITH: As this thing does move forward, is your biggest concern Republicans in the House or Democrats in the House?

GIBBS: Well, look, again, Harry, I -- we've got to work together to get something done. The president said that old habits die hard in this town. But when we visit places outside of Washington, like Elkhart, Indiana, that we went to yesterday, or Fort Myers, Florida, today, that's seen the greatest number of home foreclosures during the past year, Washington begins to understand that we've got to work together for the American

people and get something done. We've all seen these stories in Elkhart, their unemployment rate has tripled over just the last year. So it's time for Washington to act and get along when doing it.

SMITH: Alright. Let's move on to Tim Geithner today. He's going to unveil new plans for T.A.R.P. for the bank rescue package. The banks didn't use T.A.R.P. money the way it was intended in this past go round. Is there any guarantee going into the future that they will do so this time?

GIBBS: Well, you know, Harry, that's going to be a big focus of what Secretary Geithner's going to talk about today. Using a public/private partnership so that when banks get this money, we've got some incentives to make sure that they're lending that money to small businesses and families that need it. We've got to make sure that credit and capital flow and that people have access to that kind of money so that they can create jobs and get the economy moving again. That'll be a big focus of what Secretary Geithner will discuss.

SMITH: And will it be any more transparent?

GIBSS: Absolutely it'll be more transparent. We'll be able not only to look at what happened -- what has happened before, but this administration and Secretary Geithner are committed to a level of transparency and accountability that we haven't seen in the financial stability packages before.

SMITH: How do you like your new job?

GIBBS: So far, so good. It keeps me up early in the morning. I feel like a morning show guy.

[Laughter]

SMITH: You almost look like one, too. Alright, Robert Gibbs, thanks very much for joining us, take care.

GIBBS: Thanks, Harry.

SMITH: You bet.

GIBBS: Yup.

SMITH: Now here's Julie.

JULIE CHEN: He does. Alright, thanks a lot, Harry. Well, the stimulus plan is worth more than $800 billion. The second half of the bank bailout package is $350 billion. Together, more than $1 trillion. CBS News correspondent Michelle Gielan looks at what $1 trillion can actually buy.

MICHELLE GIELAN: $1 trillion may be the new billion, even making $1 million seem like chump change at times. A $1 trillion economic recovery plan would represent 7% of the U.S. economy. $1 trillion is also more than double the size of the largest U.S. budget deficit in history, $455 billion recorded in fiscal 2008. In December, the average price of a home in the U.S. was a little more than $175,000. $1 trillion could buy 5.7 million of those homes. If $1 trillion were given directly to the people, instead of through tax cuts and government spending programs, every man, woman and child in the U.S. would receive about $3,200. Here in New York, construction of the New Yankee stadium is expected to cost about $800 million. With $1 trillion, one could build more than 1,200 Yankee Stadiums or 25 for each of the 50 U.S. states. And finally, a stack of 1,000 dollar bills totaling $1 trillion would be more than 67 miles high. But a pile of the same bills worth $1 billion would only be 358 feet high. Michelle Gielan, CBS News, New York.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC