Obama Spokesman: Warren Buffett Was Criticizing Washington, Not the White House


The White House was watching Warren Buffett this morning on CNBC.

In his Squawk Box appearance, Buffett repeatedly criticized both parties for trying to take advantage of the financial crisis to push for their own partisan goals. He recommended both sides concentrate only on reviving the economy, noting that he's heard some Democrats say a "crisis is a terrible thing to waste."

"In my view, it's an economic war, and--I don't think anybody on December 7th would have said a `war is a terrible thing to waste, and therefore we're going to try and ram through a whole bunch of things and--but we expect to--expect the other party to unite behind us on the--on the big problem.' It's just a mistake, I think, when you've got one overriding objective, to try and muddle it up with a bunch of other things."

While expressing his continuing support for President Obama, Buffett called on him to send a clearer and more authoritative message to the American people about the government's support for the financial system.

And he appeared to criticize a "cap and trade" system for reducing greenhouse gases, calling it a "regressive" tax that would be passed on to consumers.

At today's White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to respond. He sees a lot of common ground between Buffett's views and those of the administration.

QUESTION: And the second question, Mr. Warren Buffett, who I guess you could say is an informal advisor to the President, did an interview this morning and he had obviously many fine things to say about the President, but he did say two things and I was wondering about your reaction. One, he referred to the cap and trade as a regressive tax that consumers would ultimately pay for; and then two, he said that the message, the economic message that the world was getting from this administration was "muddled." I was just wondering if you had a reaction to either of those.

GIBBS: Well, I would -- I think I would point you back to the transcript of Mr. Buffett in terms of your second question. I'm not entirely sure that the message wasn't directed at Washington writ large. And I think --

QUESTION: Aren't you "Washington writ large"?

GIBBS: I think we dispensed with that several hundred years ago in a revolution. (Laughter.)

No, obviously there's 535, plus the administration, that regularly are asked and share their opinions related to the economy. You know, I think that many of the things that Mr. Buffett said, the administration would understand and agree with -- particularly I think the stories that I read this morning talked about the notion that Mr. Buffett said Democrats and Republicans are going to have to get along and work together in order to get the country out of this economic mess. And I don't -- this is me saying this, not him; I don't want to paraphrase what he said -- but I think the administration believes that saying "no" isn't an economic policy.

QUESTION: What about the cap and trade being --

GIBBS: Well, let me finish this one first. I think Mr. Buffett also said that we're not likely to fix this in five minutes. I don't think we're likely to fix this in six weeks and six days; that the depth of the challenges we face -- as made even more apparent on Friday with rising unemployment figures -- denote the urgency of this problem, and the urgency with which the President pursued a recovery plan.

In terms of cap and trade, the President and the administration look forward to working with Congress to put a solution together -- a market-based solution that will drive us to energy independence and create a market for -- an even more robust market for alternative fuels and, as I said, the steps that we need to become energy independent.

This is a process that rewards the innovation of the market, a principle that many previously have espoused.

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