CBS’s Reid: Obama Using ‘Pressure of Popularity’ to Pass ‘Stimulus’
On Monday’s CBS Evening News correspondent Chip Reid described Barack Obama’s efforts to gain support for the so-called "stimulus" bill: "The president aimed the full power of his office, including Air Force One, at the Heartland today, speaking directly to the people in Elkhart, Indiana...For now, the president appears to have the public on his side. A new Gallup poll out today gives him a 67 percent approval rating for his handling of the stimulus legislation, far higher than either Democrats or Republicans in Congress, and he'll be turning on the pressure of popularity again tonight when he holds his first prime time press conference."
In later coverage, just prior to the presidential press conference, Reid again cited the Gallup poll numbers. However, recent Gallup poll results showed that only 38 percent of Americans supported the actual bill in its current form, with 37 percent wanting major changes, 17 percent rejecting it, and 8 percent having no opinion.
Following Reid’s Evening News report, anchor Katie Couric asked: "And, Chip, after the Senate passes the bill, it goes to conference with the House. What is the outlook for that?" Reid replied: "Well, the Democrats and Republicans admit that it is going to be passed eventually, probably by the end of this week, but there's going to be some serious horse trading. It all goes on behind closed doors, and that's when the real work gets done. It gets done much more quickly than when it’s out in public." Apparently public support is not that important.
Couric then turned to a report by correspondent Dean Reynolds, who took a closer look at Elkhart, Indiana: "The Indiana city the president visited today is a combination of empty store fronts, idle workers, and dwindling hopes...That's why the president chose this town to sell his economic plan and why the people here were so eager to hear him."
Reynolds cited one reason for Elkhart’s economic troubles: "In the last year, the amount of vacant industrial space in this county quadrupled and the human cost of that is easy to see. At this plant, up until August, 900 people once worked. Today there's nobody here. Elkhart's main employer is still the recreational vehicle business, where demand has dried up." Reynolds did not mention liberal condemnation of gas-guzzling vehicles as one possible reason for that.
Here is the full transcript of Reid’s report:
KATIE COURIC: Tonight, back on the trail, this time as president, campaigning down to the wire for his stimulus package.
BARACK OBAMA: Folks here in Elkhart and all across America need help right now.
KATIE COURIC: President Obama's economic stimulus bill has just passed a key test in the US Senate. Supporters of the package put together more than the 60 votes they needed to cut off debate and move the bill to a final vote, probably tomorrow. The preliminary vote today, 61 to 36, with Republicans Snow, Specter and Collins joining the majority Democrats. Taking nothing for granted, the Democrats even brought in Senator Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, in case his vote was needed to reach the magic number. President Obama, meanwhile, is making a full court press for passage of the package with a nationally televised news conference tonight. And earlier today, Chip Reid reports, a town meeting in the Midwest.
CHIP REID: The president aimed the full power of his office, including Air Force One, at the Heartland today, speaking directly to the people in Elkhart, Indiana.
CHEERING CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama!
REID: It didn't take long, though, for the mood to grow somber in this community with an unemployment rate of more than 15 percent, one of the highest in the nation.
BARACK OBAMA: We're talking about people who've lost their livelihood and don't know what'll take its place.
REID: The White House insisted until recently that the president could sell the stimulus from the White House, but with no Republican support so far in the House and little in the Senate, the president decided to take his message directly to the American people this week to put pressure on Congress to pass the plan swiftly.
OBAMA: Endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster. I can tell you that doing nothing is not an option.
REID: He explained what the plan will do for the people of Indiana.
OBAMA: We'll create or save nearly 80,000 badly needed jobs for Indiana right here over the next couple of years.
REID: And he took questions and comments from the audience. Most were friendly.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN A: We welcome you to Elkhart with our whole heart.
REID: One was not.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: You have come to our county and asked us to trust you. But those that you have appointed to your Cabinet are not trustworthy and can't handle their own budget and taxes.
OBAMA: No, no, now, this is a legitimate -- this is a legitimate question. If you're not going to appoint anybody who's ever mad a mistake in your life, then you're not going to have anybody taking your jobs.
REID: Republican Congressman Fred Upton from nearby Michigan voted against the bill in the House the first time around. But after talking to him on the plane and listening to him here today, you're still undecided?
FRED UPTON: Well, I want to see what the package is going to look like.
REID: But you're hopeful?
UPTON: I am hopeful.
REID: For now, the president appears to have the public on his side. A new Gallup poll out today gives him a 67 percent approval rating for his handling of the stimulus legislation, far higher than either Democrats or Republicans in Congress, and he'll be turning on the pressure of popularity again tonight when he holds his first prime time press conference. Katie.
[GRAPHIC ON SCREEN: Gallup Poll Approval Ratings, Obama 67%; Congress, Democrats 48%, Republicans 31%]
COURIC: And, Chip, after the Senate passes the bill, it goes to conference with the House. What is the outlook for that?
REID: Well, the Democrats and Republicans admit that it is going to be passed eventually, probably by the end of this week, but there's going to be some serious horse trading. It all goes on behind closed doors, and that's when the real work gets done. It gets done much more quickly than when it's out in public. Katie.
COURIC: Chip Reid at the White House tonight. Thanks, Chip. By the way, CBS News will, of course, bring you live coverage of the president's news conference tonight at 8, 7 Central.