April 2, 2009

There were several questions at President Obama's G-20 Summit press briefing today asking him to compare himself to the previous administration. While he made clear there was a significant difference between himself and his predecessor, mostly he shied away from slagging the Republicans he replaced, and particularly George W. Bush.

But watching him onstage, you couldn't help making the comparison. And all I can say is: What a relief it is to once again have a thinking, competent, and capable man as the president.

Still, probably the most pertinent question, for those watching at home, came from Chuck Todd:

QUESTION: What concrete items that you got out of this G-20 can you tell the American people back home who are hurting, the family struggling, seeing their retirement go down, or worrying about losing their job, what happened here today that helps that family back home in -- in the heartland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I said before, we’ve got a global economy. And if we’re taking actions in isolation in the United States but those actions are contradicted overseas, then we’re only going to be halfway effective, maybe not even half.

You’ve seen, for example, a drastic decline in U.S. exports over the last several months. You look at a company like Caterpillar, in my home state of Illinois, which up until last year was doing extraordinarily well. In fact, export growth was what had sustained it even after the recession had begun.

As a consequence of the world recession, as a consequence of the contagion from the financial markets debilitating economies elsewhere, Caterpillar is now in very bad shape.

So if we want to get Caterpillar back on its feet, if we want to get all those export companies back on their feet so that they are hiring, putting people back to work, putting money in people’s pockets, we’ve got to make sure that the global economy as a whole is successful.

No doubt this is some reassurance for Americans. At the same time, it was responses like this one, I think, that will help build confidence in America among other nations:

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