POLITICS -- August 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM ET
Obama: Economic Problems Stem From a 'Lack of Political Will'
In a televised statement Monday, President Obama acknowledged concern over Standard & Poor's downgrading of the United States' credit rating but indicated it was a wake-up call for Washington as much as an economic shift.
"After witnessing a month of wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, they doubted our political system's ability to act," he said, later adding that "[t]he fact is, we didn't need a ratings agency to tell us we need a balanced, long-term approach to debt and deficit reduction...the gridlock in Washington over the last several months has not been constructive, to say the least."
He called the S&P reduction of the United States' credit from AAA to AA+ "a legitimate source of concern," but said "our problems are imminently solvable, and we know what we need to do to solve them...our challenge is the need to tackle our deficit over the long term."
The president reiterated frustration with the last-minute brinksmanship that characterized negotiations over raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default, saying that attachment to ideology was hampering economic recovery.
"It's not a lack of plans or policies that's the problem here, it's a lack of political will in Washington, it's an insistence on drawing lines in the sand," he said.
He also returned to the vexing issue of job growth, calling on Congress to extend unemployment insurance or risk further damage to the economy in the form of consumer spending.
Despite the economic hardships, "We always have been and always will be a AAA country," the president said.
The commander-in-chief also briefly addressed the deaths of 30 servicemembers, including some Navy SEALs, in Afghanistan over the weekend when their Chinook helicopter went down during a combat mission, saying "their loss is a stark reminder of the risks that our men and women uniform take every single day." Seven Afghan troops died in the crash as well, which the president pointed to as a sign of cooperation between U.S. and Afghan troops.
"Afghanistan will not be a safe haven for terrorists," he said. "We will press on, and we will succeed."