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White House Update

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Aired 2/8/11

President Obama tells the nation's business leaders that they have a responsibility to America. Meanwhile, the Administration continues to strike a cautious note on the protests in Egypt. NPR Correspondent Scott Horsley joins us for a White House update.

President Obama tells the nation's business leaders that they have a responsibility to America. Meanwhile, the Administration continues to strike a cautious note on the protests in Egypt. NPR Correspondent Scott Horsley joins us for a White House update.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The president usual leadership uses the weeks after the state of the union address to push forward his agenda for the nation. So getting that message out is just about all the administration wants to talk about. This year, world events intervened and president Obama has been forced off topic by the up rising in Egypt. But he is still doing his best to keep his domestic agenda in the forefront of public attention. I'd like to welcome NPR correspondent Scott Horsley who's been watching the president conduct this balancing act up close and personal, Scott, good morning.

HORSLEY: Always good to be with you, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, one of the ways that president Obama is keeping his name in the news is with a new approach to the Chamber of Commerce. Why is he making this effort?

HORSLEY: Well, the business community, of course, is going to be responsible for creating most the new jobs that get created in the new year, and the president wants to encourage them in that effort, last year we got [CHECK] although it's dropped to in my opinion percent, that's still higher than anybody would like it to see. The federal government is not going to put a huge role in putting Americans back to working it's gonna be in the private sector. And the president knows that [CHECK] he recently named the chairman of GE to head a business advisory council, and yesterday, he made the long trek across Lafayette square in Washington to visit the chamber of are commerce, which has been in [CHECK].

CAVANAUGH: So as you've been saying in some of your headlines, it seems like the Obama administration wants to start wooing the Chamber of Commerce. So what did the president tell the chamber during yesterday's address?

HORSLEY: Well, maybe if he had brought [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But he told the chamber, look, there's gonna be some areas where we disagree, but there's gonna be 134 carries where we with can work together. [CHECK] continuing efforts to improve education, 206 a better trained work force in this country, these are areas where he thinks the chamber can be supportive of things his administration is doing. And he also sort of said, ask not what the government can do if are your business, but when your business can be doing for America. [CHECK].

HORSLEY: And the new financial regulations laws [[]] were both measures that the chamber fought unsuccessfully to stop in Congress. [CHECK] that passed so what they failed to do in congress, they're now going if tray to do in the rule making process. The White House has said, look, we're willing to take a look at some regulations that are unduly [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did the president make the case about why it would be good for business to perhaps loosen their purse strings a little bit and chip in on jobs for Americans.

HORSLEY: Well, the question, because of course, businesses don't hire people necessarily out of the spirit of good will, and the president is sort of trying to boost their confidence in that saying, hook, the economy is gonna come back, and you'll be rewarded down the line. I think a lot of businesses will be wary of doing that, although we are beginning to see more and more encouraging sign was growth in the economy, not as fast as we'd like that to see. [CHECK] they think gross in the first quarter this year will be in the four percent range, which would be up from what it was in the last year in the fourth quarter. So the president is saying, look, I think we've been through a tough [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Of course those questions have been dogging him for the last three weeks because of the up riding there, what kind of a line is the administration walking because of its reaction to the Egyptian up riding.

HORSLEY: That's a really delicate tight rope [CHECK] some form of democratic change coming to Egypt, and maybe other parts of the Arab world, and they don't want to be seen as fighting against that. On the other hand, the Egyptian leaders have been strong allies and there are other strong allies in the region, and they don't want to run too far afoul of them. So the White House has been sort of steadily moderating thirds requirement stance, and moving more and more away from Hosni Mubarak and more towards the administrators, but the change that comes to Egypt may not be as fast as the folks in the streets would like.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. And what you have been saying about how [CHECK].

HORSLEY: Then a week later we had the president saying the time for change, it has been to begin now I think that's no way to argue that the [CHECK] and the administration's been forced to take a different tactic as that's happened. There were some complaints about when the intelligence was misleading, whether the administration had been given the rite guide apse as to just how powerful this up riding in Egypt would be in defense of the lack of appreciation for that, I think there were three decades of rule that the administration even the Egyptians themselves [CHECK] just how the strength of the demonstrators in this case.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we've heard some reports not a lot, but some reports that the protests, the protest ors who are still in the square? Cairo that might be taking on a wit more of an anti-American tone as it goes on. [CHECK].

HORSLEY: Well, I think there's a risk that any -- that's always been the argument made by the government and the Mubaraks in the region, [CHECK] Islamic extremist rule if you let us fall by the wayside, and that has always been the concern. And I think the administrations decide that's a risk they can't afford not to take.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I wonder, as I say, the president has been asked about Egypt for such a long time now, is he going to continue about the issues in the state of the union.

HORSLEY: Very much so. He's going to try to keep his [CHECK] ultimately where Americans' main concern is. He's not ducking the Egyptian issue. He knows that that's also getting a lot of news coverage, and it's on people's minds. And the [CHECK] spoken about it to reports a couple of times before that. So he's sort of recognizing the reality. The White House has a limited ability to set the agenda, but he will go out day after day and try to get his message across too. Yesterday, the Chamber of Commerce, [CHECK] in Michigan talking about his investments in high speed Internet connections. So he'll continue to beat the drum of winning the future, [CHECK] and he just sort of has to accept the fact that a lot lotted of that's going to be pushed off the [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, how are the Perez didn't's pole numbers.

HORSLEY: Well, they have improve Friday a row right around the midterm elections.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

HORSLEY: There was I think considerable support for the [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does this relative strength in the role indicate anything as he goes up consequence the new Republican house?

HORSLEY: Well, yes. Again, they're better than they were, I think there's still a lot of skepticism about the Republican members of Congress, and Democrats in Congress. The president's numbers are style higher than and of the [CHECK] shellac last November.

CAVANAUGH: Certainly not. I [CHECK] Bill O'Reilly?

HORSLEY: I saw some [CHECK] not as high as had been forecast that's amazing. In contrast to the super bowl itself, which we now know is the highest rated television show of all time, so I guess folks tuned in just as the national anthem was being mangled in the pre-game show, I think the Whit House is generally pleased when the president can go into the lion's den with somebody like Bill O'Reilly, who's been an outspoken critic, and hold his own, and of course O'Reilly has to be sort of minute, when the Perez didn't on the TV with him, so I think they feel like any time you can be on that if thing, they're in pretty good shape.

CAVANAUGH: And the rest of the country doesn't want to mix its sports with politics apparently.

HORSLEY: Well, the ratings were still good. Not quite as good as the rest of the game. A lot of people were buried in their nachos.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's exactly right. Thank you, Scott, thanks for your time.

HORSLEY: Great to talk to you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with NPR white house correspondent, Scott Horsley. If you would like to comment, please go online, kpbs.org/thesedays.

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