Transcript: Obama's Interview With Regional Reporters - Page 11 of 15

Transcript: Obama’s Interview With Regional Reporters

debate is either interdiction, criminalization, longer drugs — longer prison sentences for not only dealers, but users; that’s one approach. And then the other approach would be sort of a public health, decriminalization approach.

My attitude is we do have to treat this as a public health problem and we have to have significant law enforcement. And, you know, if we can reduce demand, obviously that allows us to focus more effectively where interdiction is needed, where we’ve got to go after serious drug dealers and narcotrafficking.

Right now I think that we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our back because our effort to lower demand is grossly underfunded, not as effective as it needs to be. The average person who is seeking serious substance abuse treatment in a big city, like Dallas or Chicago, typically has a three-, four-, six-month waiting list to get enrolled in a program. I think that’s a problem and most law enforcement officials I think would agree that it is a problem.

Q Mr. President, I have a general question about your overall communication strategy as President. I mean, here we are on day 51, I think this is — and I appreciate you talking to us regional reporters — you’ve done outreach with bloggers, I think you’ve done outreach to columnists across the political spectrum. There’s still a lot of fear out there about the economy, the stock market, people aren’t buying cars, they’re not buying homes.

Do you feel that you’ve done a good enough job so far in really laying out what the game plane is for your administration in tackling this financial mess that’s pulled the rug out from under the economy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I think that we can always do a better job. Keep in mind it’s only been two weeks since I gave a joint session speech to Congress, the day after which everybody said, boy, that was really clear, and, we have a clear sense of what’s going on. You know, the reviews were pretty good. I recognize, I think, the degree of concern that people have.

We’ve been in office all of seven weeks so far. This is a crisis that was eight years in the making — maybe longer in some, you know, certain aspects of it. The buck stops with me and we’re responsible, but it’s going to take some time. And the truth of the matter is that the American people I think understand that it’s going to take some time. If you look at the public polling, they recognize it’s going to take a while to dig ourselves out of the hole.

We passed the stimulus package and I’ve been talking almost every day about elements of the stimulus package, the recovery package that are going to be having an immediate impact in the various hometowns that you represent. I think Mayor Rybak, the day we signed it, talked about the 57 police officers that wouldn’t be laid off as a consequence of the stimulus.

So I think people