Politics

Obama to Strike Balance Between Honesty on Economy and Hope for Future

President Obama, in his first address to Congress, plans to walk a fine line Tuesday between honesty about the state of the economic crisis and optimism about the country's future.

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama is expected to say, according to prepared remarks released by the White House ahead of the speech.

With the stock market on a roller-coaster ride over the past week, the president is tasked with addressing the stark realities of the recession and laying out the key challenges still facing the country as the federal government prepares to execute its $787 billion stimulus plan. 

"What the president is going to do tonight, and what I think he believes is important, is to be honest with the American people about the economic challenges we face," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told FOX News. 

Watch Obama's speech on FOX News at 9 p.m. ET, and visit FOXNews.com often for updates. 

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But some expect him to bring back some of the "hope" and the "yes, we can" language that propelled him into office. 

Former President Clinton, known for his ability to empathize with voters, recently urged Obama to replace pessimism with optimism. Senior advisers reject the criticism, saying the president's tone is just right. Still, they promise a big finish, and the excerpts released late Tuesday afternoon reflect a more optimistic tone. 

"This speech ends on a very high note and talks about how we have dealt with big challenges before in this country and that there are much brighter days ahead for the American people," Gibbs said. 

In prepared remarks, Obama says the crisis "will not determine the destiny of this nation." 

He says years of extravagant spending and deregulation led to a "day of reckoning," but that Americans must "take charge" of the future. He says the stimulus package is just one peg in his plan to make long-term investments in the country to create new jobs and new industries. 

He says the solutions to current problems already exist in laboratories, universities and factories across the country, and that "those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure."

"What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more," Obama is expected to say. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also said earlier Tuesday that while the economy is suffering a "severe contraction," the recession could end this year. Hours later, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day 236 points up, ending six days of sell-offs that sent the markets to their weakest levels in 12 years. 

Top advisers say Obama's speech will focus almost entirely on the economy. 

But it will not rule out nationalizing one or more large U.S. banks, such a Citigroup or Bank of America. (Such discussions appeared to drive sell-offs in the markets last week.) 

Richard Parsons, the new head of Citigroup, met with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett on Monday at the White House, where officials said they met as friends and did not discuss possible government intervention. But that was a big topic on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as Bernanke was grilled about possible stock transfers -- under the plan, the Treasury Department would claim larger ownership of Citigroup or other banks in order to clean up their debt-heavy balance sheets. 

"That to me is nationalization," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Tuesday. 

The White House, though, says Obama does not want to nationalize and has tried to settle concerns about such a program. Bernanke called the proposed arrangement a "public-private partnership." 

"It's not nationalization because the banks would not be wholly owned or probably not even majority owned by the government," Bernanke said. 

Meanwhile, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, the top Democrat on the Senate banking committee, said he misspoke last week when he said nationalization of some banks might be inevitable. 

"I think we need to be careful to make sure we're not going to contribute to the very outcome we're trying to avoid," he said.

In the GOP response to Obama's speech, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to criticize Democrats for passing stimulus legislation he says will only grow the government and "saddle future generations with debt." 

"It's irresponsible," Jindal plans to say, according to prepared remarks. "And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs or build a prosperous future for our children." 

FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.