Obama Takes Questions, Pitches Economic Plans

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With 53 days until midterm elections, President Barack Obama made the case for his economic plan during a rare press conference Friday.

Obama was grilled by reporters for more than an hour on issues ranging from taxes to religious freedom. Much of his comments focused on getting the economy back on track.

"The American people didn't send us here to think about our jobs. They sent us here to think about theirs," he said.

The president highlighted what's been done in the last 18 months like health care reform and financial regulation. He also pointed out that his administration has kept the economy from slipping into recession.

On Friday, he named a longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to be the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, calling him "one of the finest economists in the country."

During the press conference, Obama offered new proposals to jumpstart the economy. But he was careful not to call them "stimulus" plans after the unpopularity of the Democrats' first stimulus package.

"So, this is a second stimulus?" one reporter asked as others laughed.

"I have no problem with people saying the president is trying to stimulate growth and hiring. Isn't that what I should be doing?" Obama responded.

The president put pressure on GOP senators, calling on them to pass legislation for small business that will be up for a vote as early as next week.

Obama also showed no sign of backing down from an ongoing fight with Republicans over extending the Bush tax cuts.

"What I've got is Republicans holding middle class tax relief hostage because they're insisting that we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire," he explained.

Senate Republican Mitch McConnel shot back saying, "The president spent a lot of time blaming others."

"Americans want to know that Washington is going to stop the reckless spending and debt, the burdensome red-tape and job-killing taxes," he continued.

Obama is already scheduled to hold four campaign events before the November elections. He said voters will have a clear choice.

"From now until November, I'm going to show how our policies have moved us in the right direction," Obama said. "And the policies that Republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess."

The president urged bipartisanship to get his latest economic policies passed.

Religious tolerance also played a significant part in Friday's news conference. As protests of the Ground Zero mosque continue, Obama asked Americans to remember former President Bush's comments following 9/11 that the U.S. is not at war with Islam.

"We have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other," Obama said, hinting to recent plans by a Florida pastor to burn Korans on this year's 9/11 anniversary.

"If you could build a church on a site... then you should be able to build a mosque on a site," he added, referring to the heated controversy over the proposed Ground Zero mosque.

Saturday with mark the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on American

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