WASHINGTON — President Obama said Friday that he thought the nation's economic crisis had claimed a role in hardening many Americans' suspicions about Islam.
As the nation marks the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Islamic terrorists, the president urged people not to turn against fellow citizens who are Muslim.
"The folks who are most interested in a war between the United States or the West and Islam are al-Qaida; that's what they've been banking on," the president said at a midday news conference in the East Room of the White House, the eighth news conference of his presidency.
Economic concerns dominated Obama's 76-minute question-and-answer session. He repeated proposals he'd been championing all week, including a jobs bill for small business, various tax credits and extending tax cuts on incomes of up to $250,000.
The president urged voters to exercise patience on the recovery and not to punish Democrats at the voting booth in November. The news conference came as polls and analysts predict significant erosion in the Democrats' congressional majorities, and possibly a Republican takeover. Democrats now control 59 of the Senate's 100 seats and 255 of the House of Representatives' 435 seats. Obama said Republican alternatives "are the exact policies that got us into this mess" by setting the stage for the economic crisis that began in 2008.
He conceded that he'd "fallen short" on a pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where terrorism suspects have been held. "It's not for lack of trying," he said. "It's because the politics of it are difficult."
He also formally announced that one of his longtime economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, would head the Council of Economic Advisers, filling the vacancy left by Christina Romer. In selecting Goolsbee, 41, who's well liked within the White House inner circle, the president chose internal continuity over outside expertise.