President Obama said Sunday that he understood the public frustration during hard times that fueled the turnout for conservative talk show host Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally this weekend, and said he was confident that Americans will "get beyond all this nonsense" about whether he is really a Christian or born in the U.S.
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams meant to mark the fifth anniversary of Katrina, Obama said he had not watched coverage of the event with its strong undertone of anti-Obama and anti-Democrat sentiment, but he understood why Beck was striking a chord with some Americans.
"The country's going through a very difficult time, as a consequence of years of neglect in a whole range of areas," Obama said. "So, given all those anxieties -- and given the fact that, you know, in none of these situations are you going to be fix things overnight, it's not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country."
"What I'm focused on is making sure that the decisions we're making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily for the next election, but are good for the next generation."
While visiting New Orleans Sunday after ending his Martha's Vineyard vacation, Obama said, "One of the wonderful things about this country is that at any given moment any group of people can decide, you know, 'We want . . . our voices heard.' And so, I think that Mr. Beck and the rest of those folks were exercising their rights under our Constitution exactly as they should."
Obama was asked in the NBC interview about polls, including one conducted July 21-Aug. 5 by the Pew Research Center, questioning whether he was a Christian, as well as others, such as a CNN poll in July that said 27 percent of Americans still think that he was probably or definitely born in another country.
"There is . . . a network of misinformation, that in a new media era can get churned out there constantly," Obama said. "We dealt with this when I was first running for the U.S. Senate. We dealt with it when we were first running for the presidency. . . . I [trust] in the American people's capacity to get beyond all this nonsense."
Touching on the related issue that some Americans believe Obama was not born in the U.S., he noted, "I can't spend all my time with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead. . . . The facts are the facts. And so, it's not something that I can I think spend all my time worrying about. And I don't think the American people want me to spend all my time worrying about it."
The president weighed in on a range of other topics:
On his message to disenchanted and angry Americans: "They have every right to be frustrated. And they have every right to be angry. And I think the message that I will continue to deliver in the months ahead and the years ahead is it took us a long time to get into this hole that we're in. . . . We've been through tougher times before. And we always come out ahead. As long as we stay united. As long as we stay optimistic about the future. As long as we stay innovative. As long as we work hard and we apply ourselves."
On the faltering economic recovery: "We anticipated that the recovery was slowing. The economy is still growing, but it's not growing as fast as it needs to. . . . We should be passing legislation that helps small businesses get credit, that eliminates capital gains taxes so that they have more incentive to invest right now. There are a whole host of measures we could take, [but] no single element of which is a magic bullet but cumulatively can start continuing to build momentum for the recovery."
On the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy: "If you can build a church on that site, if you can build a synagogue on that site or a Hindu temple on that site, then we can't treat people of the Islamic faith differently. . . . I didn't walk [that statement] back at all. The -- what I said was I was not endorsing any particular project. I was endorsing our Constitution."
On the combat troop pullout in Iraq: "There is great confidence on the part of the commanders on the ground. . . . [The Iraqis'] job right now is to make sure that they get a government completed. And they're going through a political process that is natural in a fledgling democracy. But we're confident that that will get done. And that we're going to be a long term partner within Iraq.
On rebuilding the Gulf Coast five years after Hurricane Katrina: "Part of the reason that I wanted to come down here today to mark the fifth anniversary, was just to send a message [that] . . . all of America, not just people here, not just folks in the White House, but all of America, remains concerned and remains committed to their rebuilding."
On charges that the government was slow in responding to the BP oil disaster: "It's just not accurate. . . . Because of the sturdiness and swiftness of the response, there's a lot less oil hitting these shores and these beaches than anybody would have anticipated, given the volume that was coming out of the . . . well."
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