While media attention was mostly focused on other aspects of President Obama's press conference Friday, the following exchange I felt was the heart of it. If I had video editing skills I would post a clip of just this portion, because it's much more powerful to see and hear it. President Obama presented a cool and reasonable demeanor, even when he was not mincing words, and at times he projected a weary optimism about the long-term triumph of common sense. But during this exchange, his anger and his compassion surfaced. He was almost overcome by those emotions by the end of these statements, so that he stumbled over getting to the next question. The best I can do is link to the video, and note that this question is asked at the 21:58 mark.
Here is the exchange in its entirety. It's long for a blog post, but then, it's my damn blog.
"Q What do you say to the people like Mayor Bloomberg -- who is no critic of yours in general; he endorsed you -- who argues that there is some what he calls "posturing" in these claims that there are going to be big layoffs and a lot of people out of work, and thinks that the effects of the spending cuts are being overstated by the administration?
THE PRESIDENT: Well Jessica, look, I'll just give you an example. The Department of Defense right now has to figure out how the children of military families are going to continue with their schooling over the next several months, because teachers at these Army bases are typically civilians. They are therefore subject to furlough, which means that they may not be able to teach one day a week.
Now, I expect that we'll be able to manage around it. But if I'm a man or woman in uniform in Afghanistan right now, the notion that my spouse back home is having to worry about whether or not our kids are getting the best education possible, the notion that my school for my children on an Army base might be disrupted because Congress didn't act, that's an impact. Now, Mayor Bloomberg and others may not feel that impact. I suspect they won't. But that family will.
The Border Patrol agents who are out there in the hot sun, doing what Congress said they're supposed to be doing, finding out suddenly that they're getting a 10-percent pay cut and having to go home and explain that to their families, I don't think they feel like this is an exaggerated impact. So I guess it depends on where you sit.
Now, what is absolutely true is that not everybody is going to feel it. Not everybody is going to feel it all at once. What is true is that the accumulation of those stories all across this country, folks who suddenly -- might have been working all their lives to get an education, just so that they can get that job and get out of welfare and they've got their kid in Head Start, and now, suddenly, that Head Start slot is gone and they're trying to figure out how am I going to keep my job, because I can't afford child care for my kid; some of the suppliers for those shipbuilders down in Virginia, where you've got some suppliers who are small businesses, this is all they do, and they may shut down those companies, and their employees are going to be laid off -- the accumulation of all of those stories of impact is going to make our economy weaker. It's going to mean less growth. It's going to mean hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.
That is real. That’s not -- we're not making that up. That’s not a scare tactic, that’s a fact.
Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol -- now that Congress has left, somebody is going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage -- they're going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they've got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.
So I want to be very clear here. It is absolutely true that this is not going to precipitate the kind of crisis we talked about with America defaulting and some of the problems around the debt ceiling. I don’t anticipate a huge financial crisis, but people are going to be hurt. The economy will not grow as quickly as it would have. Unemployment will not go down as quickly as it would have -- and there are lives behind that. And that’s real. And it's not necessary -- that’s the problem."