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Obama frets about slow pace of recovery

But not fearful of double-dip recession

President Obama, with his wife, Michelle, greeted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her husband, Joachim Sauer (right), at the White House last night for a state dinner at which Merkel was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama, with his wife, Michelle, greeted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her husband, Joachim Sauer (right), at the White House last night for a state dinner at which Merkel was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
By Desmond Butler
Associated Press / June 8, 2011

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WASHINGTON — After a spate of discouraging economic reports, President Obama insisted yesterday he is not afraid of the country slipping into a double-dip recession. But at the same time he displayed some impatience and said the pace of the recovery has got to accelerate.

“Obviously, we’re experiencing some headwinds,’’ Obama said at a joint news conference with visiting Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. He said it was unclear whether the latest unemployment report, which showed a slowdown in job growth, was a one-month episode or part of a trend.

Obama said his administration is taking a range of steps to boost the economy and asserted the nation is on a path to long-term economic growth, but he acknowledged, “we’ve still got a lot to do.’’

The economy is the overarching issue as Obama heads into a reelection campaign, and a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday found that disapproval with how Obama is handling the economy and the deficit has reached a new high.

Mindful of that sentiment, Obama tried to project both confidence and empathy for those still feeling economic pain: “I’m not concerned about a double-digit recession. I am concerned that the recovery that we’re on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.’’

Merkel’s visit is her sixth trip to the United States since Obama took office. Later, Obama was to treat Merkel to a night of high pomp at the White House, awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a formal dinner. The gestures appear aimed at warming a relationship that has seemed more cordial than close.

Taking note of the economic turmoil that has roiled both sides of the Atlantic, Obama said: “Recovery from that kind of body blow takes time. Our task is to not panic, not overreact.’’

Obama sought to put to rest any suggestion that his relationship with Merkel was strained, praising the chancellor’s “pragmatic approach to complex issues’’ and saying that “it’s just fun to work together.’’

Merkel, likewise, depicted their ties as close, although she acknowledged that “sometimes there may be differences of opinion.’’

Obama and Merkel, for example, have had differences on Libya, after Germany abstained in the UN vote that authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and kept its troops out of the NATO-led operation to enforce it.

Obama, without mentioning that, said Germany’s deployment of resources in Afghanistan had allowed other NATO allies to increase support for the Libyans, and he stressed that both he and Merkel believe Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy has to step down.

On Afghanistan, where Germany has 5,000 troops stationed mostly in the volatile north, Merkel said the two leaders are committed to stabilizing the country not just militarily but also in terms of bolstering its civil society, adding, “We will not abandon them.’’

“We wish to go in together, out together,’’ she said of US and German troops. Both leaders face significant opposition to the war from their people at home.

The United States has roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and Obama renewed his pledge to begin a significant drawdown of US troops this summer. Germany hopes to start a gradual troop withdrawal by year’s end.

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