WASHINGTON - A somber President Obama, marking the end of his first 100 days in office, warned a recession-weary nation yesterday that its patience and resilience will be tested even more in the second 100 days - grappling as it is with an array of simultaneous crises with few if any precedents.
Piled atop the economic woes, the federal debt, and Washington's deepening entanglement in some of the country's biggest private companies, Mr. Obama said, the government faces a potentially dangerous flu epidemic, divisive questions about the use of torture to combat terrorism, and the Taliban's growing threat to a weak but nuclear-armed government in Pakistan.
"The typical president, I think, has two or three big problems," the President said in a prime-time appearance in the East Room of the White House. "We've got seven or eight big problems. And so we've had to move very quickly."
Given so many serious problems demanding such urgent action, he said, improvement would not be immediate.
"We have plenty of work left to do. It is work that will take time. It will take effort. But the United States of America will see a better day," he said.
Americans, he said, "can expect an unrelenting, unyielding effort from this administration to strengthen our prosperity and our security - in the second hundred days, and the third hundred days, and all the days after."
Mr. Obama said he was "very hopeful" that Chrysler would achieve a resolution to it fiscal woes, and that General Motors could also become a "strong, competitive viable company."
But while defending the financial assistance his administration gave the auto industry, Mr. Obama said he was eager to cut the cord with industries that got federal bailout funds.
"I don't want to run auto companies. I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run," Mr. Obama said, drawing a few chuckles. "I've got more than enough to do. The sooner we get out of that business, the better off we're going to be."
He reiterated his opposition to torture, saying it was not only wrong but did not result in getting information that might have been obtained in other, less aggressive ways. But he declined to directly accuse his predecessor of sanctioning torture, saying only that he believed waterboarding - used during the Bush era - was indeed torture and would no longer be permitted.
"Whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake," he said.
While much of Mr. Obama's news conference focused on domestic problems and politics, some of the President's most sobering comments involved Pakistan, the rising internal threat posed by the Taliban, and the challenge of keeping Islamabad's nuclear weapons secure.
Describing the Pakistani regime as "extremely fragile," Mr. Obama said Pakistani military leaders and government officials were only belatedly recognizing that its half-century long obsession with India had blinded it to the more immediate threat posed by the Taliban.
The President expressed confidence that Islamabad's nuclear weapons would not fall into Taliban or terrorist hands.
"I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands," he said.
Earlier in the day, the President held a campaign-style event near St. Louis to deliver a similar message: that he has put the nation on a better path, though the kind of economic recovery he promised may be years away.
National polls show his approval rating tops 60 percent, while growing numbers of people believe the country is on the "right track" since he took office.38.89037 -77.03196 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Nation!
somber President Obama, marking the end of his first 100 days in office, warned a recession-weary nation Wednesday that its patience and resilience will be tested even more in the second 100 days - grappling as it is with an array of simultaneous crises with few if any precedents.